Has anyone ever made a truly great turkey? You can smother the bird in lemon juice, steal as much rosemary from each of your neighbors’ yards as you can carry to smoke the bird with, or even try to fry the turkey. But at the end of the day, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and vegetables are second, third, fourth-servings waiting to happen.
So, let’s focus on stellar sides to complement your choice of entree this year. Former head chef at Chez Panisse and City Kitchen columnist for the New York Times’ David Tanis dropped in to give us some garden-fresh ideas and traditional dish variants.
David Tanis’s love affair with potatoes is no secret. In his latest cookbook “Market Cooking,” he devotes each chapter to a different ingredient. Some chapters are leaner than others. This doesn’t ring true for the potato pages.
Tanis says, “Potatoes are good for you too . . . crave-worthy, don’t you think?” To which Evan agrees, “Yes, so much potassium. More than a banana!”
Here are a few twists on the classic mashed potato side dish, sure to enhance your spread this holiday season.
Mashed Potato Variations
The whole world loves mashed potatoes. Mention potato puree to a French person, and you’ll hear them moan with pleasure. (Seriously, try it.) The French version is as good as that moan suggests—as smooth as satin and somewhat of a national obsession. In the south of France, you may find potatoes mashed with simmered garlic cloves and enriched with fruity olive oil rather than butter. Irish cooks add a quantity of chopped scallions in addition to good Irish butter for the mashed potatoes they call “champ.” Classic American mashed potatoes are made with just salt, pepper, butter, and milk, but an elevated version adds sharp Cheddar. There are, of course, other ways to glorify the mash. One is to include other root vegetables along with the potatoes, such as celery root, turnips, or parsnips, in whatever proportion you prefer. I don’t know how I feel about wasabi mashed potatoes, though.
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Basic Mashed Potatoes
2 lbs yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
A bay leaf
Salt and pepper
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
Boil the potatoes: With the bay leaf in a large pot of well-salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes well, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid, and return to the pot. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
Mashing time: Pass the potatoes through a food mill or mash them by hand, and put them in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or put them in a large bowl and use a hand mixer). Beat for a minute or two to allow steam to escape, then beat in the butter and cream.
*Tip: Add enough of the reserved cooking liquid to achieve the desired consistency.
Serve: Adjust the salt if necessary, add pepper to taste, and serve.
Scallion Mashed Potatoes
Add in 1/2 cup sliced or chopped scallions along with the butter and cream.
Olive Oil and Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Boil 8 peeled garlic cloves (or more, to taste) with the potatoes. Use 1/4 cup good fruity extra virgin olive oil instead of the butter, and potato cooking water instead of the cream. (The soft garlic cloves are mashed along with the potatoes.)
Cauliflower “Couscous” with Spiced Butter
The idea here is to cut a cauliflower into the tiniest florets possible. It’s not difficult, but it takes a little time. Of course, the cauliflower morsels are not really quite as small as couscous, but they are small enough to cook very quickly. A delicate, flavorful side dish.
Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 large cauliflower (about 3 lbs)
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
Pinch of cayenne
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp grated fresh ginger, or
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp snipped chives
1 Tbsp lime juice, or to taste
Cut the cauliflower: Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, with a paring knife, cut the cauliflower into tiny florets, as small as possible. (Save the stems and other trimmings for making soup.) You should have about 8 cups.
Blanche the vegetable: Working in batches, cook the florets in the boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes, until just tender but still firm. Scoop them from the pot with a small strainer or a spider, blot on kitchen towels, and let cool.
Create the seasoning: Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the turmeric, cayenne, black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.
Combine everything: Put the cauliflower in a large bowl and season lightly with salt. Drizzle the butter over it and toss gently. (The seasoned cauliflower can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 hours or covered and refrigerated overnight.)
Prepare to serve: Transfer the cauliflower to an ovenproof serving dish. Put in the oven and heat through, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the chives and lime juice and serve.
Excerpted from David Tanis Market Cooking by David Tanis (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Evan Sung.