The Thanksgiving Collection
How you doin’? The earliest written recipe for mashed potatoes is found in an English cookbook—Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery, in 1747. Before that mashed potato recipes were handed down mouth-to-mouth as an oral tradition. (Insert laugh here.) Hannah’s recipe mashed them in a saucepan with milk, salt, and butter. In the United States, Mary Randolph published a recipe for mashed potatoes in her book, The Virginia Housewife; Mary’s recipe called for a half ounce of butter and a tablespoon of milk for a pound of potatoes—a little too lean for my taste. I’ve goosed our recipe up a bit. Read on for more history—it’s interesting.
But let’s look back a little further… potatoes aren’t native to Ireland—or anywhere in Europe. They were most likely farmed in the Andes mountains of Peru, where they were being used for food at least as far back as 8000 BC—that’s a long time ago. These early potatoes were very different from the potatoes we know today. They came in a variety of odd shapes and sizes, had a bitter, earthy taste and were considered poisonous—and some varieties actually were! Many thought that potatoes caused leprosy—they didn’t… unless you ate them in a leper colony!
By the time Spanish explorers brought the first potatoes to Europe from South America in the 16th century, they had been selectively bred into a more desirable plant. It took them a while to catch on overseas, though. By some accounts, European farmers were suspicious of plants that weren’t mentioned in the Bible. Others said it was the fact that potatoes grow from tubers, rather than seeds. Modern potato historians debate these points, though. Cabbage’s omission from the Bible didn’t seem to hurt its popularity; and tulip cultivation, using bulbs instead of seeds, was happening at the same time.
The South American climates’ potatoes thrived and were unlike those found in Europe, especially in terms of hours of daylight in a day. In Europe, potatoes grew leaves and flowers, which botanists readily studied, but the tubers they produced remained small even after months of growing. This particular problem began to be remedied when the Spanish started growing potatoes on the Canary Islands, which functioned as a sort of middle ground between equatorial South America and more northerly European climes. I hope you’re taking notes; there will be a test the day after Thanksgiving.
Okay, let’s go back to Ed’s recipe for Creamy Mashed Potatoes which will garner great praise for the cook this holiday… or any day.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Mix time: 5 minutes
Bake time: 20 to 30 minutes
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
5 pounds russet potatoes
5 slices bacon, cooked crisp
6-ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons minced chives
2 tablespoons minced roasted garlic
2-1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground coarse black pepper
ChefSecret: For the creamiest smashed potatoes ever, add a little milk, half and half or cream to your smashed potatoes. Mellow out the garlic by taking a whole head of garlic, wrapping in aluminum foil and slowly baking (300⁰ f) for an hour or so until the garlic is all squishy and light brown.
Quip of the Day: “If you don’t swear while driving, you’re just not paying attention.”
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To you and everyone dear to you, be strong, be positive, stay well, stay safe and be kind. Have a wonderful safe and healthy holiday. If you have a little extra in your pockets to share with others at this difficult time, please consider donating to Feeding America.
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