Cooking Column: My family's mashed potatoes

Cooking Column: My family's mashed potatoes

Thanksgiving is almost here which means it’s almost time for my family to bust out their best homecooked foods. My grandmother’s kitchen is rarely as busy as when Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around. My aunt makes her apple pie. My uncle makes the family cheesecake recipe. My sister makes hashbrown casserole and I bake whatever cookies and other small desserts have been requested.

As the youngest, I am the family kitchen assistant. It’s in that small and busy holiday kitchen where I learned everything I know about how to bake and cook. My uncle taught me not to pour all the flour in at once when making cookies. My aunt taught me the proper technique for using a knife, and my grandmother gave me all the “secret” family recipes. 

But there was one recipe that I always forgot to ask about  – my grandfather’s mashed potatoes. It’s odd in hindsight, this was the side dish that disappeared the fastest once placed on the table. But Papa always seemed to take advantage of the time when we were mixing the pies and cakes to use the stove and make them so I never got the chance. 

Of course, I could have asked later, but they seemed like such a “Papa thing” that was always kind of convinced I would never be able to get them right even if I did make them. Well this year, as I was knocking ideas around for this Thanksgiving-themed column, I finally decided to ask. It turned out to be your classic kind of family recipe. 

“Oh you just boil some potatoes and mash them, add in lots of butter, some half and half and salt and pepper and you’re done,” my grandmother said. 

“Okay but how much of all that?” I asked. 

“How much? Oh lord.” 

After a little back and forth between us and my grandfather, I finally got some numbers. And a couple more steps of the process. I also got an unexpected second recipe. A leftover casserole with the potatoes as the base with turkey and gravy as the other layers. You could probably also add stuffing or dressing to that too, though my grandmother’s suggestion was cheese. 

As it turns out, my potatoes didn’t come out exactly like Papa’s. I mashed them more than he does so they were smoother, but they tasted almost exactly the same, so I’m determined to get it right next time. 

But for now, I’m sharing this family recipe with you. Take it to your family dinner or Friendsgiving meal, or use it as inspiration for what to do with that leftover turkey your mom will make you take back to your dorm in her desperation to get it out of the house. 

There are two tricks I would pass along with this recipe. The first is while you are draining the potatoes after boiling them, you should let their pot sit on the still warm stove burner in order to dry out any excess water. The second is that you should cut the butter into one or two tablespoon sized cubes to throw into the potatoes instead of just adding in the stick whole. It will make it easier to mix it in evenly. 

No matter what you eat this Thursday and who you eat it with, I hope you have a wonderful time and a Happy Thanksgiving. 

What you’ll need: 

5 pounds of potatoes

¼ pound of butter (1 stick) 

¼ cup to ½ cup half and half 

Salt and pepper to taste. 

How to make the mashed potatoes:

Wash and peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. 

Place is a large saucepan and add enough water to cover them. 

Bring to a boil. 

Cover and reduce heat to medium low. Let gently boil for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes break easily when pierced with a fork. 

Drain well, shaking slightly to get rid of as much water as possible. 

Return to pan and mash well until mostly smooth. 

Add butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash, mixing well. 

Slowly stir in half and half, until the potatoes are as smooth as you want them. 

Serve. 

How to make the casserole:

In a casserole dish, cover the bottom with leftover potatoes. 

Add a layer of turkey and gravy and any other leftovers you’d like to include. 

Add as many extra layers as you’d like, alternating between potatoes and other foods. 

Add a layer of cheese. 

Bake at 350 until the casserole is warm and the cheese is bubbly, about 20 minutes. 

Enjoy. 

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