Slowly caramelized onions lend a touch of sweetness (and plenty of interest) to creamy mashed potatoes. [Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

Mashed potatoes are a crowd-pleaser—that's a statement of fact. But if you're looking to change things up, ones stippled with caramelized onion offer a perfect fix. Here, they're made extra creamy with lots of butter, milk, sour cream, and a touch of cream cheese. Mash them by hand if you like to leave a bit of texture (I do); otherwise, briefly whip them with a hand-beater before folding the sweet, slowly caramelized onions into the mix.

Speaking of onions, don't try to rush the caramelization process. I've found it works best to "steam" them, lid-on, at a low temperature for about 20 minutes before adding a touch of sugar. Then, raise the heat and let them brown, adding small amounts of water and stirring so they don't burn. You can also cut some corners and give our 15-minute caramelized onions a shot.

Note: You may prepare the potatoes up to two days in advance. Store them in the refrigerator and microwave them, covered, for about 8 minutes before serving. If they seem a little dry, add additional milk in 1/4 cup increments.

About the author: Jennifer Olvera is a veteran food and travel writer and author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Chicago." Follow her on Twitter @olverajennifer.

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