5 Ways to Gussy Up Mashed Potatoes (When Mashed Potatoes Are All You Can Eat)
Question: When is the worst time of year to have a myasthenia gravis (MG) flare up? Well, there isn’t really a good time for one, but for me, the winter holidays with all their delicious foods make having a flare extra annoying.
The trouble with eating
If I’m struggling to chew and swallow due to a flare, then a whole host of my favorite treats are off the table. No crunchy crusted bread with artichoke dip, no thick slabs of roast turkey, no - it pains my soul to contemplate this - pecan pie!
But even if I’m on a purée diet, there is one good old stalwart that’s always there for me: mashed potatoes. However, even they can become a little monotonous if it’s all I can manage.
Here are 5 easy additions to give your mashed potatoes the life they need to be the star of any holiday meal.
Add the butter
1. Butter. All the butter. Good butter. Get the fancy Irish or Danish stuff. Now is not the time to worry about your prednisone moon face.
It’s the holidays, and honestly, if you’re on as much prednisone as I am when I’m in a flare, you could peel and eat a whole stick of butter all by itself, right?
But you can do better than that. Put that golden churned dairy product to optimal use and add it to your mashed potatoes. Half a stick? No. A whole stick. Mash it in there until your pallid potatoes have turned a delicate shade of saffron.
Until you just want to stand over the steaming bowl and inhale the delicious scent. Add salt and pepper, and you have a sumptuous and simple meal that your table-mates will be begging to share.
Use sour cream
2. Sour Cream. It’s not just for baked potatoes. Sour cream adds a certain je ne sais quoi to mashed potatoes. It’s tangy and fresh, elevating the potatoes to a higher plane. It smoothes the mouthfeel and balances the weight of the starch so the potatoes go down easier and sit lighter.
And if you’re feeling anxious about adding sour cream to the butter (you do still need some butter) you can use Greek yogurt instead. It’s got more protein and a lot less fat.
Choose a heart-healthy butter substitute and you can pretty much call your mashed potatoes with Greek yogurt a wholesome dish.
Mash your potatoes with butter, blend in the sour cream or Greek yogurt, add salt and pepper, and if you’re feeling fancy, top with a sprinkle of finely chopped chives. Voila!
Try different cheeses
3. Cheese. There are nearly an infinite variety of cheeses you can add to mashed potatoes, and each one changes the potatoes for the better. Grated cheddar is the default choice in North America, and for good reason: It's delicious. It makes your potatoes richer and denser and a little more like a proper meal.
Or add some creamy brie or camembert for a black-tie feel. Havarti melts nicely and gives a mellow weight to the potatoes. Or you can try my favorite cheap trick and add a few wedges of Laughing Cow Swiss cheese spread. It’s already half-melted and blends right in.
If you like goat cheese (I do!) chevre is an excellent and sophisticated choice. If you prefer bleu cheese, it probably plays a similar role, though vastly different in flavor. I don’t like bleu, so can’t say for sure how it goes in potatoes.
The one thing to be sure not to do is choose a cheese like feta or parmesan that doesn’t like to melt. You want your mashed potatoes to marry the cheese in eternal (until you eat it) bliss. Non-melting cheeses just sit there and refuse to even talk to the potatoes. Theirs is not a match made in heaven. But the melty cheeses? Wedding bells for sure!
Roast up some garlic
4. Roasted Garlic. Everyone knows about garlic mashed potatoes. They’re easier to find on a restaurant menu than plain ones. But we’re trying to fancy-up these potatoes a little more than that.
So take a head of garlic and send it to the sauna. Cut it in half and roast it until it caramelizes all brown and sticky and its cloves turn sweet and spreadable, then squeeze them from their husks into your potatoes and mash, mash, mash. (You do still, as above, need butter and salt, but just a regular amount.)
The sweetness of the roasted garlic makes it bingeable and it blends with the potatoes to make a rich, earthy, complex flavor. Sad to say, this may ruin you for regular garlic mashed potatoes, but it’s worth the risk.
Test out horseradish
5. Horseradish. This is probably the one you weren’t expecting. No one expects horseradish unless it’s in a little dish on the side for prime rib, or on a Seder plate at Passover. But horseradish does something to mashed potatoes. Something magical.
I had horseradish mashed potatoes at a friend’s house years ago at Thanksgiving. I was an instant convert. They’re spicy and smart, but just enough that you aren’t really sure why. Unless you know there’s horseradish in them, it’s hard to say exactly what it is that’s making the potatoes so delicious.
They are the most, as my British friend says, more-ish sort of potatoes I have ever had. They do need butter, salt, and pepper, just like the others. But, it’s the horseradish that really makes them shine. A little can go a long way, so this is one you’ll want to taste as you make.
Mix it up
As a final note, you can pretty much combine these additions at will. Butter, cheese, and sour cream make a luxurious dish (that your lactose-intolerant friends will need their lactase pills for, but worth it.)
Sour cream and horseradish can give your potatoes a sort of Eastern European flair. Cheese and roasted garlic easily make mashed potatoes into a main dish. And while you might still have to look longingly at the turkey and pie, at least you’ll be able to enjoy one important part of the festive meal.
Have you made any MG-friendly adaptations to your home?