Saturday, November 13, 2010

Potato, Potaaato…at Thanksgiving you can’t call the whole thing off!

3 Potato Based Recipes that Show There’s Hope Beyond Mashed Potatoes…

Come that last Thursday in November, there seem to be a million different side dishes designed to accent the bird; so how come so many folks serve the same sides year after year: mashed potatoes, cranberries, rolls?? I can get on board with it, sure. These side dishes are good—even great—but if you feel daunted on the dawn of Thanksgiving, armed with your potato peeler, mounds of spuds and no plans for them beyond mashed potatoes, it’s time to mix things up without using your Cuisinart. When I perused my file box, I found 3 different recipes featuring potatoes with elegant and festive ways to serve them, worthy of this November 25th, 2010.

But, first a little Potato 101
Potatoes are best at the local farmers market; I got a friend from California to loan me her photo of potatoes in every size, shape and color, including blue potatoes, easy to spot in the bag. Depending on the kind of tater it is, it responds best to either boiling, roasting baking or all of the above.

Yellow potatoes or Yukon Gold are considered "all purpose"—use them to cook easy recipes like mashed or baked potatoes.
Red potatoes are perfect when steamed, boiled, roasted or scalloped. Tip: Coarse salt rubbed onto the outside of red potatoes makes for a crispy skin.
Russets are high in starch—ideal for mashed potatoes and baking.
The white potato is low in starch, better for boiling and terrific in potato salad.
Fingerlings are also low in starch and MADE for roasting
Blue (or purple) potatoes contain medium starch, and taste a lot like a Russet; the basic difference being, they tend to cook a bit faster.

An Elegant Potato Dish Reminiscent of Latkes

Traditional latkes are usually served during Hanukkah as a side dish, so I thought why not roll out my version of Silver Dollar Potato Pancakes with Smoked Salmon for Thanksgiving? A cross between potato latkes and bite-size crab cakes, these savory bites look just beautiful in that silver chafing dish you’ve polished just for this occasion. You can serve them warm or at room temperature. You can even kick up this recipe by substituting shredded sweet potatoes for half of the potato mixture; then top it with grilled shrimp or seared scallops. Everyone will think you’re fancy…

I love this potato dish because it’s so pure—you can write down the ingredients on the back of a place card…

It’s not haiku…it’s a Thanksgiving Side Dish
12 to 18 small red potatoes
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons course salt
1 bunch fresh rosemary
Sour cream
Fresh chives

The taters in my Baby Rosemary Baked Potatoes should be about 3-inches in diameter; it’s fun to gather these guys because they should all be roughly the same size—not hard to do when you’re shopping red. Garnish with butter, a dollop of sour cream and fresh chopped chives…and viola…you’ll catch someone licking the serving spoon when it’s time to wash the empty casserole dish!

Baked Potatoes with Mushrooms and Fontina Cheese
The glory of this Thanksgiving side dish is that it can be prepared the day before, then quickly heated just before serving. There are many types of potatoes and all of them will work well in this recipe. But, the overall favorite potato for baking is the russet because it’s starchy and will have less moisture when cooked than other varieties. This side is a winner, and also features button mushrooms—something I blogged about a couple weeks ago and have been drooling over ever since. The cheese in this recipe makes everyone feel like they’re being honored, decadent and born to savor at the same time.

Make any of these three for the ones you love, and stay tuned for more holiday pointers!

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