Monday, November 19, 2018

Mom's Mashed Potatoes

I live in a community in which neighbors know each other by the alleys they live on. It's rare to go to someone's front door here. All the action is in the alley. The kids play there. Puppies learn to walk on leashes there. You go to borrow a cup of sugar or drop off a mis-delivered package through the alley.

So, it's natural that it's where we celebrate major holidays. Last Sunday night we held our annual Alley Thanksgiving and about 20 people, including all the little kids--and some of the grown kids--showed up for the ultimate potluck. A juicy smoked turkey. Honey-baked ham. Stuffing, of course. Lots of rolls and lots of salad. String beans. And, I brought the mashed potatoes.

Normally, mashed potatoes isn't something I make, particularly for a crowd. It's a whole lot of carbs. But I'm not hosting Thanksgiving this year and my mom, who loves to make mashed potatoes, won't be making them. So I decided to step up with them for our Alley Thanksgiving. Who better to turn to than Evie for a primer on making them for a crowd?

My mom believes in using russets, not Yukon Golds. They mash more smoothly, she says. She uses butter, cream cheese, and evaporated milk to get just the right consistency and boosts the flavor with roasted garlic and the oil they roast in, as well as a big helping of grated Parmesan cheese and some salt.

As a dish to make in a hurry, it's close to being that. The prep is easy; it's just waiting for a large pot of water filled with peeled and quartered potatoes can be a finger-tapping experience. So, go do something else in the meantime.

Now, the good thing about this recipe--other than how deeply luscious and delicious it is--is that you can improvise a bit based on your own tastebuds. Add more garlic or leave it out entirely. Add herbs (I garnished the top with chives from my garden). Add a different grated hard cheese. Or no cheese. Add pepper, of course. Add boiled, peeled celery root. So, riff on this as you will, but with this recipe you have a foundation for your own version of perfection.

I returned home with just enough to share with Mom.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Mom’s Mashed Potatoes
Serves 10 to 12
(printable recipe)

2 heads garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
5 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 stick butter or more, melted
1, 8-ounce package cream cheese, cut into one-inch pieces
1, 12-ounce can evaporated milk (or cream or whole milk, depending on your preference)
1/2 cup or more (depending on your preference) Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt to taste


Pre-heat oven to 400°. Slice off top of the garlic heads enough to just expose the cloves inside. Place the garlic heads on a piece of foil, drizzle them with olive oil and wrap in the foil. Place in the oven and roast about 30 minutes, until cloves are just browning and tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Squeeze each clove into a small bowl, add the olive oil from the foil and a little more if necessary and mash. Set aside.

Put potatoes in big pot of cold salted water to cover. Cover loosely and bring to the  boil. Turn down heat and simmer until soft. Remove from heat and drain the water.

Put potatoes in a large bowl with butter and mashed garlic. Start mashing and stir in cream cheese while potatoes are still hot. Then gradually add evaporated milk and continue mashing until the potatoes reach the consistency you want. Mix in Parmesan cheese and salt to taste.

Can be refrigerated and reheated in microwave. Keep additional evaporated milk in case you need to thin it out after reheating.

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