How to Make Perfect Mashed Potatoes

24 11 2010

Creamy, buttery mashed potatoes are a must at any holiday table.

When it comes to favourite comfort foods, mashed potatoes are near the top of my list.  They are the perfect side to serve with gravy-based dishes such as turkey and roast beef and no holiday table would be complete without them.

The great thing about potatoes (aside from being delicious) is that they are very inexpensive and readily available year-round.  I’m from New Brunswick, Canada, which is a major potato-producing region (McCain’s, the world’s largest producer of frozen french fries, is based there). A couple of years ago, I saw a roadside sign near Fredericton advertising 50 pounds of potatoes for $9.99 so it’s no surprise that they were a staple at our dinner table almost every night.

Potatoes may not look exciting but they are very versatile.

To make smooth, creamy mashed potatoes, here are a few tips that will ensure success:

  • Choose starchy potatoes such as Russets (also known as Idaho or baking potatoes).  Yukon Golds also work well and have a nice buttery interior.  Avoid waxy ‘boiling’ potatoes such as fingerlings or red potatoes.
  • Cutting the potatoes into chunks will speed the cooking process.  You can peel them before cooking for a nicer presentation but sometimes I leave the skins on for texture and nutrients.
  • Use a potato ricer to ensure smooth, lump-free potatoes.  A potato ricer looks like a giant garlic press and you push the cooked potatoes through tiny holes, resulting in potato strands that look like rice.  Ricers are available at most kitchen stores.  Do not use a mixer to beat them – they will become gluey.
  • Season well! Potatoes can handle a lot of salt and seasonings such as garlic, horseradish or chopped herbs (see below for more ideas).  Be sure to add butter and dairy while the potatoes are still hot so everything melts and combines easily. Add seasonings gradually and taste as you go.

Preparing Mashed Potatoes in Advance

Trying to drain and mash potatoes when you have guests waiting for dinner can be messy and cumbersome. Luckily, mashed potatoes can be prepared in advance and kept warm or re-heated. There are two methods that work well:

  1. Place mashed potatoes in a metal bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Cover loosely with foil. Stir occasionally and check moisture and seasoning before serving.
  2. Cooked mashed potatoes can be kept warm in a slow cooker set to ‘Low’. Check and stir on occasion, as they can become dry around the edges.

Optional Additions

While plain mashed potatoes are a delicious on their own, they can be further enhanced with some of the following (measurements are approximate – add to taste):

  • Grated horseradish – 2 to 3 Tablespoons or to taste
  • ¼ cup of sour cream plus ½ chopped green onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 head roasted garlic, squeezed out of its skin
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Mashed Potatoes

Evaporated milk or regular milk can be substituted for the cream but the results will not be as creamy and rich.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 6 large russet potatoes (about 2-1/2 lbs.), peeled and cut into thirds
  • ½ cup heavy cream (whipping cream), heated
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into pieces
  • Salt, to taste
  • A large stockpot with a lid
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • Water, to cover potatoes
  • Potato ricer
  1. In a large stockpot, add potatoes, 1 Tablespoon salt and enough water to just cover the potatoes. Cover and bring water to a boil.
  2. Remove cover and reduce heat to medium-high. Gently boil until potatoes are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Check with a sharp knife periodically to determine tenderness.
  3. Drain cooked potatoes. Place two or three potato chunks in the potato ricer. Working over a large bowl, press potatoes through ricer. Repeat with all potatoes.
  4. Quickly add butter and cream to hot potatoes. Stir until combined and the potatoes are creamy. Add salt to taste. Add any optional seasonings and mix until incorporated.
  5. Serve with your favourite dishes such as braised short ribs, roast chicken or turkey with gravy.

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.

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Pumpkin Cream Puffs with Maple-Caramel Sauce

23 11 2010

Cream puffs (a.k.a. profiteroles) filled with a spiced pumpkin cream and topped with a buttery maple-caramel sauce.

