There are dozens of recipes for mashed potatoes. And most of the year, I'm adventurous, often throwing in shredded cheddar, bits of bacon and even horseradish. But when it comes to Thanksgiving, the grandeur of a roasted turkey demands a simple side of classic mashed potatoes.
Growing up, I remember my mom quartering russet potatoes and boiling them with their skins on. The tricky part was peeling the hot potatoes before they cooled and pushing them through the ricer. My favorite part was watching those spaghetti-like threads ooze out of the ricer, with not a lump to be found.
Although I appreciate this method, I follow a different recipe now. Peeling and dicing the potatoes uniformly allows them to cook more quickly, and the standing mixer does most of the mashing work.
These Traditional Mashed Potatoes are easy to make, with a light texture and great flavor. Warming the milk before blending helps keep these potatoes fluffy, and the half-stick of butter lends creaminess.
As for the sweet potatoes, this year I traded in the roasted marshmallow topping of my youth for these Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar and Pecans. Instead of boiling the sweet potatoes, I roasted them for an hour. The skins seal in the moisture so the potatoes basically steam inside their jackets. Cooling the sweet potatoes slightly allows the skins to separate from the potatoes for effortless peeling. The tender insides are easily mashed with a hand-held masher or mixer.
This recipe is delicious, with the pecans adding a nice contrast to the sweet topping. Breaking through the crunchy crust reveals a light and fluffy dish, almost like a souffle. The inside has a true sweet potato flavor, while the topping adds a sweetness that is not overpowering.
No matter how Thanksgiving traditions evolve over the years, potatoes will always have a place on our table. The method of cooking them, well, that's negotiable.