Turkey is the center of attention at the Thanksgiving table, but the sides are just as important.
Old-School Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are as American as Thanksgiving itself. Variations range from sriracha to pumpkin spice foie gras mashed potatoes (I wouldn’t recommend that latter). At Thanksgiving, nothing beats a well-made bowl of classic mashed potatoes, however. As with many other deceptively simple dishes, there are reasons why sometimes you have good mashed potatoes, and other times you have fabulous mashed potatoes. Here are my well-kept secrets to make those fabulous ones, served piping hot, and ready for that giant ladle of gravy.
Potatoes with a high starch content (the kind used for baking) provide the traditional flavor and texture. The same starch that gives a baked potato its fluffy interior also contributes to perfect mashed potatoes. Yellow-fleshed varieties like Yukon golds or yellow Finns are excellent as well, but they turn out the same color as mashed turnips, which may be disconcerting to potato purists. If you live near a farmers’ market, take the potato farmers’ advice on local favorites as they may suggest an interesting heirloom variety that will become your favorite.
Purchase your potatoes about a week ahead of time and age them in a cool, dark place. Do not place them in the refrigerator. Mature potatoes are drier and mash up lighter. Please don’t let them sprout eyes, though.
Make mashed potatoes just before serving. Reheated mashed potatoes leave me shivering.
Make sure not to overcook the potatoes. They should just yield to a sharp knife when pierced. If the drained potatoes seem soggy, just return them to the pot and cook over a low heat for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly until they begin to stick to the bottom of the pot. Doing this forces the excess steam out of the potatoes and dries them out.
Mash the drained potatoes in the still warm cooking pot with HOT milk. A cold bowl and cold milk make for lumpy and lukewarm potatoes. The precise amount of milk is a matter of taste, so use more or less to reach your desired consistency.
You’ll need an efficient mashing utensil. Some cooks swear by a potato ricer (which does make the smoothest potatoes by the way), as long as you enlist another pair of hands to make the job go quickly. You may use an electric hand mixer. If you want to use a low-tech, old school hand potato masher, go to a restaurant supply store and get a big one, or the job will take forever. The potatoes will be cooling off by the second and we don’t want that happening. Never ever mash potatoes in a food processor or you’ll get starchy, sticky, gummy mashed potatoes that could be used for gluing kindergarten craft projects.
Season well with salt and pepper. Use your taste to determine amounts. I use kosher salt mostly, but you may use your favorite type of salt. White pepper is spicier than black pepper, but will give you pristine looking mashed potatoes. But, of course, use black if you want to.
“Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2016 All Rights Reserved
How lucky we are this year that Saint Patrick’s Day falls on the weekend so how about having a traditional full Irish breakfast.
Start with traditional bangers and then choose either Canadian bacon or double hickory smoked bacon. Add Eggs, grilled tomatoes, soda bread, baked beans and coffee or Irish breakfast tea. You can top your grilled tomatoes with grated cheese and herbs or have them just grilled. Your eggs can be fried, poached or scrambled.
Bangers are the cornerstone of the traditional full Irish breakfast. Irish loin bacon is very similar to Canadian bacon as both are cut from the pork loin and are fairly lean meats. They are cured and not smoked. Irish bacon also has a small bit of tail meat connected to the eye of the loin. Double hickory smoked bacon is very similar to American bacon or what is called streaky bacon in the British Isles. This type of bacon comes from the pork belly and is easily distinguished by the stripes of lean and fat that run through it. Double hickory smoked bacon is a fine substitute if you decide not to use Canadian bacon.
Irish breakfasts vary from cook to cook and region to region by incorporating local specialties. Some regional favorites include mashed potatoes that are fried with leftover vegetables, blood sausage or sautéed mushrooms.
Fourth of July
Today Americans will be celebrating our glorious national holiday, Independence Day. On the anniversary of the birth of our nation we are grateful for our forefather’s aspirations for freedom and thank the American signers of the Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. We give thanks that the American spirit lives on.
The Fourth of July is celebrated in every city and town in the United States by patriotic gatherings, parades and speechmaking. The national anthem and other songs are sung, the voices of free people singing a free song. The knowledge that freedom had been defended in the past and might have to be defended again on nights far from peaceful and with weapons far from harmless. For me it produces an emotion that is humbling and sentimental.
Independence Day food it most often of the picnic and/or grilling variety which is correct for a holiday that is usually spent outside. There are traditional dishes originating in George Washington’s Virginia. One such is a breakfast specialty called Rice Waffles. Another traditional dish of the day is poached salmon with egg and caper sauce that is served with green peas and mashed potatoes. It was traditional to serve the first salmon of the season, but we know that this menu of soft foods was prepared for George Washington because of the discomfort caused him by his ill-fitting set of false teeth. The traditional July 4th desserts were Watermelon Pickle and the Independence Day Cake, which is a yeast cake covered in white frosting gilded with boxwood leaves.
For the July 4th holiday I like to make my Blueberry Crisp. It is always a big hit and everyone seems to want the recipe. Whatever you’re making today have a wonderful and safe day.