When I want to make an autumn dessert, I think about seasonally appropriate ingredients such as apples, pears, caramel and of course, pumpkin.  Pumpkin pie is a staple at most Thanksgiving tables and spiced pumpkin is popular in everything from lattes to ice cream. As a bonus, scientists have long known that the scent of pumpkin pie is an aphrodisiac so it’s the perfect finale to a romantic dinner.

If you’re looking for something a little different from pie, these cream puffs (a.k.a. profiteroles) fit the bill perfectly.  The pumpkin-cream filling has all the flavours of classic pumpkin pie and the maple-caramel sauce is a decadent and delicious topping (which is also great on ice cream!).  The recipe has a number of steps but none are difficult and everything can be prepared in advance and assembled at the end of the meal.

Click here to see the recipe from Suite 101.com: Pumpkin Cream Puffs with Maple-Caramel Sauce.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Roasted Green Beans with Shallots

17 11 2010

Roasting green beans with shallots is a fresh alternative to heavy soup-based casseroles.

American Thanksgiving is next week and a favourite at many tables is Green Bean Casserole.  Made with canned soup and topped with fried onions, unfortunately it’s loaded with calories and sodium.  Lighten up with a delicious dish of roasted green beans and shallots, finished with sea salt and a squeeze of lemon.  These beans are also vegan-friendly and gluten-free so everyone at the table can enjoy a taste. Even if you’re not celebrating Thanksgiving, they make an excellent side dish for roast beef and chicken.

Strictly speaking, green beans are at their peak in the summer, however, they are greenhouse-grown and readily available throughout the year at most grocery stores. Do not use frozen beans as they have a different texture.  Tip: When slicing the shallots, be sure the rings are quite thick (about 1/4″) or they will burn before the beans are done.

Roasted Green Beans with Shallots

Makes about 4 side dish servings – can easily be doubled

  • 12 oz. (340 g) fresh green beans, ends trimmed – equals about 3 cups of beans
  • 2 small shallots, cut into rings about ¼” thick
  • 4 teaspoons neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
  • Parchment paper to line baking sheet or pan
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Sea salt, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the baking rack in the middle position in the oven.
  2. In a large bowl, toss green beans with shallots and oil until they are lightly coated. Cut a piece of parchment paper to the same size as the bottom of a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Line the sheet and pour the bean/shallot mixture onto it, making sure they’re in a single layer.
  3. Roast the beans for 10 minutes. Check on them at this point – if the shallots and beans are becoming very brown, remove them from the oven. Otherwise, roast for another 5 minutes until the beans are beginning to char around the edges.
  4. To serve, season with sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Stuffed Butternut Squash

2 11 2010

Butternut squash can be stuffed to make an elegant vegetarian dish

My brother-in-law Dan is a vegetarian so I’m always trying to come up with interesting dishes so he’ll have something special to enjoy at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I enjoy the challenge and it encourages those of us who eat meat to try some new dishes as well.  I made this butternut squash stuffed with wild rice and herbs last year and it was a hit.  It makes quite a bit so you should have plenty to serve as either a vegetarian main course or as a side dish.  It is delicious with pork, chicken or turkey. I can easily be adapted for vegans- just follow the substitutions at the end of the recipe.

Stuffed Butternut Squash

(VEGETARIAN)

Makes about 8 to 10 servings as a side dish or 4 to 6 servings as a main course

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 2 teaspoons neutral oil such as safflower

Stuffing:

  • ½ cup raw wild rice
  • ½ cup raw white rice
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ medium onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup red pepper, finely diced (about ½ a large pepper)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter OR margarine OR oil such as safflower or olive
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Using a large sharp knife, cut the butternut squash lengthwise down the middle and separate the two halves.
  3. Scoop out any seeds and discard. Rub each half of the squash with the oil (1 teaspoon per half). Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until tender. Check tenderness with a sharp knife – it should be soft enough to scoop out with ease.
  4. While the squash is roasting, prepare the stuffing ingredients. In a large saucepan, heat 2 cups vegetable stock until boiling. Add wild rice, cover tightly. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Add white rice to the pot and continue to cook the rice mixture for another 20 minutes or until the rice is tender and the stock has been absorbed.
  5. In a large bowl, add onion, red pepper, garlic, sage, rosemary and thyme. Once the rice mixture has cooked, add it as well.
  6. Remove baked squash from the oven and let cool slightly. Using a large spoon, carefully scoop the flesh out of the baked squash halves, making sure to leave about ¾” of a ‘wall’ intact so the shells will hold together. Add the scooped squash to the rice/stuffing bowl.
  7. Stir the cooked squash into the rice stuffing mixture until it is thoroughly combined. Add melted butter and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Scoop the stuffing mixture back into the squash halves. Top each half with parmesan cheese or bread crumbs (1/4 cup per half).
  9. Bake stuffed squash for 20 minutes or until the cheese is beginning to brown on top. Garnish with a sprig of sage if desired.

*Vegan Adaptation:

Substitute vegan-friendly margarine, olive oil or neutral oil (canola, safflower, etc) for the melted butter. Top with ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs that have been tossed with 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs. Bake stuffed squash for 20 minutes or until crumbs begin to brown.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.

Stuffed Butternut Squash, garnish with a sprig of fresh sage





Thanksgiving Desserts

7 10 2010

 

Maple-Caramel Custards are a delicious alternative to pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving table

 

Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend so it’s time to start thinking about the dinner menu.  Turkey will be on most tables and I’ve given a number of suggestions for excellent side dishes (Thanksgiving Side Dishes).  However, for many people, the highlight of the holiday meal is dessert.

Pumpkin and apple pies are popular choices, however, I sometimes enjoy serving desserts that are a bit different yet still seasonally appropriate.  Pears, apples, pumpkin, nuts and cranberries are abundant at markets right now so it’s the perfect time to incorporate them into your menu.

Here are a few suggestions for a delicious finish to the Thanksgiving feast:

Pumpkin Pie with Maple-Walnut Praline – This impressive looking dessert is easy to make.  If you don’t feel like fussing with the praline, the filling makes a delicious basic pumpkin pie.

Apple Pie – A classic.  Be sure to serve it warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Apple-Caramel Tart – An elegant alternative to apple pie.  It’s made with frozen puff pastry, making the preparation quick and easy.

Harvest Strudel – Pears, apples, cranberries, nuts and warming spices make this dessert a nice change from basic pie.

Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce – A rich caramel sauce poured over a decadent pear and nut-studded pudding takes this comfort food dish to new levels.

Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tartlets – Raspberry season is over in most areas, however, this recipe works just as well with frozen berries.

Maple-Caramel Custards with Sea Salt – This rich custard showcases the flavour of maple beautifully.  If you can find some colourful maple leaves that have fallen, they make a fun presentation.

Bon Appétit and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Pumpkin Breakfast Treats

24 11 2009

Pumpkin: it's not just for pie!

With pumpkin pie on the Thanksgiving menu this week in millions of homes, there will likely be some leftover pumpkin purée. Why not put it to good use by whipping up some delicious breakfast treats for a house full of guests?  Try these delicious recipes I wrote for Suite 101.com:

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Pumpkin Spice Muffins – Pumpkin purée helps keep these muffins nice and moist. Filling the muffin cups almost to the top will make large, puffy bakery-style muffins. The recipe can easily be doubled to serve a crowd.

Pumpkin French Toast - French toast is always popular for breakfast but adding pumpkin and spices makes it even better. It’s also a great way to use up leftover bread. Serve with real maple syrup.

