Sunday staple can grace holiday tables

Published 11:59 pm Friday, December 12, 2008

Everyone has their favorite mashed potato recipe. I cannot imagine a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast without a potato dish and usually it is a “mashed potato” dish that is served. My youngest son always wants mashed potatoes as one of my Thanksgiving dishes (He was in China this year, but we still had mashed potatoes). Potatoes are such a comfort food. They remind me of Sunday dinners at my mother’s where we always had mashed potatoes. The food magazines have many variations of how we can enhance the humble potato. There are so many varieties of potatoes on the market now. A favorite of mine is the Yukon Gold. It is available now almost everywhere (10 years ago we had to grow our own) and has a wonderful flavor and is great for doing mashed potatoes. Another new potato in the market is the fingerling and comes in several varieties. It is long like your finger and is very tasty. Here are a variety of potato recipes to try for your holiday meal.

Whipped Potatoes with Celery Root

(We do like this ugly vegetable.)

Peel 1 lb. celery root and cut into ½ inch cubes and combine in a two-quart saucepan with two cups half-and-half, eight tbsp. unsalted butter, and eight sprigs of thyme and bring to boil over medium low heat until celery root is tender, about 25 minutes. Discard thyme. Transfer celery root mixture to a food processor and puree. Scrape mixture through a sieve into a clean saucepan and keep warm. Combine three lbs. russet potatoes and cut into ½ inch cubes, and two tsp. kosher salt in a six-quart saucepan and add water to cover the potatoes by one inch; bring to boil over high heat, and lower to simmer until potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain potatoes and pass them through a ricer into a large bowl. (For even smoother potatoes, mash with a potato masher as well.) Transfer potatoes to the saucepan of pureed celery root and whisk one cup finely grated grano padano cheese (an Italian semi-fat hard cheese similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano which is a possible substitute) until cheese is melted and potatoes are smooth and hot. Season with kosher salt and ground white pepper to taste. Serves eight.

Mashed Potatoes with Crme Fraiche and Chives

These potatoes are fluffy and slightly tangy thanks to the crme fraiche. Crme fraiche can be found in better grocery stores in the cheese section.

6 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and halved

2 cups whole milk

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter

Kosher salt

1 cup crme fraiche

½ cup finely chopped chives

Freshly ground pepper

In a large pot, cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over moderate heat until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes; drain. Press the potatoes through a ricer into a large saucepan set over low heat.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the milk with 10 tablespoons of the butter and 1 tablespoon of salt and cook over moderate high heat until the butter is melted, about three minutes.

Pour the hot milk over the riced potatoes and cook over moderate heat. Stirring occasionally until blended, about 2 minutes. Put in the crme fraiche and the remaining two tablespoons of butter and chives. Cook until the potatoes are heated through, about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer the potatoes to a bowl and serve. Serves 12.

John Besh, a wonderful chef in New Orleans, offers this rendition of potatoes and bacon. He uses bacon from Benton’s Country Hams, and I have given their web site before,, and I have found this to be the best bacon around. Everything goes better with bacon.

Creamy Potatoes

with Bacon

5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3-inch chunks


1 pound thickly sliced bacon

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup heavy cream, warmed

½ cup farmer cheese (If you can’t find this you can press the moisture out of cottage cheese to make it drier and substitute this.)

½ cup minced chives

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat until tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon in two batches over moderate heat, turning once, until crisp, eight-10 minutes per batch. Drain the bacon on paper towels and coarsely chop it.

Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Shake the pot over moderately high heat for about 20 seconds to dry the potatoes. Pass the potatoes through a ricer into a large pot. Add the butter, cream, cheese, chives and bacon and stir well. Season with salt and pepper.

Make ahead: The finished potatoes can be reheated in a microwave oven at high power at one-minute intervals. Stir the potatoes occasionally.

The following recipe is taken from the November 2005 issue of Bon Appétit.

Smashed Fingerling Potatoes

(Eight servings)

3 pounds red-skinned fingerling or baby red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup Béarnaise Butter (see recipe)

½ cup (or more) warm whole milk

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon

1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley

Place potatoes in a large pot. Add enough water to pot to cover potatoes by one inch. Bring to boil: cook potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and return potatoes to pot.

Add Béarnaise butter to potatoes, using potato masher, coarsely mash potatoes. Add ½ cup milk; stir to blend. Add more milk by tablespoonfuls as needed, if dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Béarnaise Butter

(Makes about 1 cup)

½ cup chopped shallots

½ cup white wine vinegar

3 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, divided

3 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) butter, at room temperature

½ teaspoon grated lemon peel

Place shallots, vinegar, half of tarragon, and half of parsley in small saucepan. Simmer over medium-high heat until vinegar is reduced to three tablespoons, about three minutes. Strain into small bowl, pressing on solids to release any liquid. Discard solids, cool tarragon vinegar.

Mix butter, lemon peel, and remaining chopped tarragon and parsley in medium bowl to blend. (The butter can be prepared three days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)