Though it's hard to find a Thanksgiving table that doesn't have potatoes on it, all too often that means a bowl of dry mashed potatoes or bland roasted ones. But as easy as it is to mess up potatoes, with a little know-how, it's almost as easy to make them one of the most delicious parts of the meal.
Instead of settling for mediocre spuds on Thanksgiving, wow your guests this year with dishes like pommes aligot (a.k.a. super-gooey mashed potatoes packed with cheese), the crispiest roast potatoes you've ever had, or a comforting Polish-style potato and cabbage casserole.
Come Thanksgiving, my family is more likely to fight over how to make the mashed potatoes than anything else. Personally, I like them super creamy. If you feel the same, we recommend boiling Yukon Golds in their skins until tender, passing them through a ricer, and finishing with lots of butter and cream. I'll be serving vegetarians this Thanksgiving, but if you're not, adding savory chicken stock is also a good idea.
Prefer your mashed potatoes fluffy instead of creamy? Starch is your enemy. The secret is dicing the potatoes and rinsing them well before and after cooking, which will get rid of that excess starch and leave the mashed potatoes super light. Even if you usually prefer creamier mashed potatoes, as I do, this recipe is the best for making gravy volcanoes.
Packed with butter, milk, sour cream, and cream cheese, these mashed potatoes lean heavily to the creamy side. But what really sets them apart are the caramelized Vidalia onions, which add both textural contrast and a subtle sweetness. Your Thanksgiving prep schedule might be too packed to allow you the time to slowly caramelize onions; fortunately, our 15-minute technique works fine here.
Thanksgiving is a day for excess if any holiday is, so if our rich and creamy mashed potatoes still aren't quite luxurious enough for you, you've got to check out pommes aligot. This traditional French dish packs potatoes with so much melted cheese, it practically looks like fondue. For the most interesting flavor profile, use a mix of Alpine cheeses, such as Swiss, Gruyère, and Comté.
Roasted and Pan-Fried Potatoes
We have lots of roast potato recipes, but if you're going to try just one, make it this one. Here, we parboil the potatoes in water spiked with baking soda to make it alkaline, then toss them roughly in fat before roasting; the aggressive handling batters the potatoes' exteriors slightly, which builds up a starchy slurry. You'll end up with potatoes that are soft and creamy on the inside and fantastically crispy on the outside.
This is a potato recipe for those who love their food heavily seasoned, and it's an easy one. Simply simmer tiny new potatoes in very salty water until all the water has evaporated—the result is tender, perfectly bite-size little potatoes with crispy salt crusts.
This recipe starts with the same technique used above—simmering the potatoes in salty water until the pot is dry—but, for a less salty finish, we rinse off the excess salt and roast the potatoes at 400°F (200°C) afterward. The potatoes get a double application of herb butter, once before roasting and again when they're hot out of the oven.
One of the hardest parts of roasting potatoes is dealing with the skins (assuming you're leaving them on). We want our potato skins nice and crispy, yet they often come out papery or tough. To avoid those outcomes, we parboil the potatoes in vinegar-spiked water—the acidity helps build up a layer of starch that gets crusty in the oven—and toss the potatoes with plenty of fat before roasting.
This isn't the most straightforward potato recipe in our collection—parboiling the potatoes, smashing them with a skillet, and frying them slowly in small batches is a minor pain. But the incredibly crispy potatoes that result are well worth it. Plus, you can do most of the work Wednesday evening and reheat the potatoes in the oven, without sacrificing crispness.
Once you've mastered the basic techniques for achieving crispy potatoes, you can start experimenting with flavors. We use a simple parboil-then-fry method here, but give the potatoes extra flavor by cooking them in duck fat (a great addition to almost all potato recipes) and tossing them with garlic-Parmesan butter.
Looking for a potato recipe that will really stand out on your Thanksgiving table? These potatoes make a serious statement, thanks to an intense Cajun-style blackening rub made with smoked paprika, cumin, garlic and onion powder, brown sugar, oregano, and cayenne. To balance out the spice and heat, we serve them with a creamy buttermilk-based sauce flavored with garlic, dill, chives, and parsley.
Casseroles and Gratins
This is potato gratin the way it should be: rich, melt-in-your-mouth creamy, and loaded with flavor. We layer russet potatoes with Gruyère cheese to add earthy nuttiness, while a mixture of cream and milk slowly bubbles and cooks down as the potatoes bake. A crispy golden crust of additional Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano is the finishing touch.
Remember the Hasselback potato trend? The photos always looked terrific on Pinterest, but the gimmicky recipe never seemed to work well enough in real life to be useful. This recipe keeps the best part of the idea (the abundance of crispy potato edges) by making what's essentially a sideways gratin. We arrange the potatoes, sliced on a mandoline, in a baking dish and cover them only partially with a mixture of cream and cheese. That leaves the tops exposed, allowing them to crisp up well.
If you don't want to go to the trouble of peeling and slicing potatoes, whole, skin-on new potatoes can make a darned tasty gratin with a lot less work. In this recipe, we combine new potatoes with pearl onions (also left whole) and bacon lardons, blanket it all in a rich mixture of heavy cream and cheese, and bake.
Mashed potatoes don't tend to reheat well, meaning you need to time your Thanksgiving prep precisely in order to finish them right before serving dinner. There is a workaround, though: Combining the mash with lots of sour cream gives the potatoes enough extra moisture to allow them to stay good in the fridge for up to five (!) days. All you'll need to do before serving is top the casserole with diced bacon, cheese, bread crumbs, and scallions and bake until it's hot.
This simple, comforting casserole is the way to go if you want to spend less time in the kitchen this Thanksgiving and more time relaxing with friends and family. You'll just cook cabbage and onion together in bacon fat on the stovetop, mix them with firm-tender parboiled potatoes, and bake it all in a casserole with plenty of cheese.
Tater Tot casserole—or "hotdish," as it's called in its Midwestern birthplace—is great for gatherings any time of year, and Thanksgiving is no exception. Sure, most likely your Tater Tots will come frozen from a bag (though you can try making your own if you're really hardcore!), but combining them with a flavorful homemade mushroom sauce and carefully seasoned ground beef makes this version extra special.
More Potato Recipes
Loaded baked potatoes aren't the most common sight in the Thanksgiving spread, but who am I to tell you how to live your life? For the best baked potatoes, poke holes in them to let steam escape, rub them with oil, and cook them unwrapped in a medium-hot oven (or use a combination of the microwave and oven, for faster results). Serve them with classic toppings like cheese, sour cream, scallions, and bacon, or experiment with more exciting options, like spinach and artichoke dip or nacho cheese.
Here's an unusual spin on mayo-free potato salad that'll be as welcome on Thanksgiving as it is any other time of year. We combine tender and creamy fingerling potatoes, smoky Spanish chorizo, onions both pickled and sautéed, and peppery arugula, then dress it with a simple mixture of olive oil and sherry vinegar. It's hearty but not too heavy, perfect for a Thanksgiving table that's already laden with cheesy, rich dishes.
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