Truth is, mashed potatoes don't need a whole lot of love to come out pretty darn amazing. A little butter (OK, a lot of butter), a little cream or milk (OK, a lot of cream or milk), a bit of salt and pepper, and some muscle really are all it takes to convert boring potatoes into one of our favourite comfort foods.
And yet, we always feel tempted to tinker, tempted to tart up our taters, as it were, particularly around Thanksgiving. Luckily, potatoes are an easy canvas to work with, playing so well with so many flavours. To help you mix things up a bit this year, we came up with our 10 favourite ways to doctor mashed potatoes.
We also offer one bit of advice about making mashed potatoes, no matter how you plan to season them. After you boil and drain them, return them to the pot and set it over low heat for just a minute or so, shaking the pot now and again to prevent sticking. The heat helps dry out the potatoes, and dry potatoes are tastier potatoes (because the water doesn't dilute all that delicious fat you're about to add).
10 FRESH WAYS WITH MASHED POTATOES:
Start with 3 pounds of potatoes of your choice, peeled (if desired), then halved and boiled until tender. Drain well, mash, then follow one of the ideas below.
— Browned butter and sage: Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes, then add a handful of fresh sage leaves and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more, or until the sage leaves are crisp and the butter is toasty smelling. Stir into the potatoes and season with salt and black pepper.
— Loaded baked potato: Stir in 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup crumbled cooked bacon, 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives and 1 cup shredded cheddar or jack cheese. Season with salt and black pepper.
— Caramelized onion: Slowly cook 3 large sliced yellow onions in 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. If the pan begins to darken too much, add a couple tablespoons of water and continue cooking. Stir into the potatoes with 1/2 cup sour cream, salt and black pepper.
— Ranch: Stir in 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon each of onion powder, paprika and garlic powder, and 1 tablespoon each of chopped fresh chives, chopped fresh dill and chopped fresh parsley. Season with salt and black pepper.
— Parmesan-truffle: Stir in 1/2 cup half-and-half, 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and an ample amount of black pepper. Season with either salt and a drizzle of truffle oil, or with just truffle salt.
— Chili-corn: Stir in 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 cup thawed frozen corn kernels and 1/4 cup pickled chopped jalapenos, then season with salt and cayenne pepper.
— Sausage and fennel: In a large, deep skillet, brown 1 pound of loose Italian sausage with 1 tablespoon of crushed fennel seed and a diced leek (white part only). Stir into the potatoes with 1/2 cup half-and-half. Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper.
— Curry: In a dry skillet, combine 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon turmeric and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Toast until fragrant, then crush with a mortar and pestle (or a spice grinder). Stir into potatoes with 1 cup green peas (heated), 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and salt and black pepper.
— Horseradish: Stir in 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish, more or less to taste, along with 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup sour cream and salt.
— Four cheese: Stir in 1/2 cup half-and-half, 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, 4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature, 1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese.