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Fear Conquered: Mashed Potatoes
I've got a confession to make. I don't like gravy.
I know, I know - who doesn't like gravy? Who doesn't ladle gravy over turkey at Thanksgiving or into the center of a glorious mound of mashed potatoes? Seriously. Who doesn't like gravy!
It's not that I won't use a little gravy from time to time - and on occasions, I've tasted some marvelously spiced gravies made from the juices of roasted birds. But if someone overlooked the gravy at a holiday meal, you wouldn't hear me complaining.
After all, a deliciously moist turkey or chicken breast doesn't require a bath of gravy. And a fluffy mound of flavorful mashed potatoes are delicious without a pool of flavored fat in the center. Yes, I know - most people would beg to differ (some quite loudly) and others might turn up their noses entirely at mashed potatoes served without gravy. I wouldn't hold it against them - how could I? I am apparently the only crazy person who doesn't love gravy!
In fact, recently a friend of mine asked me to develop a healthy but delicious gravy recipe. And I really do plan to fulfill his request. But quite frankly, it's difficult to feel inspired over a sauce I don't crave or a gravy I really don't understand. Maybe with enough attempts, someday I too will achieve normalcy, fall in love with conformity and join all the blissful cooing over the Thanksgiving table at the dark pool of sauce dammed-up by my potatoes.
Today is NOT that day.
Today I beg you to try potatoes without gravy. Even more shocking, I ask you to leave behind the gobs of sour cream, turn your back on heavy cream and (almost) conquer your dependence on butter. If you're feeling a bit skeptical, I don't blame you. I spent two years (no exaggeration) working on this mashed potato recipe without any regard for health. I added whole sticks of butter, great spoonfuls of sour cream, crazy amounts of heavy cream - and still couldn't arrive at the perfect mashed potato!
Sometimes the flavor was wrong - too bland or too tangy or too salty or too buttery. Sometimes the texture was off - too dry, too soupy, too gummy. I started trying new ingredients like fennel, garlic and onions. But something was STILL wrong.
The secret ingredient to amazing mashed potatoes wasn't butter or sour cream. It wasn't fennel or garlic (although they helped considerably). It was the not-so-secret addition of cauliflower. Imagine my consternation when, after 2 years spent mucking around with dairy fat, I discovered that a humble and healthful vegetable was THE key ingredient. Yes, the secret to delicious mashed potatoes is cauliflower.
I didn't stumble on this ingredient on my own - I was unwillingly persuaded. After all, folks have been buzzing about the wonders of mashed cauliflower for quite some time - crazy gravy-loving people with their crazy mashed cauliflower! I was far too busy obsessing over the perfect mixture of dairy fat to pay much heed. But then my good friend D raved about mashed cauliflower on Facebook, and I grudgingly decided to toss some florets into my mashed potatoes. Because FINE! If everyone else INSISTS, what CHOICE do I really have?!
::cough:: Yes - I was wrong. Mashed cauliflower is delightful. Those crazy gravy-loving people were right.
The point is, don't make the same mistake I did by blindly depending on dairy fat to boost the flavor of starchy bland potatoes. With the right balance of cauliflower, you will unlock the creaminess of the potatoes, add a tremendous burst of flavor (tastes nothing like cauliflower) and pack in a wallop of nutritional benefits for far fewer calories.
My recipe is really just a balance of flavors and textures that when paired together deliver a silky-smooth mound of mashed potatoes packed with so much flavor you'll never need that gravy boat of flavored fat again. Unless you're normal and you love gravy, in which case, I suppose I'll forgive you.
Let me clarify a few things before getting to the recipe:
- I roast the potatoes (and everything else) instead of boiling - this concentrates the flavors and minimizes the loss of nutrients during cooking
- When I want mashed potatoes, I want mashed potatoes - not some facsimile. Thus the ratio of potatoes to cauliflower to fennel to garlic is carefully balanced. For me, this balance works perfectly but adjust to suit your preference
- I use a food mill to puree everything - which aids considerably in eliminating lumps, preventing gumminess and in breaking down the garlic and fennel. This is a great kitchen tool and I highly recommend adding one to your wish list if you don't already own one. In a pinch, you could attempt using a potato ricer instead
STORY | PRINTABLE RECIPE | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
|Prepare the potatoes, cauliflower, fennel and garlic.|
|Combine in a large roasting dish and toss with olive oil, pepper and salt. Roast at 425F for 45 minutes, stirring once.|
|Remove the potato mix from the oven and pour over 1/2 cup of buttermilk. Stir to combine and let rest for 5 minutes.|
|Meanwhile, grate 2 ounces of parmesan cheese.|
|Prepare a food mill or potato ricer to puree the potato mixture. I use the medium texture plate.|
|Pass the potato mixture through the food mill into a large bowl.|
|Add the Greek yogurt and parmesan cheese to the potatoes.|
|Whip the potatoes with a hand electric mixer. Check for seasonings and temperature; adjust as necessary.|
STORY | PHOTO TUTORIAL | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
Roasted Mashed Potatoes
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 45 min
Ingredients (serves 6)
- 1 medium fennel bulb, cored and sliced
- 4 - 5 medium gold potatoes, diced into 1-inch cubes
- 2 cups cauliflower, cut into 1-inch flowerettes
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken
- 1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 ounces parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- Preheat the oven to 425℉
- In a large roasting pan, combine the fennel, potatoes, cauliflower, garlic, olive oil, salt and cracked pepper; toss to evenly coat
- Roast the potato mixture uncovered for 40-45 minutes, stirring once half-way through the roasting time
- Remove the roasting pan from the oven and immediately pour the buttermilk over the potato mixture, stir to work loose the crusty bits loose and let rest for 5 minutes
- Using either a food mill or a potato ricer, puree the potato mixture into a large bowl; use a hand-held electric mixer to beat in the Greek yogurt, butter and grated parmesan cheese; check for the potatoes for seasoning and temperature and adjust if needed; serve immediately
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Hungry for Tips?
- Texture: Don't go too crazy with adding cauliflower or you will end up with a sludgy mess instead of silky-smooth potatoes. And don't over-whip with the hand-mixer or you will arrive at a gummy paste.
- Buttermilk: The buttermilk is an important ingredient - it adds richness and flavor without adding much fat. You could use milk in a pinch, but it won't pack the same flavor punch.
- Hand Mixer: I do not recommend using a stand mixer for making mashed potatoes. In my experience, the stand mixer will either fail to remove all the lumps or will turn the entire batch into a gummy mess.
- Food Mill: I’m not a big fan of specialized kitchen tools - and I'm sure that's what some would consider the food mill to be. However, there's really no other tool like it in the kitchen and it really can be quite versatile when making soups, purees and obviously mashed foods.
- Yogurt: Using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream keeps this recipe healthful - and it works perfectly because you only use a small amount so the distinctive flavor goes unnoticed.
- Butter: Yes, there's a couple pats of butter and some parmesan cheese - but to be fair, that butter is spread across 6 servings and parmesan cheese is lean as cheese goes. If you want to cut even more fat, eliminate both of these ingredients and add a splash of skim milk.
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