25 November 2006

Mashed Potatoes and Cranberry Chutney

Posted in C-boy, food, parenting, Z-boy at 1:52 am by Tricia

I’ve been out of my sling for nearly 2 weeks, but I still have some lifting restrictions – about 10 pounds, or not much more than a jug of milk (which is 8 lbs). The doctor specifically warned me against removing heavy turkeys from an oven, or carrying a big pot of potatoes in boiling water.

The former was going to be the biggest challenge to a traditional Thanksgiving, in large part because Jonski Papa and T-boy have been out of town since the 14th. Instead of inviting guests just to have someone to manage the turkey, we accepted an invitation to feast with friends. When I checked with C-boy and Z-boy to find out what I should offer to take, C-boy immediately exclaimed, “mashed potatoes, like Grandmother makes!” So of course I wasn’t too surprised to find this poem in his backpack at the end of the school week:

Mashed potatoes. Yum yum yum!
Ate or eat which one?
Small plate? No, I want a
Huge plate of mashed potatoes!
Eat or ate which one?
Deep down in the bowl mashed

Oh so good!
The yum yum yum potatoes.
Ate or eat which one?
To eat mashed potatoes.
Oh so good!

I’m not big on mashed potatoes myself. I have too many childhood memories of being required to eat cold – and thus unpalatable! – mashed potatoes. But it’s almost a chicken-and-egg conundrum: did my potatoes get cold because I didn’t like them, or did I stop liking them after the first few times I was forced to eat them cold?

So when asked, I told our hostess that I would be in charge of mashed potatoes for C-boy’s sake, and also that I would bring the cranberry chutney that has become a tradition for Jonski Papa and I: not Mama Stamberg’s, but Madhur Jaffrey’s Garlicky Cranberry Chutney.

Garlicky Cranberry Chutney
from Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook East/West Menus for Family and Friends (Harper & Row, 1987)

1-inch piece fresh ginger
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (I used a mixture of red wine and pear vinegars)
4 tablespoons sugar (I used 3 Tab raw sugar)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

l-pound can cranberry sauce with berries

1/2 teaspoon salt (or less)
ground black pepper

Cut ginger into paper thin slices, stack them together and cut into really thin slivers.

Combine ginger, garlic, vinegar, sugar and cayenne in a small pot. Bring to a simmer, simmer on medium flame about 15 minutes or until there are about four tablespoons of liquid left.

Add can of cranberry sauce, salt and pepper. Mix and bring to a simmer. Lumps are ok. Simmer on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes.

Serve warm or cool (refrigerate to store).

That left me with the mashed potatoes. A year or three ago when I made mashed potatoes, they came out all gluey and horrid. Since I knew that some potatoes were better for boiling and some for roasting – something to do with the starch profile, I think – I worried that it might have been from using a mix of potatoes from my CSA, that I’d used the wrong type of potatoes. But after listening to (and calling in to!) Turkey Confidential from The Splendid Table, I’m now convinced it’s because I used my stick blender in an attempt to get lump free potatoes (C-boy doesn’t like lumps).

Although “like grandmother makes” does seem like a high bar, in truth her method is rather traditional, probably about the same as in my Betty Crocker cookbook. The thing is, I favor roast potatoes – less work, plus I vastly prefer the taste and texture (even when cold!). I’ve tried to get them to eat roasted ones, which Z-boy tolerates, but C-boy doesn’t (maybe because of all the seasonings I use, or the crusty bits one gets from roasting). So this past year, whenever I roasted potatoes, I’d also bake a few large ones. I taught C-boy and Z-boy how to scrape out the center, mix it with butter and salt, and voila! A mashed potato-like substance.

Because of my doctor’s prohibition against big pots of potatoes, I thought about roasting, but that’s not really what my child wanted – and it was Thanksgiving after all, the day of family traditions. Betty Crocker‘s recipe calls for 2 pounds of potatoes, boiled in 1 inch of water. Seems like that would stay under my 8 to 10 pound restriction, even if I upped it to 3 pounds of potatoes to serve a crowd. Plus, I’d be cooking them last minute at our friends’ house, so I could get someone else to drain out the pot if necessary.

Both dishes turned out to be successes. All the six children had one or more servings, and actually seemed to enjoy them (although I think a few other adults stuck to the more tasty side dishes, as I did!). The kids weren’t so keen on the chutney (I probably would have despised it as a child, had my mom been able to find fresh ginger in the store!) but the four other adults all raved about it and ate multiple helpings. Everyone was full and happy – more from the offerings of the house (including a fine heritage turkey from a farm on the other side of the state), but also from our small offerings.

Jonski Papa also made the cranberry chutney at his mother’s house. His older brother wouldn’t even try it. Oh well, you’d think we’d be used to such attitudes, with the selective diners in our own house. But when it’s your big brother, at least you can tease him – with your own kids, you’re better off saying “maybe when you’re older and have more sophisticated tastes, you’ll like it,” or exclaiming “great, more for me!” while serving them a huge plate of mashed potatoes and a few slices of turkey.



  1. Deb said,

    ROFL on the ode to potatoes! Do you know the song by Cheryl Wheeler on potatoes? Link to it is here! It’s one of my favorites to sing for sound check instead of “CHECK CHECK IS THIS ON?” Another catchy tune to replace the “everybody’s nerves” song! (Tune is the Mexican Hat Dance.)


  2. Wow , it is Thanksgiving Day! I’m enjoying my extra day off, and I am planning to make something fun that will probably involve a bike ride and seeing something new in Mountain Home I haven’t seen yet.
    You write new post at Thanksgiving?

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