Originally, I was going to make a turkey meatloaf to go with the homemade mashed potatoes and gravy. There were a few reasons why I didn’t. One, my younger son developed a horrible cold that lasted a week and a half and I never had time to go shopping for all the ingredients and make the entire meal. Two, I already have a turkey meatloaf recipe I like. I think meatloaf is a lot like love in that there is no accounting for taste. What one person adores another will think is a sociopathic jerk. Three, I wanted to make the mashed potatoes and gravy for a very personal reason so I kept that portion of the challenge and let the meatloaf portion go. Four, Contessa Garten’s version of meatloaf calls for 5 pounds of meat. It would take my little family weeks to eat that much. All that being said, we will include her recipe for meatloaf since it looks delicious and maybe you are both in need of a meatloaf recipe and you have a large group of humans that need feeding.
I will begin by saying I did not peel the potatoes. I bought three pounds of little thin skinned potatoes and after seeing how much surface area needed peeling I made an executive decision and just cut them up and boiled them. I used a full cup of half and half, an entire stick of butter and a teaspoon of pepper. We won’t talk about how much salt I put in, I don’t want to upset you. These were the most delicious mashed potatoes I have ever made. And that was before I remembered to add the sour cream. Oh wow. So good.
Now to the gravy. I have to say I didn’t like it all that much. I think I didn’t like it because I used box o’ chicken stock I got at Vons and not the chicken stock I usually buy from Trader Joe’s which is much better. Also, the gravy was a little sweet because the onions are browned and I may have gone too far into caramelizing. I don’t know. The gravy was very easy to make so I might try it again with different chicken stock and not cooking the onions so long.
I said earlier that I had a personal reason for wanting to make mashed potatoes. When my mom was alive she made beautiful mashed potatoes. As often as she marveled at people who cooked without a recipe, all her best meals were made without ever consulting a single written word. Mashed potatoes were one of those basic foods she made so well. I never knew how many pounds of potatoes we needed, she just stood at the store loading up a bag until it felt right then chucked it into the cart. I peeled the potatoes and then cut them up and put them in the water to boil but she decided when they were done. After they were drained the magic began. Milk, margarine, salt and pepper were added, without measuring, until she was satisfied. Then she would wait for a few minutes, add another dash of salt, mix the potatoes one more time and step aside so I could put them in a serving dish.
I learned to make mashed potatoes from my mom and made them just fine for years. Near the end of her life I completely took over the preparation of the potatoes and they always passed family muster. And then my mom died and I could no longer make mashed potatoes. I tried a few times and every time they were a gloppy, gluey, grainy mess. What happened?
I have no idea. But I know when the time has come to stop trying to make life work in the old ways. I needed to relearn how to make mashed potatoes.
And so I have. Thank you Contessa Garten, this will probably be the recipe I teach my kids to make.