Friday, November 19, 2010

Free Range Friday - Thanksgiving gobble

This will be the first Thanksgiving since my first here (and I have no idea what I did that year) that we won't be orchestrated by Linda, who is in the far off North now, making new traditions. I secretly kept hoping she'd show up here and I think she hoped we might show up there. But we'll be here and at this moment, I have no idea what we're actually going to do for our usual communal Thanksgiving Day meal, since they still haven't figured out that damn transporter machine.

If you read this blog at all, you know my love of Thanksgiivng. Not for its faux American historical value, but for a time to make sure, in the midst of economic chaos or life craziness, that thanks for what is good in life is strongly in the forefront of our minds, and hopefully, spilling out of our mouths while shoveling food in.
Just having the option of a groaning table of food...well you know the Thanks litany. Family, Friends, Food - the three F's - along with  a roof over our heads. For me, it also includes being very thankful for the incredible beauty of where I live. Which is, as the Christmas winds start up and the island reflects the overabundance of rain, so green, with the sea so blue, almost painful to the eyes and overflowing to the soul. Almost edible. Hope you love where you live as well.

Empty mashed potato bowl from another year...
Since something will probably come together, what will I bring to Thanksgiving Day dinner? At the risk of being boringly predictable, and I am, I will most likely continue my quest to make the perfect Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Last year they were sacrificed to the Mosquito Tormentors and never recovered. This year, they will be the sole effort. Perfection...I can feel it!

MJ's Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes (if you don't like garlic, carry on with your day, starting now)

First of all, you need garlic, real garlic, heads of garlic! At least 3 heads

And potatoes, that helps a lot. Say, eight or ten pounds of potatoes. What kind of potatoes, you might be wailing? Well, around here, you have about two choices. I go for whatever is in a bag, and least expensive that look fresh and don't have any eyes. 
I don't like my potatoes looking at me. 
(You may have lots of choices and a bigger wallet, so go to this site and make yourself crazy)

Butter. Real butter.  At least a stick, left out to soften. Maybe more, so set out two.
Salted or unsalted? In this case, salted is fine. If you're worried about salt...unsalted 
(and set aside that person's potato portion; more salt to come)

And milk, or half and half or if you are really into go all the way, heavy cream. 
A cup might do it.

A potato masher. I'm a potato masher snob, I confess. When I got divorced, the potato masher was one of the things I made sure I got. Really. I think one of my children have it now. A good one makes all the difference. 
This isn't my potato masher but it's a lot like it!
Ok, ready! This is pretty easy for something incredibly delicious. Let the games begin.

Take at least three heads of garlic (more isn't crazy, just add as you like the taste if you want more - if you don't use them, you can save them for later, they are good in so many things!), slice off the tops. Put them on a sheet of foil big enough to close up over the heads. Drizzle a little good olive oil over them, close up the foil and put into a 350-375 degree oven for about an hour. To test, stick a toothpick in a clove, it should be very soft.

(Here is a not-so-secret secret though...if you do these on the grill, you now have SMOKED roasted garlic. Even with a propane grill, you can add soaked wood chips in a fancy smoker box, or just add them in some tin foil, set alongside the flame. It works. Uh huh...think about it. Really)

While you're waiting for that hour to go by, do this:

In a pot big enough to hold all of your potatoes, add enough water to cover them and bring it to a boil. Don't forget to scrub your potatoes well, you don't need to peel them. I never peel them. You can if you want to but they won't be the same.

Cut your spuds in half. Or quarters. They cook faster that way, so it does matter how small the pieces are, you don't want them overcooked and mushy, just cooked enough that when you test them with a fork, the fork goes in pretty easily, all the way through.

I always put my potatoes in at the beginning, while the water is heating. Does it make a difference to wait? Maybe, but boiling water is HOT when it splashes...and my way works just fine. When they are done, drain them and put them back in the pot, and put in that stick of butter.

Okay, your potatoes are done. Your garlic is soft and cooled. Here comes the fun part. Squish the garlic out of the individual cloves into a bowl. Add to the potatoes (the reason to put them in the bowl first is to make sure you don't get any of the peeling in there. Remember, potato skin good, garlic skin bad).

The butter is all melty over your potatoes, time to start mashing! As you get the potatoes pretty mashed, start streaming in the milk/half&half/heavy cream. Need more butter? Need more liquid? Depends on how you like your mashed potatoes, but most important is to mash...and mash...and mash some more. Ok, I usually have imperfectly mashed potatoes, but I do that on purpose, sort of like leaving the skins on. It's a bit more rustic, and I like that. But! There is a lot more mashed than little bitty lumps. If I do it right...hence, lots of butter, lots of milk/etc.

When you are almost done, time to start adding salt and pepper to taste. Salt seems to just disappear with these so salt, mix well and taste...a little at a time. Too salty is no good!

Garnish with some chives and you are done! If you can serve right away, great, but if not, this reheats real well in the oven of your host or hostess, so make sure you bring them in something that can go into the oven.  Enjoy! And a thankful Thanksgiving to you! Miss you, Linda!


  1. Loves me some mashers! For us, the ideal is russets. They fluff up so nicely. Stiff yet creamy, never rubbery or sticky. Gotta use a masher, or alternatively, ricer. Mixers or, worse, blenders, ensure rubbery. Finish whipping with a large fork. Good workout to build appetite for your 'taters. BTW, we frequently serve smoked garlic. Not in anything, as a side. Mmmmmmm.

  2. BTW, that sailboat looks familiar. It couldn't be the love boat of a pair of beloved Culebra folk heroes, could it?

  3. A ricer would make very smooth mashed taters! Too smooth for me! Love the idea of smoked garlic for a side...nice.

    That's Bill's boat he takes out on charter. Not sure who you are referring to...but I just got done with a whirlwind job and shopping so that doesn't mean much!