I make great mashed potatoes. No, let me rephrase that. I make the BEST mashed potatoes. Now, I’m not talking some truffle oil infused, made with hydroponically grown heirloom potatoes that you get at some fancy gastropub. I’m talking good ol’ classic mashed potatoes, like you’d get if you lived on a farm. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m going to. My mashed potatoes are so good, they are on more than one person’s last meal wish list. More than one! That’s at least two whole people, not including myself.
Interestingly enough, they’re one of the first recipes I remember making by myself as a kid. Although, there was “The Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” a homemade dessert that I used to bribe my little sister into doing my chores. It mostly consisted of graham crackers and honey heated in the microwave. But mashed potatoes was my first “real” recipe. I remember being put in charge of them for Thanksgiving as a kid and I’ve been perfecting the recipe ever since.
So, who’s the “she” in “I can’t believe she’s making MY mashed potatoes”? Well, first here’s some back-story about Thanksgiving with my in-laws. Thanksgiving is so wonderful with my husband’s side of the family. It’s his mom’s favorite holiday and by extension, it seems, everyone’s. There are many traditions that have been going on for years. We eat too much, we say what we’re thankful for, we never have the right amount of chairs due to a strange accounting problem my mother-in-law seems to have. You know, the fun quirks every family enjoys. Some things never change, like the kids decorating and setting the table the night before, giving each of us a unique and fun nametag at our assigned seat. Also, each family is in charge of bringing a specific dish. I can tell you exactly what will be at the dinner table this year and who will have brought it. And instead of being boring, somehow it’s wonderful and nostalgic, and home. Plus you can certainly add to the feast, you just can’t take away. And this is how the mashed potatoes came into the mix.
That first year I was joining in Thanksgiving dinner with his family, I asked if I could bring anything. When I heard they didn’t have mashed potatoes, a staple with my family, I was amazed. Who doesn’t have mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving? For the record, they do have sweet potatoes…and a corn casserole, and two different kinds of stuffing. There’s no shortage of carbs, but come on! You gotta have traditional mashed potatoes. And so that year, I brought the mashed potatoes and love blossomed. Not between my husband and I, but between my husband’s family and my mashed potatoes. Most specifically, my father-in-law. Not sure everyone else’s adoration is as high, but I know he’s a fan. These bad boys are here to stay.
And who can blame him? They’ve got the perfect lump to creamy ratio, with just enough earthy skin left in. They’re rich, yet tangy, thanks to my use of cream cheese, chicken stock and fresh herbs. They’re buttery, yet there’s a bit of spice to it. I’ve even come up with a low-calorie version that I swear my husband says is just as good. This is an important development, because with these potatoes, you just keep going back for seconds, and thirds… and fourths. The best part is, they’re not complicated. It’s just potatoes and a bunch of flavors that I add until it tastes right.
Unfortunately, this year we won’t be able to make it home for Thanksgiving. In fact, it’s only the second time in my husband’s life he hasn’t been there. We’ll Skype, we’ll have Friendsgiving, and it’ll be great, but it won’t be the same. We’ll miss our family and we know that they’ll miss us. Or at least the mashed potatoes we would have brought… or will they?
So here’s where the “she” comes into play. Today, I get a message from my sister-in-law (who is usually in charge of the gravy), indicating that she’s gotten a promotion. She’s been put in charge of making MY mashed potatoes, presumably by my father-in-law. At first I was taken aback. These are MY mashed potatoes, after all, and there was a part of me that felt a little jealous, even a little insulted that someone else would be bringing them and getting the glory. But did I hold back the recipe from her? Of course not. I make them out of love, and I share them out of love. Plus, like I told her, “You can certainly make my recipe, but you’ll never make MY mashed potatoes.” I think she got the point.
For those of you that will inevitably ask, here’s the rough recipe. Like most good recipes, there aren’t specific “amounts” of things. I just add until it tastes right:
Onion (for boiling in the water with the potatoes)
Cream Cheese (Laughing Cow wedges are a good low-calorie alternative)
Parmesan cheese (fresh is better, but powdered works just fine)
Sour Cream (Greek Yogurt for low-calorie)
Milk and/or Chicken broth
Thyme (fresh or dry)
Rosemary (fresh or dry)
Italian seasoning and anything else you find in the spice cabinet
Boil the potatoes (SKIN ON) in water, along with some chopped up onion, garlic powder, and seasoned salt (for flavor)
Once the potatoes are soft, remove from the water and transfer them to a bowl, leaving the onion out – or leave it in. Whatever. I’m not your mom.
Stir, not mash, the soft potatoes and then start adding the melty ingredients first, saving the milk and/or broth towards the end as it cools down the potatoes. I like to stir rather than mash in order to keep the lumps.
Then add the seasonings. How much? I don’t know. Go back and forth between the wet and the dry ingredients until it tastes good.
Serve, enjoy and thank me later.