Readers explain how they add unexpected flavors to one of the world's best-loved comfort foods.
NYU Medical Center
New York, NY
“We offer mashed potatoes to patients every single day. Our best add-ins to mashed potatoes are horseradish and fresh parsley. The horseradish goes great with roast beef or any beefy dish — you can't lose with that classic combination.
“For the fresh parsley mashed potatoes, we heat up some heavy cream with garlic, salt and pepper. Then we add that to the potatoes and mash it up. Then, the fresh, finely chopped flat-leaf parsley is added. That gives the mashed potatoes a great color and really makes a good presentation.”
Director of Food and Nutrition Services
Baltimore City Public Schools
“We do mashed potato pancakes in the Great Kids Café, located in the central office (a student-operated café that offers breakfast and lunch five days a week). The potato pancake is made with mashed potatoes, onions and cheese, with some egg to bind it together.
“At the Great Kids Farm, we grow our own potatoes, so it's great for the kids to learn and eat really great foods.
“We also do mashed sweet potatoes and sometimes add red pepper flakes. Our kids like spice! (To find out more about the Baltimore City Public Schools' farm initiative, see FM article “Field of Dreams” at http://food-management.com/news/field-dreams-1109/index1.html.)
Vaughn L. Vargus CEC, CCA
University of California, San Diego
Housing, Dining and Hospitality
San Diego, CA
“Combining flavors such as grain mustards, wasabi, balsamic vinegar with the potato gives it a whole new character. It's also great to add herbs like basil, sage, rosemary and chives. Cheeses — from chevre to blue or parmesan — add another dimension to the mashed potato as well. We have also been pushing the envelope with the use of dried figs or other, more obscure ingredients.
“You can change the flavor or consistency of mashed potatoes by combining them with other mashed vegetables, such as cauliflower, turnips or celery root.
“We've incorporated potato variety into our menus using different types of potatoes such as Peruvian Blue and Russian Banana Fingerlings.
“Mashed potatoes also work great in a casserole setting, or as a base for a protein. We use mashed potatoes as part of shepherd's pie in a couple different versions with a traditional lamb or beef stew for a meaty, earthy, deep flavor, and sometimes with chicken or turkey for a lighter shepherd's pie.
“Mashed potatoes as a base for protein gives the perception of a completed dish. It takes the mashed potato from a side dish on the plate to part of the entrée. It's a little more exciting that way.
“We showcase mashed potatoes in a mashed potato bar with many toppings, including applewood smoked bacon, scallions, blue cheese, salsa and guacamole.”