Pierce County Tribune Wishes You and Yours A Happy Thanksgiving
As the last tomato vines are drawn for our yet-warm soil, as the geese make their annual migration over Sand Lake, and as the wind towers along Highway 3 twirl in the purple evening skies, the season of giving thanks is again upon us. Our richly-blessed state brings forth Thanksgiving features each day with outstanding crops, healthy livestock, job listings, poetry in the changing grasses by the former Denbigh School, and the woven tapestry of pumpkin and yellow squash in the brush lands of Pleasant Lake. These are just a few of the bountiful blessings we share.
What is Thanksgiving to you? Can it be the safe return of your college student upon your doorstep this holiday? Can it be an evening spent without fear attending a movie at the Lyric Theater? Perhaps it was your enjoyment of the Rugby Lions Club Music in the Park this summer at Ellery Park?
As we keep in our prayers the victims of the Paris attacks, let us be reminded of the sounds, smells, seasonal changes and everyday freedoms we enjoy and often take for granted. Again, what is Thanksgiving to you? We offer at our table especially at Thanksgiving praise and gratitude for our daily freedom and safety in this prairie land and beyond. We also express thankfulness for the abundant food that will be served at the Thanksgiving table, warm and shared just as in the Pilgrims did on their first Thanksgiving.
There is nothing like the simple joy of mashed potatoes and gravy in the eyes of our daughter Lydia. Whenever she reads or hears that Theresa’s mashed potatoes are being served, she is willing to head out the door.
Here are a few tips for serving the most-requested Thanksgiving side dish. I am sure stuffing is second in line–at least it is at our table. Keep in mind that boiling potatoes with their skins on adds flavor-yes, it involves more work-but in the case that you are preparing for a smaller number, give it a try.
Simply Perfect Mashed Potatoes
– 2 pounds of medium russet or red potatoes
– to 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
– 1 cup whole milk, warmed
– Freshly ground pepper
Place the potatoes in a large sauce pan. (Our go-to kettle is a well-used Faberware and is welcomed with both hands for the boiling duty.) Add enough cold water to cover. Season with salt and bring to a simmer; cook, uncovered-or with a lid askew–until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 45 minutes.
Drain the potatoes and save the water if you desire. If you cooked them with their skins on, use an oven mitt or kitchen towel and peel off the skins, transfer to bowl. Add the butter and warm milk to the bowl and mash with a potatoes masher or put through a ricer for a smoother mash. Final touch is to season with salt and pepper.
Added pleasures to consider when making mashed potatoes: If you have the desire to go lighter, use buttermilk or nonfat Greek yogurt instead of milk. Skip the butter and add potato-cooking water a little at a time. Or you may perfect to go for the gusto by using cream instead of milk and adding the full stick of butter. This method will assure the following comment at your funeral, “Oh, the mashed potatoes made by those hands were unreal.”
Start the potatoes in cold, salted water; then bring to a simmer. Remember, boiling hard causes them to be waterlogged, and thus less compliments! Also to note that soaking your potatoes in water a couple of hours before preparing them takes away some of the starch which makes them less sticky. If you choose to do this, drain of the soaking water and replace it with cold salted water.
If you have not cooked potatoes with their skins on, give it a try. You will noticed the improved flavor. Mix in hot whole milk and room-temperature butter; cold ingredients will tighten the starches in the potatoes and make them gluey.
Avoid the food processor as they speed turn out gummy mashed potatoes. There can be success with a hand-held mixer, but a potato masher works best and gives the most control. Once potatoes are prepared, cover them with parchment paper to keep them warm. If you seal them with a lid, steam will be trapped and can result in mushy potatoes.
Remember you can blend potatoes such a russet and red, but this should be practiced for desired texture. Red potatoes can give a bit more chunky texture which can be wonderful. Yukon golds are high in moisture and whip up smooth. They have a great color-pale yellow with a buttery flavor.
If you are wondering how many potatoes to make, a general rule of thumb is to plan on 1/3 to 1/2 pound potatoes per person.
The best gravy-making lessons was presented to me by my mother-in-law, Delores Thompson. Her gravy is always very consistent, delicious, and never too thin. She learned to make gravy from her father, Edwin Johnson.
Once the turkey has been removed from the pan, let the drippings and juices cool. In a gravy shaker, mix flour and water to a medium paste-like the texture of latex paint, then whisk the mixture into the cooling juices. While stirring all the time, crank up the heat. Add potato water, or more flavored broth. Stand over this like it is your last duty on earth and be stirring. Ignore all other comments in the kitchen. The gravy will thicken nicely and be prepared to serve it promptly. In the case that the gravy is pale-not enough browned drippings, add a touch of Kitchen Bouquet or sprinkle in a very small touch of instant coffee. She prefers to NOT use the cooking bag method, so that she is provided browned, baked drippings in the pan even though clean-up is easier the other way! (That’s what the in-laws are for-to do dishes!! Haha!)
Keeping in mind this method works well with any meats, I would suggest you practice making this gravy beforehand to know the proportion of flour and water. In the thirty years that I have enjoyed her gravy, it has never been greasy, thin or lumpy. I do believe if there is an excess amount of grease, she would take some of it off but she reminds “fat brings flavor.” Her gravy making skills could be right at home on the cooking channel.
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