Monday, November 19, 2012

The smell of turkey roasting in the oven is my most anticipated part of Thanksgiving Day. I’m not able to pick just one favorite Thanksgiving Day food. For me, it’s a trio of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy.

According to a story dates back to 1771 when Frenchman Antoine Parmentier had an idea to have a competition. He wanted to see who could come up with the best way to prepare potatoes. Parmentier won the contest and soon began cultivating potatoes himself. Supposedly he hired royal soldiers to guard his potato farm near Paris. However, the guards did not do their job allowing peasants to steal Parmentier’s crops. Potatoes were then introduced into the cuisine of France and, much later, all across Europe.

The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the nightshades family. Potatoes are the world’s fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat and maize. After centuries of selective breeding, there are now over a thousand different types of potatoes.

According to Wikipedia, the word, “spud” for a small potato comes from the digging of soil prior to the planting of potatoes. The word was probably used as a term for a short knife or dagger used as a tool similar to a spade.

In the first decade of the 21st century the average world citizen consumed about 73 pounds of potato. The potato continues to be global staple, however, production is rapidly changing. Potatoes continue to be an essential crop in Europe (especially eastern and central Europe), where per-capita production is still the highest in the world, but the largest expansion is in Asia. China is now the world’s biggest potato-producing country as nearly a third of the world’s potatoes are grown in China and India.

The following are a selection of potato side dishes. One of these comforting, homey potato recipes is sure to earn a place on your Thanksgiving Day or other holiday table.

Baked Mashed Potatoes with Peas, Parmesan Cheese and Breadcrumbs

Giada De Laurentiis of the Food Network enjoys putting an Italian spin on most of her dishes. The combination of peas, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, and toasted breadcrumbs are a real twist on traditional mashed potatoes.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, for greasing the baking dish
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1½ cups grated mozzarella
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


½ cup freshly grated Parmesan

2 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking dish. Set aside.

For the potatoes: In a large saucepan, combine the butter, salt and potatoes. Add enough cold water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the same pot. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until smooth. Mix in the mozzarella, milk, Parmesan and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish.

For the peas: In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the thawed peas and cook until heated through. Add the salt and pepper. Using a large spoon, make a 4-inch well in the center of the potatoes and fill with the cooked peas.

For the topping: Stir the cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the mashed potatoes (can be prepared up to this point 6 hours ahead of time; cover and chill). Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake until the topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes or until heated through if chilled ahead of time.


Colcannon, Irish for “white-headed cabbage,” is a traditional Irish dish mainly consisting of mashed potatoes with leafy greens such cabbage or kale. At one time it was a cheap, year-round staple food, though nowadays this ultimate comfort food is usually eaten in autumn/winter, when kale comes into season. This creamy concoction is also a St. Patrick’s Day favorite.

4 russet potatoes (2 to 2 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into large chunks
5-6 tablespoons unsalted butter (with more butter for serving)
3 lightly packed cups of chopped kale, cabbage, chard, or other leafy green
3 green onions (including the green onion greens), minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup milk or cream
Place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil. Boil until the potatoes are fork tender (15 to 20 minutes). Drain in a colander.

Return the pot to the stove and set over medium-high heat. Melt the butter in the pot and once it’s hot, add the greens. Cook the greens for 3-4 minutes, or until they are wilted and have given off some of their water. Add the green onions and cook 1 minute more.

Pour in the milk or cream, mix well, and add the potatoes. Reduce the heat to medium. Use a fork or potato masher and mash the potatoes, mixing them up with the greens. Add salt to taste and serve hot in individual bowls, with a knob of butter in the center. To eat it, dip a forkful of the potatoes in the melted butter.

For a variation, sub out half of the potatoes with parsnips. You can add chives, leeks, bits of ham or bacon too.
Serves 4 as a side dish
Chive and Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Unpeeled red-skinned potatoes give this rich, garlicky side a great texture.
2 lbs unpeeled red-skinned potatoes, rinsed, cut into 1 to 1½ -inch pieces
10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup chopped chives
Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 18 minutes. Drain. Melt butter in same pot over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return potatoes to pot. Add chives. Mash potatoes coarsely. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ricotta-Stuffed Potatoes

Betty Crocker has a different take on the traditional twice baked potato. The potatoes are cut crosswise, rather than lengthwise and filled with a mixture of two cheeses.

6 medium baking potatoes
1½ cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 egg, beaten
additional chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake potatoes for about 1 hour or until tender. Cut each potato in half crosswise; scoop out inside into large bowl, leaving a thin shell. Mash potatoes until no lumps remain. Stir in cheeses, ¼ cup parsley, pepper, and egg until well blended. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Cut thin slice from bottom of each potato half if needed to stand upright. Place shells on ungreased 15 x 10 x 1-inch pan with sides; fill shells with potato mixture. Bake about 20 minutes or until hot. Garnish with additional parsley.

Creamy Rosemary Potatoes

For those who prefer a potato casserole, Ree Drummond, known as the Pioneer Woman, has an extra special “for company only” side dish. What could be better than potatoes bathed in butter and cream with a touch of rosemary and chives?

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
5 or 6 medium russet potatoes, sliced thin
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, at room temperature
½ to 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced rosemary leaves
3 green onions, light green and medium green parts, thinly sliced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons minced chives

Preheat oven to 350. Rub the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish with softened butter. Combine the half-and-half and the cream in a large measuring cup. Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice the potatoes very thinly. Place the potatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with half of the half-and-half/cream mixture and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and onion and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.

Cut the bar of cream cheese in half and add the halves to the skillet, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth and combined, about 3 minutes.

Pour in the remaining half-and-half/cream mixture and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper and stir. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Do not under salt! Add the rosemary and green onions and stir to combine. Finally, add ½ cup of the grated parmesan and stir to combine.

Pour the cream-soaked potatoes into the baking dish. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the top and spread it evenly over the potatoes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup grated parmesan generously over the top and bake the potatoes for at least 1 hour, or until golden brown and bubbly.

Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the chives, then cut into squares to serve.

Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potato and potato may only be distantly related, they will most likely both end up on your Thanksgiving Day table. I couldn’t resist including this recipe for crock pot sweet potatoes. The recipe is so simple, no one will ever know how little effort you had to put forth. Just be sure to scoop them into a pretty serving dish before bringing them to the table.

6 medium dark-orange sweet potatoes (2 lbs), peeled, cut into ½ inch cubes
1½ cups applesauce
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

In a 2 to 3 ½ quart slow cooker, place sweet potatoes. In a medium bowl, mix remaining ingredients except nuts; spoon over potatoes. Cover, cook over low heat for 6 to 8 hours. Meanwhile in a large skillet toast nuts over medium-low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until browning begins, then stirring constantly until golden brown; set aside. Sprinkle nuts over sweet potatoes before serving.