Fantasy potato dishes turn into Thanksgiving reality

BY STEPHANIE FOX

While stuffing might be the starchy star of many Thanksgiving tables, there’s no reason to neglect the lowly spud. With a little creativity, potatoes can add something innovative to your holiday meal. Don’t be surprised if your guests ask for seconds, or even if one of these becomes a family tradition.

A nutrition note: One medium potato contains from 50 to 70 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin C. They are also high in fiber, with about 20 percent of the daily requirement. They are also a good source of potassium and antioxidants.

All recipes serve 8 people.

Potato and cheese gratin
Ingredients
A small nob of butter
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced lengthwise in half
4 to 5 large Idaho potatoes, thinly sliced, peeled or not
2 cups high quality Swiss or Emmentaler cheese
4 cups whipping cream
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 325º. Grease the bottom of a gratin dish or a low-sided glass or ceramic baking pan with a little bit of the butter. Rub the garlic cloves over the bottom and sides of the baking dish. Toss the cloves around the bottom. Layer potato slices, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and some of the cheese. Pour some of the cream over the potatoes. Repeat in layers until all the ingredients are used.
Put the pan in the oven. Do not cover, but put a baking sheet under the dish to catch any drippings. Bake for ½ hour, then take from the oven and gently push the top layer down into the cream mixture with a spatula. Return to the oven. Total cooking time should be about 1 hour (or a little more). The top should be brown and the sauce should be creamy. Serve hot, at room temp or even cold.
•Slice potatoes shortly before you start cooking so the slices won’t darken. Do NOT soak the slices in water.

Savory stuffed sweet potatoes
Ingredients
4 sweet potatoes
3 Tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium sweet onions, diced
3 sweet red or yellow bell peppers, minced
18 oz. small portabella mushrooms, chopped
1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425º. Prick the potato skins, set them on a baking sheet and bake for about a half hour, or until soft. Remove and set aside to cool.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat, add garlic and onion. Cook about 4 minutes, stirring. Add the peppers, mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
Slice the cooled sweet potatoes lengthwise and fluff with a fork. Remove a couple of tablespoons of the potato flesh from each and mix with the vegetables. Heap the mixture in the potato skins. Top with cheese.
Bake for about 9 minutes at 350º or until the cheese is bubbling and melted. Serve hot.

Colconnon
This is a traditional dish from the British Isles, a great cold weather food. This dish is labor intensive, but you can shortcut it by using instant potatoes. (Just don’t tell anyone you did.) You can choose to peel or not to peel the potatoes.
Ingredients
8 medium russet or Yukon gold potatoes cut into 2-inch pieces
3 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
8 Tbs butter
6 cups of chopped leafy greens like chard, kale or savoy or Napa cabbage
6 leeks, white part only, chopped
½ cup milk
½ cup heavy cream
salt
Preheat oven to 350º.
Put the potatoes in a pot with plenty of water and couple of tablespoons of salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and cool slightly.
Meanwhile, melt 4 Tbs of the butter and add the onions. Cover and cook on medium-low, stirring often, until the onions are caramelized and medium brown color.
Melt 4 Tbs of the butter in another pan. Add the greens and leeks and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until wilted, about 8 minutes. Cool.
In a large mixing bowl, mash together the potatoes, onions, greens, milk and cream using a potato masher. Do not over mash or they will be gluey, but there should be no lumps. Empty the mix into a greased baking dish. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes in a preheated 325º oven. Serve hot.

Seethed potatoes
Note: This is a very simple recipe, but the result is one of the best potato dishes out there. It’s best to use smaller new or fingerling potatoes—red, white, yellow, blue, purple or Yukon, all about the same size. Try mixing colors, just for fun—the kids will love it. Expect to use four to six small potatoes per person.
Ingredients
As many small new or fingerling potatoes you need to feed your guests, well washed
1 tsp. butter or olive oil for each serving
Chopped fresh herbs of your choice (dill, parsley, cilantro, etc.)
Finely chopped shallots, roasted garlic and/or scallions (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large pan or a flat-bottomed heavy wok. When the butter begins to bubble, add the potatoes, in one layer. Cover with a tight lid and set heat on low. Cooking time depends on the size of the potatoes. Check for doneness after 10 minutes by poking one with a sharp knife. (If more cooking is needed, check every 10 minutes, stirring each time.) When done, add the herbs, cover the pot for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

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