Last Thanksgiving, I conducted an experiment. After having made enough mashed potatoes and gravy to feed a not-very-small army, I decided I would test my limits. I would eat mashed potatoes and gravy every lunch and dinner until, a), we ran out, or, b), I got too sick of them to eat anymore.
Result? After seven days and 14 straight meals, we ran out potatoes.
It taught me a few important lessons.
First, if I don’t want to gain 10 pounds over the holidays, maybe don’t set up any food-eating experiments for myself.
Second, mashed potatoes and gravy is my favorite part of Thanksgiving.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I can get behind a good stuffing (I’m trying a recipe with cornbread, chorizo and dried cherries this year). I love roasted Brussels sprouts, and not just because I get to show off that I know that the mini cabbages got their name because they were widely cultivated near Brussels in the 13th Century. I absolutely adore a good Parker House roll (or seven) with butter. And I do love turkey, especially on a sandwich with cranberry sauce, lettuce and, whoops, cream cheese.
But those mashed potatoes, man, they have my heart.
Last week, I had my husband’s partners over for dinner and, because I have no willpower for waiting, I decided to make a Thanksgiving-inspired meal. I stuffed quail with cornbread and date dressing and made a sexy port-orange sauce to drizzle over it. I put together a cranberry, broccoli and kale salad (courtesy of Taylor Farms Sweet Kale Chopped Kit (available at Kroger), which is so good and a shortcut no one would suspect). And I made a pumpkin custard topped with easy baked cornflakes and cinnamon.
But undoubtedly the star of the show was the potatoes. I found this new recipe from Bon Appetit that has really elevated the humble side into something truly spectacular.
They call it mashed potatoes with crispety cruncheties, which is obviously the best name ever.
Here’s a lowdown of the recipe:
First, you roast Yukon golds and then peel them.
Second, you steep garlic, thyme, black peppercorns and lemon peel in warm milk.
You mash or rice (I’m a ricer girl all the way) the potatoes and add the milk.
Pretty standard, right?
EXCEPT THEN you take garlic, salted kettle potato chips and a few slices of bread and pulse it in the food processor.
AND THEN you panfry the chips mixture in a whole lot of butter until it all gets golden.
AND THEN you sprinkle that over the potatoes.
I’m here to tell you, even without gravy, it was pretty magical. Labor intensive, granted, but why shouldn’t mashed potatoes get gussied up every once in a while, right? Everyone deserves to go to the ball.
When I was a kid, mashed potatoes were a weekly staple on the dinner table. Usually my dad would make them with a whole lot of sour cream. Sometimes he would make them with Cheez Whiz, which is the redneckiest guilty pleasure in the world. And very occasionally my mom would take those mashed potatoes and pat them into a cake, and we’d have them with eggs for brinner.
You are familiar with brinner, right? The breakfast-for-dinner meal? I truly love a good brinner. It always has that mutinous feel to it, like dinner stole breakfast and is holding it ransom.
Of course, the best thing you can do with mashed potatoes is dig a pool into them and fill it with gravy. It doesn’t matter how old I get, this always feels both incredibly practical and deeply satisfying. Sometimes, I still like to create a crack in the foundation of the pool just so I can repair the damage before too much gravy pours out. Why hasn’t that gotten old yet? Will it ever? Do I want it to?
I’m guessing not. Some things are sacred because of their reliability and, in my world, one of those things is lovely mashed potatoes. Which I will not eat for 14 meals in a row this year. But that I will love all the same.