To many Americans, gravy without mashed potatoes is like jam without toast: a condiment with no consequence. No potatoes is not an option.
“But we’re having sweet potatoes and squash,” the cook laments. “Do we really need another side?”
Yes, you do. And this is not the place to experiment with spices and suchlike. Keep it simple.
Our essential recipe is simply the best mashed potato recipe we know, with the celestial fluffiness of mashed potatoes flavored with sour cream and chives. It’s adapted to serve a large number of people and to eliminate any last-minute work whatsoever. Mash a pile of potatoes in the morning and slide the casserole dish in with the turkey as it finishes cooking. Or, if you will have mashed sweet potatoes on your table, Florence Fabricant’s gratin is an elegant counterpoint.
Mashed Potato Casserole With Sour Cream and Chives
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, and more for the pan
6 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ cups sour cream
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 tablespoons finely chopped chives
∏ cup breadcrumbs
∏ cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano
Lightly grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan.
In a large pot, bring the potatoes, 4 quarts water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Boil potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
Mash potatoes with 10 tablespoons butter, the sour cream, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Mash in the chives. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Spread potatoes into the prepared pan. At this point you can cover and refrigerate for up to three days, but it is best to avoid chilling mashed potatoes if possible.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, breadcrumbs and cheese. Mix together until it forms coarse crumbs. Crumbs can be refrigerated for three days.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the potato casserole and bake until golden and crisp, 30 to 40 minutes.
Makes 12 to 14 servings.
Find the right texture: The texture of a forkful of mashed potatoes is as important as its taste, maybe even more so. Yellow-fleshed potatoes like Yukon Golds have more taste than white-fleshed russets, but russets are fluffier. For mashed potatoes, a combination of the two is best. Choose large potatoes to limit peeling, and save small or waxy potatoes for roasting or salad.
Avoid the chill: Don’t refrigerate cooked potatoes unless it is necessary. Cold temperatures make them heavy and gluey (food scientists say that the cold permanently alters the starch molecules). Julia Child wouldn’t cover her mashed potatoes; she said that they tasted “smothered” afterward. What you can do in advance: Peel and quarter the raw potatoes the night before and keep them refrigerated, covered with cold water, overnight. Cook them in the morning and find a cool place to park them until it’s time to reheat.