Sunday, November 16, 2008

It ain't Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes!

I love Thanksgiving. It's one big culinary cookoff that inspires family and friends to gastrointestinal greatness. If your post Thanksgiving dinner scenario doesn't include belt loosening, snoring, and red rosy cheeks rouged from kitchens steamy after a procession of pots and pies, you're just not trying hard enough. It's about traditions. It's about giving thanks. But mostly, it's about...the mashed potatoes.

I don't care if the Pilgrims had mashed potatoes at the mother of all Thanksgivings. Most likely they had venison and I don't see a whole lot folks serving that on our special Thursday. All I know is if there are no mashed potatoes, it's not really Thanksgiving. So you can imagine my dilemma at attending Kosher Thanksgiving Dinners. No mashed potatoes. Why? If you're asking why, you must be a goy. (And if you don't know what goy means...) Kosher rabbinical rules for food preparation and consumption are very strict and one rule is not to mix dairy and meat products at the same meal. This means no cheeseburgers, no hot buttery buttermilk biscuits with your fried chicken, and most importantly - no mashed potatoes with your turkey. If you love fluffy, creamy, buttery mashed potatoes like I do you can imagine my pouty face at a Kosher Thanksgiving.I feel your pain, Bill.

But it's the year 2008 and we now have options that will make mashed potatoes taste almost as good as those loaded with real butter and cream. That's right, my friends, you can adhere to dietary laws of kashrut (Kosher) while keeping the traditions of Thanksgiving with turkey and mashed potatoes.My method of making mashed potatoes starts with your basic russets. I've used Yukon golds but I like the fluffiness that the starch content of the russet gives you. I plop them into a pot of cold salted water, un-peeled. Once the water has reached a boil, I turn down the heat and let them cook 20 to 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender. I remove the potatoes from the water and cut them in half. I like fluffy smooth potatoes so the next step requires one of these.This is not a giant garlic press; it is a potato ricer. Put the cut side down of your potato into the basket and squash away. The beauty of this process? The potato skins stay behind and you get little threads of potatoes. Once all of the potatoes have been "riced", I add 8 tablespoons of melted butter, stirring with a spoon. After the butter has been incorporated, I warm a cup of half and half and slowly stir that into the potato mixture, seasoning with salt and pepper and tasting so not to over salt. I usually mix this all in a heat resistant bowl that can sit over a pot of slowly simmering water so my potatoes stay nice and warm while I work on other food. This is the recipe for some soul satisfying mashed potatoes.

For my kosher version I needed to replace the half and half and butter with items that at least taste comparable. For the butter substitute, I choose Earth Balance margarine, a non-dairy vegan product. I replaced the half and half with Rice Dreams rice milk. While it does not contain the same fat content as the half and half, it actually works fairly well.The other important thing about these two products is that you will find this symbol on the label.That means the product is kosher and therefore acceptable for kosher mashed potatoes. I followed my basic recipe of potatoes, butter substitute and milk substitute. The only thing you need to watch out for is salting your potatoes. The Earth Balance has a bit more sodium than the unsalted butter I usually use, so be sure to taste before that final seasoning. Once you're done, your mashed potatoes are ready and waiting for your Kosher turkey dinner date.  B'tay a'von!

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