Due to the non-negotiable nature of mashed potatoes in my family’s Thanksgiving feast, I argue year after year that stuffing is unnecessary. Potatoes, I feel, make stuffing redundant. I always end up creating stuffing, but my rationale still applies. On holidays, when stomach, oven, and table space is at a premium, difficult decisions about carbs must be made.
In contrast to stuffing, potatoes complement and complement the other items there. But what is most astonishing about potatoes is their ability to have both creamy and crunchy textures. Although mashed potatoes are a traditional Thanksgiving side dish, the meal’s monotonous texture does not take use of the potato’s full potential.
These options, though, demonstrate its adaptability.
The first is the French classic, pommes boulangère. Similar to a less-rich gratin, this dish is prepared using chicken (or turkey) stock instead of cream and is seasoned with caramelised onions and thyme, making it a perfect choice for the Thanksgiving meal. As the casserole bakes, the potatoes absorb the broth and soften, while the top layer browns and becomes crisp. This recipe asks for fingerling potatoes, which do not need peeling and are sliced into uniform rounds. You may also use little red-skinned or Yukon gold potatoes. Utilize a mandoline if you have one, but be careful and stop cutting just before the potatoes are completely sliced.
Using homemade stock in a dish might seem laborious, but it is worth the effort for Thanksgiving. While store-bought stock is an alternative, homemade stock has more gelatin, which improves the overall taste and texture of the meal and binds the potatoes so that the finished product remains intact.
The other two recipes, duchess-style twice-baked potatoes and a garlicky mashed potato cake, use the starchiness and fluffiness of baked russet potatoes. Baking is simpler and less messy than boiling, because it removes more moisture, which may be replaced with flavor-enhancing fatty dairy. If you’re concerned about oven space, you may bake the potatoes and begin preparing the side dishes in advance, clearing the oven for the turkey.
When russet potatoes are roasted directly on the oven rack, their skins become crisp and delicious, making them ideal for twice-baked potatoes. However, because to their typical ingredients of sour cream and cheese, they may be heavy, and the Thanksgiving feast is already somewhat fatty. To avoid this, I drew inspiration from the French dish pommes duchesse, a potato purée enhanced with egg yolk that is piped into rosettes and baked.
While the baked potatoes are still hot, their flesh is scraped out of their skins, run through a ricer or food mill, and then blended with butter, milk, and egg yolks until smooth. The filling is then piped back into the skins, coated with paprika, and baked once more until the ridges are golden brown and crunchy. The finished product is creamy and rich without being dense.
The potato cake, the third competitor, is a variant on hash browns that is fluffier, tangier, and larger. The garlic is sautéed in butter until golden brown, after which the roughly diced flesh of many baked potatoes and sour cream are added. All of the ingredients are combined, pressed into a nonstick pan, and cooked on the stovetop until the bottom is golden brown. Finally, the cake is cooked until it is evenly crisp throughout. If you like mashed potatoes, you should try this meal. It has the flavour of a gritty, garlicky mash with a thin, golden crust.
Each of these potato dishes may be made in advance to alleviate some of the pressure associated with bringing all of the food on the table hot and simultaneously on Thanksgiving. The completely baked pommes boulangère benefits from a lengthy rest and reheats well, whilst the twice-baked potatoes can be filled in advance, stored at room temperature, and baked just before serving. The potato cake may be completely prepared in advance and warmed, or it can be served at room temperature.
The decision to omit stuffing is completely yours, but with these potato side dishes, it’s unlikely that anybody would notice.