One potato, two potato, three potato, four! Oh, alright. I’ll stop my silliness this instant. And please forgive me in advance—I’m deliriously intoxicated by the wintery Holiday season, as it so beautifully ushers in so much wonderful, cozy food, that I can barely contain myself. But before I digress, let me get back to my original premise: the potato. Don’t most of us have a love affair with potatoes? Let’s be honest; of all the foods that people tend to be picky about, potatoes are generally not one of them. Just about everyone loves them, because they’re so very deliciously earthy, non-offensive, and open to most any add-in possibilities; and for those purists out there that like to keep things simple, potatoes are something to genuinely enjoy, even when left plain and unadulterated. Who would dare bad-mouth a potato? Whether roasted, steamed, mashed or smashed, potatoes are the good-for-you comfort food; and with the various varieties of spuds available, there’s a delectable potato for every occasion: the basic, fluffy and starchy russet, the sweetly tender and orange-fleshed sweet potato, the cute little fingerling and “teeny” potato, the gloriously colored and deeply “potato-y” tasting purple potato, and the waxy red skin and creamy, buttery yellow potato—each and every one utterly delicious to devour in any number of ways. And winter is the best time to do so as the festive meals of the Christmas season and cozy spreads of the cold-weather months are ideal for bringing out the potatoes and putting them together with some other savory favorites to make them an out-of-this-world tasty side.
I enjoy my potatoes slightly more on the rustic side. I love textures in them: coarse sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, streaks of sweetly-fragrant roasted garlic, little bits of vibrant kale, and of course, a touch of creamy, sweet butter. But something I like to do to make a rustic smashed potato dish that much more unique and incredible, is add in other seasonal vegetables that partner perfectly. Winter is a good time for parsnips, and parsnips play so very nicely with potatoes. Resembling a large, white carrot, parsnips have a natural, spicy-sweetness to them; they have a hearty, creamy texture, and earthy-flavored note, perfect to combine with the buttery, yellow-flesh of a Yukon Gold potato and the fluffiness of a red-skin potato. Dare I say a potato partnership made in Winter’s Wonderland itself? Certainly. And what an accompaniment this simple side dish is, perfect for a Christmas Eve dinner, or a celebratory seasonal gathering where a fresh take on “mashed potatoes” is what everyone’s hungry for.
Ah, the winter season and all of the promise of good food that it brings. What a pleasure it is to fill the table with warming and comforting offerings. In the cool of the winter, creativity is loosened and allowed to run amuck in the best way possible, as appetites wait in eager anticipation of the good, savory stuff that will be partaken of and thoroughly enjoyed. Buttery, Winter Mash is a perfect companion to any item found on a wonderfully spread holiday table; and like a good friend or loved one, it brings out the best qualities in all of the rest that surround it.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Buttery Winter Mash with Yukon Gold and Red Potatoes, Roasted Garlic, Parsnips and Kale
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(Serves about 4)
3 heads garlic, roasted (*see instructions below, if needed)
5 Yukon Gold potatoes, skin-on and cubed
5 Red potatoes, skin-on and cubed
2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced thickly
• Sea salt
4 tablespoons sweet butter, room temp
¼ cup half and half
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup kale, center rib removed and leaves finely chopped
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
(*To roast the garlic heads, preheat oven to 400 degrees, and cut 3 small squares of foil to wrap the heads of garlic in; cut the tops off of the 3 heads of garlic, drizzle them lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and wrap them tightly in the squares of foil; roast the heads directly on the oven rack for 40 minutes, and remove; once slightly cooled, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their papers, and set aside.)
-Add the cubed potatoes and the sliced parsnips into a medium-large pot, cover with cold water, and salt generously so that the water tastes like the ocean; place the pot over medium-high heat, and bring to the boil; once it comes to the boil, reduce the heat to medium/medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 20-22 minutes, or until the potatoes/parsnips are fork tender; next, drain the potatoes and parsnips well, and return the pot to low heat, allowing the potatoes/parsnips to “dry out” a bit for about 30 seconds; next, remove the potatoes/parsnips from heat, and add in the butter, the half and half and the buttermilk, and mash the potatoes/parsnips until they are well combined with the butter and milks, and are the consistency that you like (you can leave them chunkier, or make them smoother, depending on your personal preference); next, add in the cracked black pepper, a pinch of sea salt if needed, the roasted garlic cloves, the finely chopped kale and the parsley, and combine together well so that everything is incorporated; serve immediately while hot.