T-Day with The83k: mashed potatoes, three ways

Three styles of mashed potatoes, three levels of difficulty — all of them, delicious.

When it comes to Thanksgiving carbs, the potato — usually at the forefront of most other American dinners — takes a back seat to dressing/stuffing. Which isn’t to say it isn’t beloved. Most folks wouldn’t consider their first plate at Thanksgiving complete without a generous dollop of mashed taters, smothered in gravy.

Personally, though, I think that’s a mistake. The gravy, I mean. Potatoes do well when topped with or dipped into something delicious, but I think they do their best work when all the flavor is incorporated fully throughout, as they are in superlative mashed potatoes — providing the core of comfort and satisfaction in a holiday meal.

I’m not gonna tell you mashed potatoes are requisite for a proper T-Day feast, or that you even have to serve potatoes at all — but if you do, you could do worse than the three recipes that follow. [Before proceeding, however, you should have, at minimum, a potato masher, or even better, a ricer — for all of these recipes, in addition to a sieve (for the pommes puree) or a piping bag with a star tip (for the duchess potatoes.)]

Thanksgiving is a special day, and you — and your potatoes — deserve some special treatment. I hope these three recipes treat you right.

  • Decadent and relatively easy: Pommes Puree.
    The ratio of cream and butter to tater here is, frankly, obscene, and if you ate these more than once a week you’d probably be sucking down Lipitor smoothies in under a year, but holy fork are they delicious. These are classic, straight-ahead mashed potatoes, with a smoother mouthfeel and a touch more class. They will not disappoint.

  • A little more work, a lot more complexity: Caramelized Vidalia Onion Mashed Potatoes.
    In keeping with what is usually an allium-heavy meal, this is basically a straightforward mashed potato recipe, augmented with sour cream, cream cheese and caramelized onion, which provide a welcome depth and sweet zinginess to what is often a stodgy side dish. You can move things along by making the onions ahead of time.

  • Fancy, bougie and forking delicious: Garlic Parmesan Duchess Potatoes.
    Okay, so — these potatoes are a little high maintenance. You’re basically making a fine textured, parm-y mashed potato mixture, then incorporating egg yolks, then piping domes of the resulting mixture onto a sheet pan and baking it off, allowing the fluted edges to crisp up and the interiors to stay fluffy and creamy. This is not something you can set a helpful yet inexperienced cousin to finish up while the turkey rests. You could make most of this ahead of time, but honestly, you’ll get optimal results if you time your boiling, creaming, piping and baking steps to coincide with freed-up space in your oven — keeping in mind you’ll need full convection going to keep those edges brown and crisp. And even then, you won’t have massive piles of the stuff. Just tidy, adorable, delicious mounds of fluffy potato. It’s almost not worth it. Except, holy shit, this stuff is delicious. If you think you can manage it, you can serve the prettiest, most texturally interesting potatoes of the year alongside your usual Thanksgiving faves. If you don’t mind the work — it’s sure to become another one of yours.

— Theo.

More T-Day guides to come, friends! In the meantime, here’s some advice on how to free your oven from the tyranny of turkey roasting, and here’s some suggestions for vegetable sides (almost) as appealing as your pie and stuffing.

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