Posts Tagged With: Thanksgiving

Baked Mashed Potatoes

I would like to thank my colleague, Deb Rosenthal, for the following guest post. Deb is a fellow food aficionado and recently heard about a new technique for making mashed potatoes, so she stepped up to the plate and offered to write about her experience. Turns out the results were mixed.

My Quest for Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Ever since I moved 3,000 miles away from my family it became clear that if I wanted Thanksgiving dinner I would have to make it for myself. Last year I made the basics and it turned out fine. This year, I was cocky. Last year went so well, I need to outdo it! I thought to myself. Started out simple enough, brine the turkey, two different from-scratch stuffings, balsamic glazed brussel sprouts and the list goes on. I was stumped when I got to the mashed potatoes. What more could be done to the simple potato?

The answer came to me through the help of the internet: baking the potatoes instead of boiling. This method allows you to make creamier mashed potatoes; since there is no addition of water in the cooking process you can add more milk and butter. I wasn’t sure about this so I did a test potato a few nights before the big day. It worked out great! I baked the potato in my toaster oven for 40 minutes, scooped the insides out (leaving the unwashed skins behind) and easily mashed it with milk and butter. It was delicious. The next day at work I told everyone about my new discovery, claiming it was going to lead to better mashed potatoes in a fraction of the time.

Finally, Turkey Day arrived. I was riding high on my horse, I had even volunteered to write about this experience for Mark’s blog, as I knew I wanted to share the discovery with others. I started out, happily documenting my experience along the way.

Pre heat over, wash the potatoes, place on a baking sheet and pierce with fork – check! Everything is going great so far.

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Bake for 45 minutes, take out of oven and cut in half – check!

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This is when things went downhill. I had laid out the whole day, giving myself ample time to cook everything in order to have dinner on the table by 4. I was not supposed to start the potatoes until noon but I had woken up early and figured I might as well get a jump on the day. After I took the potatoes out of the oven I thought to myself (and please note – this is the moment I look back on as the start of the train wreck) I’m in no rush, might as well hold off on dealing with the potatoes until after coffee. Several cups of coffee later I returned to the kitchen to start scooping potatoes.

Turns out, once potatoes are cooled they are not as soft as when they are piping hot from the oven. I ended up having to peel all the peels with the back of a spoon, instead of simply scooping the potato out of the skins.

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It gets worse. Have you ever tried to mash a hard potato? Of course not; that’s a stupid thing to do. Well, yours truly got a 45-minute lesson on that. When baked potatoes cool they get hard. Mashing cold potatoes is the worst. Legit. The. Worst. It was throw-the-bowl-of-potatoes-out-the-window-and-cancel-the-rest-of-Thanksgiving hard. This is also the point where I stopped documenting my journey.

Once the potatoes were finally sort of all mashed up I added in a warmed mixture of butter and milk. My original thoughts were correct, baked potatoes were able to absorb more liquid than boiled ones. To add more flavor, I decided to then roast a whole head of garlic and mash that into a paste to fold into the potatoes. This yielded some really good, and really garlicy mashed potatoes. Just for the record, this final step only occurred to me after I took a 45-minute break to drink some tea and read a book.

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In case anyone is wondering, the rest of the dinner turned out great. Everything went sort-of according to plan. Yes, the turkey came out of the oven an hour and a half later than scheduled and the gravy took what felt like a year and a half to reach a boil, but all in all I will say it was a success.

While the potatoes did turn out great, do I think they were any better than simple boiled potatoes? No. I think peeling the potatoes, throwing them into a pot of boiling water and then draining and mashing them is easier. And really, at the end of the day, it all tastes the same covered in gravy and cranberry sauce.

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Thank you once again for being a guinea pig, Deb. Remember: it’s all in the name of science! If you have an idea for a food-related post and would like to be a guest contributor to Eat My Words, just drop me a line or leave a comment below!

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Categories: Vegetables | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

359/365: National Pumpkin Pie Day

Merry Christmas, everybody!

December 25 is the most magical day of the year – even if you’re too old to believe in Santa Claus. And like every other day of the year, it’s got its own dedicated food holiday. Christmas Day is also National Pumpkin Pie Day!

Which makes sense. Pumpkin pie is a traditional autumn/early winter dessert most often served on Thanksgiving and Christmas. It consists of pumpkin custard baked in a pie shell and flavored with a variety of spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Most people use canned pumpkin, since it’s easier to work with (and every bit as delicious). Pumpkins, which are native to North America, have been used as pie fillings for centuries; Hannah Woolley’s The Gentlewoman’s Companion, published in England in 1675, contains one of the earliest recipes. The dish didn’t really catch on in America until the early 19th century, when it began appearing as a dessert course following Thanksgiving dinner.

You’re probably busy unwrapping gifts or spending time with loved ones, so we won’t commandeer too much of your attention with a food-related blog post. We had frozen a couple slices of pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving, and defrosted them to enjoy on Christmas morning. They still tasted surprisingly good. We hope you have a wonderful holiday!

National Pumpkin Pie Day

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

327/365: National Eat a Cranberry Day*

You may have “red” about today’s holiday in the news. November 23 is National Eat a Cranberry Day!

And also National Espresso Day. But we’ve celebrated several coffee holidays this year, while not yet paying homage to a fruit that I’m particularly fond of. Plus, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, these little red guys are going to take a starring role. In my mind, you can’t have turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing and green bean casserole without also including cranberries. We may be a few days early, but today we are honoring the cranberry! (And despite the official name of the holiday, we’re eating more than one).

Cranberries are one of three fruits native to North America (the others being blueberries and Concord grapes). Native Americans used them as a food source (in particular, pemmican – a combination of crushed cranberries, dried venison, and melted fat), fabric dye for rugs and blankets, and medicine to treat arrow wounds. Pilgrims originally named the fruit “craneberry” because the pink flowers that bloomed in the spring resembled the head and bill of a sandhill crane. They found them not only delicious, but a helpful bartering tool with the local tribes. Sailors took cranberries with them on ocean voyages to prevent scurvy, and began shipping them to Europe for sale. Captain Henry Hall was the first to cultivate cranberries in 1816, and by 1871, the first association of cranberry growers was formed. Today, 40,000 acres of cranberries are harvested every year.

Cranberries don’t actually grow in water, though they need very specific growing conditions to thrive: acidic peat soil, fresh water, sand, and a growing season that lasts from April to November, plus a dormancy period that allows the fruit to chill and mature. They actually grow on vines that survive indefinitely; some in Massachusetts are 150 years old and still producing fruit!

To celebrate, we bought a bag of almonds that contained dried cranberries. It’s a good thing today is Eat A Cranberry Day, because there were a whopping two in the bag. Oh, well – that’s one apiece, all we needed anyway!

National Eat a Cranberry Day

Categories: Fruit | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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