Pumpkin French Toast with maple syrup

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





A Vegetarian and Vegan Thanksgiving

23 11 2009

Fresh cranberries at the farmer's market

American Thanksgiving is this week and it’s the biggest food day of the year for millions of people. Cooks across America have been busy in on-line chat rooms and blogs discussing menus and what recipes they’ll be making for their feasts.  Turkey is usually the centerpiece of a traditional Thanksgiving meal but what if you or one of your guests don’t eat meat or poultry?  Not to worry – there are plenty of delicious options that everyone can enjoy without feeling like they’re missing out.

Many recipes can also be adapted for vegans (who don’t eat any animal products, including milk, cheese, butter and eggs).  To make a recipe vegan, sometimes all you have to do is substitute margarine or oil for butter and leave out any cheese the recipe may call for.  I have noted which recipes can easily be adapted for vegans. Here are some suggestions for a delicious, meat-free Thanksgiving dinner:

Stuffed Butternut Squash is an elegant vegetarian alternative to turkey.

White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs – Get the party started with this vegan-friendly dip made with white beans and hearty autumn herbs. 

Mushroom Crostini – These make impressive hors d’oeuvres for any autumn dinner. Leave out the cream, parmesan and sour cream if serving vegans.  Adjust the flavour by adding more seasonings to taste.

Butternut Squash Soup – This low-fat soup is easy and delicious.  To adapt for vegans, omit the brown butter – use olive oil to sauté the sage leaves instead.

Peppery Leek and Potato Soup – Using vegetable stock instead of a chicken base makes this easy soup suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.

Stuffed Butternut Squash – This makes an impressive main course dish that easily takes the place of turkey.  Can be adapted for vegans (see pointers in the article).

Potato-Sage Dressing – Cooking the stuffing outside the bird means that everyone can enjoy it, including vegans.

Roasted Green Beans with Shallots – Take a break from the usual green bean casserole with this vegan-friendly dish.

Cranberry Sauce – Just because you don’t have turkey doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some vegan-friendly cranberries with your meal.

Mashed Potatoes – Always a favourite, mashed potatoes can be adapted for vegans by nixing the butter and cream.  Use a little vegetable stock and a bit of olive oil to give them a creamy texture.

Mashed Potatoes are a must at any Thanksgiving table.

Butternut Squash Gratin with Sage and Parmesan – The key to this dish is the butter and parmesan so vegans may have to pass on this one but vegetarians and meat-eaters will no doubt enjoy it.

Corn Scallop – This dish is tasty and rich but unfortunately it’s not vegan-friendly. However, Roasted Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs is – just use olive oil in place of the butter. Fresh corn is not in season right now but canned corn works very well in this dish.

Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Feta – This hearty winter salad is practically a meal on its own.  Leave out the feta for vegans.

Braised Garlic Swiss Chard – Cooking swiss chard in lots of garlic and stock makes eating your greens a lot more delicious.  Use oil in place of the butter for vegans.

Roasted Tomatoes – These sweet and addictive slow cooked tomatoes are great in salads, on pasta or even just eaten with bread. They are vegan-friendly as well. 

Celery Root Slaw – This tangy salad is the perfect accompaniment to rich dishes.  If serving vegans, use a vegan-friendly mayonnaise that doesn’t contain any eggs.

Salads – Mixed greens and other vegetables are a great option for vegetarians, vegans and health-conscious diners.  Recipes for Basic Vinaigrettes will give you  lots of ideas for dressings.

Pumpkin Pie with Maple-Walnut Praline – The pumpkin custard contains eggs and milk so it’s not vegan-friendly but everyone else will enjoy this dressed up version of a classic.

Apple Pie – Another classic.  Be sure to use a pastry recipe (or prepared dough) that doesn’t contain animal products if serving vegans.

Take a break from green bean casserole with vegan-friendly Roasted Green Beans and Shallots.

Many people are eliminating meat and animal products from their diets for both health and ethical reasons but there’s no reason why they can’t enjoy a tasty holiday meal as well.  

Bon Appétit and Happy Thanksgiving!








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