Chunky or smooth?
The texture of Thanksgiving mashed potatoes is subjective, of course. Personal chef Tyler Fox, who worked an unpaid job at St. John and Rochelle Canteen in London, prefers a rustic interpretation, or what Brits simply call “mash.”
Fox’s mash is heartier than a straight-laced puree of potatoes because he adds celeriac, a root vegetable with a taste similar to celery. Other names include turnip-rooted celery, knob celery and celery root.
He also adds parsnips, a root vegetable that looks like a white carrot.
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To the copious amounts of butter or cream most Thanksgiving dishes demand, Fox likes to add a bit of acidity with a garnish of pickled mustard seed.
“They have the acidity to cut through cream or butter and the base tones of potato,” he says.
To pickle mixed yellow and brown mustard seeds: Combine 1/2 cup mustard seeds in saucepan with 1/2 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar, 1/4 cup sherry vinegar, 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring mixture to a boil for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the seeds to “bloom,” releasing their natural pectins. Allow mixture to cool; the seeds will continue to bloom and jell to a spoonable consistency. Store in the refrigerator for up to several months.
In a pinch, substitute white and red wines for rice wine and sherry vinegars. Or, if you are looking for a shortcut, substitute whole-grain mustard.
ROOT VEGETABLE MASH
Makes 12 servings
3 pounds starchy potatoes, such as Russet or Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into chunks
1 to 2 medium-sized celery roots, about 1 pound, peeled and cut into medium chunks
2 parsnips, peeled and cut in 1- to 2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, whole and peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups heavy cream
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 fresh bay leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons pickled mustard seeds or whole-grain mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, cover potatoes, celery root, parsnips and garlic with cold water and a teaspoon of salt. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until cooked through and they can be pierced easily with a knife, 25 to 30 minutes.
In a small saucepan, bring heavy cream, thyme, bay leaves and rosemary to a simmer and keep warm until time to mash.
To mash by hand, drain root vegetables and return to pan while mashing with a hand masher to a coarse puree. For a finer puree, run vegetables through a food mill or ricer.
Remove herbs from cream and stir into the root vegetables, being gentle so as not to overwork the mixture, which can lead to a gummy texture.
To finish, stir in butter and pickled mustard seeds or whole-grain mustard. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper if necessary and keep warm in a casserole dish.
Serve with warm Shiitake Mushroom Brandy Gravy.
THANKSGIVING SHIITAKE MUSHROOM AND BRANDY GRAVY
Makes 2 quarts
2 quarts homemade or 2 (32-ounce) cartons store-bought low-sodium chicken or turkey stock, divided
3 tablespoons duck or turkey fat
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
6 medium-size fresh shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons Gold Medal Wondra or bread flour
1/4 cup brandy, divided
2 teaspoons tamari soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons heavy cream, to finish (optional)
In a medium-sized saucepan, measure out 7 cups of the stock and warm over medium heat, reserving the extra cup of stock.
In another medium saucepan, heat the duck fat over medium heat until nearly smoking. Add garlic, onion and shiitake mushrooms and cook 3 to 4 minutes until mushrooms and onions are softened.
Add butter until melted, then sprinkle the flour over the mixture, stirring with a whisk to incorporate. Cook the roux about 4 minutes until well-browned and you smell a pleasantly nutty aroma. Add half of the brandy (about 2 tablespoons) and soy sauce, continuing to whisk another minute until slightly reduced.
Start pouring in warm stock about a cup at a time until you’ve added not quite all of the stock, whisking continuously to incorporate and avoid lumps. If you need more after 6 cups of stock, add in 1/4 cup increments. Bring the gravy to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons brandy, cook another 1 to 2 minutes, then taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper. If gravy seems too thick, whisk in a bit more of the reserved cup of stock until desired consistency.
At this point you can strain through a fine mesh sieve for smoother gravy, pressing on solids to extract the flavor. Or use a blender to puree. To finish, stir in 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, if using.
Serve warm in a gravy boat or bowl.