No Thanksgiving table is complete without potatoes, and this year we bring you two variations on old favorites. Sweet potatoes are pureed with vanilla-infused cream. And made-ahead mashed potatoes get some additions -- cream cheese and sour cream -- and a new look as well.
Vanilla Sweet Potato Puree
Find room on your Thanksgiving table for these moist sweet potatoes, which have a subtle vanilla flavor. When selecting sweet potatoes, choose ones that are medium size; the large ones are more likely to be starchy and fibrous. For an ultra-silky texture, New York restaurateur Terrance Brennan uses a food processor to puree the sweet potatoes with warm cream. We achieved good results using a whisk -- just be sure the baked sweet potatoes are soft.
Adapted from "Artisanal Cooking," by Terrance Brennan and Andrew Friedman (Wiley, 2005).
MAKE AHEAD: The entire dish can be made up to a day in advance and refrigerated in a sealed container. Reheat it on the stovetop.
11/2 pounds sweet potatoes, cleaned, pricked with a fork and left a bit damp
3/4 cup plus 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped (may substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or to taste)
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Freshly ground white pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the sweet potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the thickest part is fork-tender.
When cool enough to handle (10 to 15 minutes), peel and discard the skins. Transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, add 3/4 cup of the cream, the vanilla bean and seeds, and orange zest, if desired. Cook for 5 minutes. Discard the vanilla bean pod and remove from the heat.
Pour the cream mixture over the sweet potatoes. If preparing in advance, add 1 tablespoon of the butter and, using a whisk, stir until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. When completely cooled, transfer to a shallow, covered container and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a medium pan over low heat. Add the sweet potato mixture and stir gently, until warmed throughout. If the puree seems dry, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream.
If not making in advance, add both tablespoons of butter to the potato and cream mixture and stir until smooth. Serve warm.
Per serving: 250 calories, 2 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 15 g fat, 49 mg cholesterol, 9 g saturated fat, 72 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber
Think of these as mashed potatoes without the last-minute fussing. The swirled, peaked surface gives the potatoes an elegant look -- but not so elegant that you can't still put gravy on top.
Adapted from "One Potato, Two Potato," by Roy Finamore (Houghton Mifflin, 2001).
MAKE AHEAD: They can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and stored, tightly covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and finish in the oven while the roast turkey is waiting to be carved.
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 11/2-inch chunks
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream, at room temperature
2/3 cup 2 percent milk, warmed
Freshly ground black pepper
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with enough cold, salted water to cover them by at least an inch. Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce to medium, partially cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. Set over medium heat for a minute or two, shaking or stirring so the potatoes don't stick, until they are floury and have made a film on the bottom of the pot.
Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Using a hand-held electric mixer on low speed, break up the pieces. Cut 6 tablespoons of the butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the potatoes, beating until the butter is absorbed. Add the cream cheese and sour cream, beating well after each addition. Add a little of the warmed milk at a time (it may not all be needed), beating until the potatoes are light and fluffy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Spoon the potatoes into the dish and smooth the top. With a spatula or fork tines, swirl or score the surface of the potatoes to leave little peaks that will brown up during baking.
Sprinkle paprika to taste on top of the potatoes. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into small pieces and scatter them over the surface. Bake until the potatoes are heated through and the top is lightly golden, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.
Per serving: 196 calories, 6 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 27 mg cholesterol, 6 g saturated fat, 147 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber
Recipes tested by Marcia Kramer; e-mail questions to email@example.com