In the era of COVID-19 nothing is normal, and that goes for Thanksgiving as well. With fewer of us gathering for safety, meals will be smaller, too. So why not skip the big bird and focus on what you love most about the meal, anyway: the comforting carbs that are mashed potatoes.
This year, we’re going all-in on the spuds with five recipes for mashed potatoes that will provide a culinary tour of flavors from around the world.
We’ll start right here at home with a unique approach to cooking mashed potatoes from celebrity chef Tyler Florence.
Where most recipes ask cooks to boil the potatoes in water before mashing, Florence argues cooking them directly in cream will retain all of the subtle, earthy flavor of the potatoes that normally goes down the drain with the cooking water. He flavors that cream with garlic and herbs to give the finished dish a vibrant aroma.
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While Florence likes to finish his mashed potatoes with a swirl of grainy mustard, you could top his recipe any way you like to make a complete meal out of it. For something fun for the whole family, try setting up a mashed potato bar with a selection of crispy fried bacon bits, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, sour cream, caviar or any of the other goodies you’d normally pile onto a baked potato and let people dress their spuds as desired.
If it’s the spicy palate of South Texas you’re craving, our Tex-Mex mashed potatoes are the dish to try. They’re loaded with sauteed peppers, onions and jalapeño with a touch of cumin and oodles of shredded cheese for a flavor all San Antonians will appreciate.
If you’ve never tried baking your mashed potatoes, our France-inspired mashed potatoes loaded with Gruyèree cheese and caramelized onions will be a revelation. Where many versions of mashed potatoes can be dense and heavy, these puff up as they bake for a light and fluffy finish.
You could use Comté, Emmental, Jarlsberg or another Swiss-style cheese, but Gruyère will probably be the easiest to find in most area grocery stores. The nuttiness of the cheese and sweetness from the caramelized onions give this potatoes an indulgent and luxurious feel.
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While we’re in Europe, let’s swing by Germany for a traditional version of mashed potatoes called “himmel und erde,” or literally “heaven and earth.” In this case, heavens refer to ripe apples hanging from tree branches and the earth is for potatoes pulled from the soil.
The two are mashed together into an amalgamation of tartness and starch for a dish that’s the perfect accompaniment to fatty sausages, pork chops or other heavy cuts of meat. We topped ours with crumbled bacon and fried onions for a dish that can more than stand on its own as a main attraction on any carb-craving night.
Our last stop will be in South India for a fiery and pungent serving of aloo masala. This popular dish of coarsely mashed potatoes, chiles and a cabinet of spices like fenugreek, asafoetida and turmeric can often be found tucked inside dosas or samosas. Finished with green peas and chopped cilantro, it makes an attractive entree on any table.
From our tables to yours, may y’all stay happy and healthy this Thanksgiving — turkey or not. And please pass the potatoes.
Recipe: Tyler Florence’s Mashed Potatoes
Recipe: Tex-Mex Mashed Potatoes
Recipe: Cheese and Caramelized Onion Mashed Potato Bake
Recipe: German Mashed Apples and Potatoes
Recipe: Aloo Masala (South Indian Curried Mashed Potatoes)
Paul Stephen is a food and drink reporter and restaurant critic in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Paul, become a subscriber. [email protected] | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen