I am not a big mashed potato fan. I know, it's un-American. I just think that there are so many better ways to prepare potatoes and, so often, mashed potatoes end up being bland, too starchy, or lost under that huge pool of butter. So, I'm sorry to say that I will not be offering up my "Go-To Foolproof Super Amazing Mashed Potato Recipe". Instead, here are three quick tips: Use a potato ricer, don't over-mix, and add fresh herbs and cheese for flavor. Combinations like goat cheese and basil or Parmesan and rosemary would be quite good.
If it is not written in stone that you must have mashed potatoes on your Thanksgiving table, I would like to offer up the following recipe, my Potato, Parmesan, and Goat Cheese Gratin. Yes, it tastes as amazing as it sounds. This dish is rich and elegant, unique, and not at all starchy or bland. It can be made ahead of time, and, unlike mashed potatoes, still tastes great as a leftover. It does require quite a bit of time in the oven, but you can bake it a few hours ahead of time and then just rewarm it prior to serving. Here are my comments on this recipe:
- If you can find them, I think that the Yukon gold potatoes work better for this recipe. In addition to their pretty color, they have a more buttery flavor and are less starchy. I don't peel the potatoes for this recipe (too time consuming!). The slices are so thin, that you barely notice the skin. Just be certain to scrub them well prior to slicing!
- The best and easiest way to evenly slice the potatoes is with a handy little kitchen tool called a Mandoline. I am assuming of course that you do not have a professional-grade slicer sitting on your kitchen counter. There is a Mandoline pictured below. It consists of two flat work surfaces, one of which can be adjusted, with a razor-sharp blade on the top layer. A Mandoline helps to keep the slices uniform, which is important when baking or frying, so that pieces are done at the same time. If you don't have one of these tools, just cut the potatoes as thinly and evenly as you possibly can with a very sharp knife. I have used both methods with tasty results.
- You can substitute dried rosemary, sage, or even Herbes de Provence for the dried thyme.
- The tomatoes can be optional in this recipe if you want it to be strictly potatoes. I like them because they add a little bit of color and a different texture to the dish.
- I usually opt for the half and half as opposed to the heavy cream or whole milk. I find that the heavy cream, true to its name, is too heavy, and the whole milk isn't rich enough.
- This recipe can be prepared one day ahead of time, up to the point of baking. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour before putting in the oven.
Potato, Parmesan, and Goat Cheese Gratin
8 tablespoons butter, melted
8 medium Yukon gold or russet potatoes
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of dried thyme
2 cups crumbled goat cheese
1 1/3 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
2 cups half and half, whole milk, or heavy cream
1 cup plain bread crumbs.
Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Brush a 9X13 inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. Slice the potatoes as thinly as possible, about 1/8 inch thick. Using one-quarter of the sliced potatoes, arrange a layer on the bottom of the baking dish and top with a second layer. Brush the potatoes lightly with some of the melted butter. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt, pepper, a little bit of thyme, 2 tablespoons of the goat cheese, and 1/3 cup of the Parmesan.
Using another quarter of the sliced potatoes, add two more layers and brush them with more butter. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme, add 2 tablespoons goat cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan. Add a single layer of the sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with 2 more tablespoons of goat cheese, 1/3 cup Parmesan, thyme, salt and pepper. Continue the process with another layer of potato slices, butter, seasoning and cheese. Top with the remaining quarter of the potato slices and press the layers down with the palm of your hand to pack all of the ingredients together. Brush with some of the melted butter and sprinkle with the seasonings and the remaining crumbled goat cheese.
Pour the milk/half and half/cream over the potatoes and then top them evenly with the bread crumbs. Sprinkle with the remaining butter and bake, covered, 45-50 minutes. Uncover and bake for 30-40 minutes longer, until bubbling and golden on top. Let rest prior to serving, but serve warm!
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