With Canadian Thanksgiving coming up, here is a new twist on a side dish that isn't given a lot of thought.
Ingredients2 pounds Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
6 medium cloves of garlic
1/4 pound unsalted butter or margarine (1 stick), cut into 1/2" chunks
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (fresher is better)
2 tablespoons of your favourite fresh herbs
About the potatoes. There are many different potatoes to choose from. Russets are a great all round tater, fine for for mashing, and Yukon Golds have an especially nice buttery flavor. Select large potatoes because they are easier to peel. Each potato has a slightly different texture and flavor, so experiment until you find your favorite. If you clean the skins thoroughly with a brush or scrubby sponge, you can leave them in for more texture, flavor, and nutrition.
About the garlic. If you have roasted or grilled garlic on hand, you can skip boiling the garlic, but frankly, I like the boiled version better.
About the butter. If you use salted butter, cut back a pinch of salt in the mashing step. Yes, I know that's a lot of butter, but we don't eat mashed potatoes every day now, do we?
About the herbs. Fresh herbs are great in mashed potatoes. Try chives or one of the Simon & Garfunkel herbs: Parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme. Oregano and basil are also great.
Optional for cheeseheads. Add 3 ounces grated cheddar cheese or boursin cheese spread.
Optional for carnivores. Add 3 strips crispy bacon crumbled into bits or toss some leftover rib meat or pulled pork in the mix!
Optional for lactivores. Cut back a bit on the butter and add up to 1/4 cup of cream, half and half, or milk.
Directions1) We want to begin by de-fanging the garlic of its sulfury pungence and convert it to sweetness by cooking it. Peel the garlic cloves, remove the woody root, and cut them in half. Bring a non-reactive saucepan with a quart of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt and the garlic. Boil the garlic for about 15 minutes. You need lots of water to remove all the pungence of the garlic.
2) While the garlic is cooking, get another pot of water boiling. Don't use the garlic water for the potatoes! Make sure you have enough water to submerge the potatoes about an inch below the surface. Add two pinches of salt. Wash the potatoes and cut them into thumb-sized chunks. Try to get the chunks about the same size so they all finish cookin about the same time. When the water is boiling, add the potatoes and boil them until a fork pierces them with only a little resistance, about 15 minutes, depending on how large the chunks are. Don't overcook the potatoes so that the exterior is mushy and they fall apart when you pierce them. Chef Lucas warns that "overcooked potatoes tend to soak up water and can become runny."
3) Drain the garlic, drop them in the serving bowl, add the butter, three pinches of salt, black pepper, and herbs, and mash everything into a paste with a fork.
4) Drain the potatoes thoroughly and keep them in the hot pot to dry them out a bit more. If you like your potatoes to be smooth, use a potato ricer (it looks like a giant garlic press). Squeeze them through the holes into the bowl and mix with a large spoon. Don't use a mixer or you run the risk of making glue. Before serving, taste them and add more salt and pepper if you wish.
Optional. Here's where you can add cheese, meat, or cream. I recommend you do the recipe as is the first time, and then riff on it the second time if you wish.
5) Holding mashed potatoes. Getting all the parts of a meal ready at once is the trickiest part of cooking, so if the rest of the meal isn't ready when the spuds are, you can keep them warm in a slow cooker or heat them in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes just before serving.
Comments and suggestions ALWAYS welcome.