If you’re anything like me, you’ve been deep in the weeds of Thanksgiving menu planning since the clock struck midnight on Halloween night. It doesn’t matter that most years I make almost the same lineup of favorites, the fact is that you’re always tempted to somehow top the meal from the year before. It’s in the details where you want to top things. Once you find a turkey recipe that works for you, you’ll stick with it for the rest of your life.
The one recipe that you will be tempted to overthink, over-research, and almost want to rebuild from the ground up is mashed potatoes. Since man began to walk we have devised, theorized, and developed approximately 23,478,391 recipes for mashed potatoes. At the end of the day what matters is a good, quality potato, butter, and cream. I’ve tried nearly every mashed potato variant you could think of.
I’ve boiled and just gone after them with one of those old-fashioned wire mashers. I’ve baked then mashed. I’ve done a make-ahead mashed potato. I’ve added cream and butter, herb-infused cream, I’ve added whole roasted garlic cloves. If you can think of it, I’ve about tried it all when it comes to trying to wow my guests on Thanksgiving with a stellar mashed potato. The biggest revelation in mashed potato science that I have come across in recent years was the switch to using a ricer for the actual mashing.
A ricer is a magical device with a chamber you place your cooked potato bits into, then you press down and it forces the cooked potato through a series of holes making something that looks like rice, and it yields the fluffiest, most flawless mashed potatoes of my life. I’ve noted when I fall into YouTube rabbit holes of perfect Thanksgiving menus from chefs I respect, they all swear by either a ricer or a food mill.
I like the ricer better, as a food mill is somewhat large and I don’t know where I’d store it. Another reason why I’m not all-in on having a food mill is 1, I do not shop at Williams-Sonoma nearly enough. 2, I am not The Barefoot Contessa, and 3, I don’t make nearly enough tomato sauces to need a food mill for a once-a-year recipe. Truth is, I never make tomato sauce.
But friends you’re gonna be tempted to one-up your potatoes every year, this will send you into a frenzy of demanding perfection. I’m a perfectionist and sometimes that makes cooking on Thanksgiving a most trying ordeal. I’m trying to get better at it. But it doesn’t matter how fancy or gourmet your mashed potatoes are, people will be pleased with ones that are cooked well and flavored with cream and butter.
Thanksgiving is not a time to think of calories or fat, the only way thoughts of fat should invade your holiday brainwaves is to be thinking of what kind of butter to use in the potatoes. A nice cultured European butter can always make your guests look at you with that most satisfying look that says “I don’t know what this is I’m tasting, but I like it!”
Just stick with whatever mashed potato recipe you’ve been using that you’re happy with. It’s easy to overthink the Thanksgiving menu, but there is no reason to sweat the details. It’s wild to think that Turkey Day is a little over a week away, but 2023 has been flying by at a rapid pace. I hope you’re ready to tackle the big meal next week, you’ve got this. See you next week.