Making Mashed Potatoes Even Better!

It’s probably no secret that I am a carb eater. Rice, potatoes, and, in the old days, sourdough bread were always the stars of my eating repertoire. While things have changed in my world, they haven’t changed that much. I still believe potatoes are one of nature’s (gluten-free) perfect foods.

And in my pantheon of potato dishes, I rank mashed potatoes at the top. Not only are they delicious, but they also remind me of my grandmother, an amazing cook. Even my mother, a dedicated non-cook, makes great mashed potatoes. It’s clearly a family tradition!

While there’s nothing wrong with the standard potato, milk, butter, and salt, I’m always messing with my mashed potatoes. I love that I can play with flavors so that my side o’ spuds matches the overall flavor profile I’m putting together for a meal.

(And, I’ll be honest, I get a kick out of people gobbling up my mashed potatoes while wondering what I’ve done this time to make them SO GOOD.)

Here are a few ideas to jumpstart your mashed potato creative journey:

  • Add a Friend Mashed Potatoes: I know, I know, the only friend a potato should have is another potato. But then you notice you need to do *something* with that butternut squash. How about adding roasted squash and a bit of garlic to your potatoes? Now you’re thinking! Or try root vegetables like celery root or turnips.
  • Baked Mashed Potatoes: Looking for a quick and easy wow factor for your potatoes? How about a crispy topping? After you’ve made the potatoes, top them with gluten-free bread crumbs (or, I suppose, potato chips) and pop under the broiler until the topping is browned and crunchy. You can also add shredded Parmesan cheese to the topping or the potatoes themselves.
  • Baked Potato Mashed Potatoes: Yep, sour cream, butter, cheddar cheese, steamed broccoli (oh, is that just me?), and bacon bits. And, you know, this is the basic recipe for twice-baked potatoes, as well.
  • Decadent Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes: When I made the Pioneer Woman’s mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving a few years ago, there weren’t enough leftovers to share with others (I always overdo the potatoes, as you might guess). Not only does she use a ton of butter in her potatoes, but she also adds a good amount of cream cheese. These are heaven in potato form!
  • Mashed Potatoes with Greens: I love spinach, kale, and, most especially, Swiss chard. Adding greens to mashed potatoes is a no-brainer for me. I get a little more on the vitamin side, which makes me feel virtuous. A good amount of roasted garlic is welcome in this dish.
  • Olive Mashed Potatoes: Add diced olives to the potatoes. Confession: I thought this would be gross when I tried it at a local restaurant. I was wrong. So very, very wrong.
  • Mustardy Mashed Potatoes: While I’m not a huge fan of wasabi-flavored mashed potatoes, I love adding mustard. Just a small amount adds flavor that will surprise your palate!
  • Smashed Potatoes: This is a cheat, but it’s a fun cheat, so we’ll go with it. Take some tiny red or yellow potatoes, cook them in salted boiling water until fairly soft (a fork should pierce them easily), place the potatoes on an oiled sheet pan. Easy so far, right? Now, using a fork or potato masher, smash those babies until you have a messy, semi-flat potato. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle on some salt, pepper, and herbs, and roast those lovelies at 450 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes. You’re welcome.
  • Spicy Potatoes: Which way do you want to go with this? Indian curry-like flavors or Latin American-like flavors? Or maybe African? Basically, judiciously add your favorite spices to the potatoes. They can handle a lot of flavor, but you don’t want to overwhelm the creamy goodness of the basic mashed potato. Note: if you go in the direction of tumeric or wasabi, your potatoes will reflect the color of those items.
  • Sweet Potato Mash: Yes, please. Make your normal mashed potato recipe, but skip the milk (some butter is fine). Add a bit of gluten-free soy sauce or fish sauce to offset the sweetness. I love to add diced jalapeno to these potatoes for a surprising kick!
  • Tangy Mashed Potatoes: One of my favorite tricks with mashed potatoes is to add a good amount of Greek or other plain yogurt to the potatoes. Greek yogurt, in particular, adds a layer of tanginess that will surprises your dinner guests. Sour cream does the same thing, though I find I prefer the yogurt.
  • Traditional: Yeah, I even mess with the the traditional mix. To amp up flavor, substitute heavy cream for some or all of the milk. It adds an incredible richness that has to be tasted! Or try buttermilk — it adds just enough tanginess to make people wonder what’s different.

Tip of the Week

Gesine Bullock-Prado, who is a baking goddess, once very patiently explained to me, via Twitter, that it is essential that you do not peel your potatoes before boiling them. Peel after. Use heavy duty gloves to accomplish this feat. It was a bit later, possibly while I was whining about how hot the potatoes were, that she confessed she has what she describes as “asbestos hands”. Still, she was right…those were really good mashed potatoes.

Menu of the Week

This week’s menu is definitely a company or special occasion dinner. Lamb marinated in garlic, mustard, wine, and seasonings will make your house smell amazing. The potatoes can roast while the lamb is resting. And the Caesar dressing takes just a couple of minutes in the blender…don’t skip the anchovies (or, if you must, at least add anchovy paste!). They bring the flavor in a big way.

Use the pan drippings from the lamb to make the gravy.

Hint: When you’re in a hurry, you can start with store-bought mashed potatoes (make sure you get a brand that is gluten free!) and doctor them up to suit your mood. Throw a couple of lamb chops on the grill, and suddenly this fancy dinner becomes weeknight easy.

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