Periodically in San Francisco, our strong and tight-knit British community gets together and shares enormous meals. Usually, this is because our American brethren are celebrating meals with their families (Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas) or celebrating being rid of us in the first place (Independence Day.) As much as I love it here, there is something cosy about getting together with your countrymen once in a while (plus some Canadians, Australians, occasional American impostor. Respect the commonwealth, yeah?)
Sidestepping a digression into my expatriated views on citizenship (better for another place), my recurring contribution to these meals is a quite fabulous mashed potato. I did it once, and it’s been requested since, and I’ve been promising the recipe for months. This is the most recent variation:
- 4 lbs of potatoes
- Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
- One large ball of mozzarella
- 4 tablespoons of Créme Fraîche
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- A generous sprinkling of chili flakes
- Salt and pepper
You’ll need a pan or steamer to cook the potatoes, a separate vessel in which to do the mashing, and a baking dish.
Pre-heat an oven to 400º F/200º C.
The method is pretty simple. Skin the potatoes as you normally would (leave some skin in if you like the texture, don’t if you don’t), then boil or steam them with some salt until mashable. I tend to find that to steam them, I have to split them into two tiers on the steamer to fit; this is ideal, as you’re going to do the mashing in two steps.
Take half of the cooked potatoes, empty them into a bowl. Add a tablespoon or so of butter, two tablespoons of créme fraîche, a bit of pepper. Mash it up.
Your first batch of mash is done. Layer it evenly into the baking dish, such that you half-fill the dish.
Cut the mozzarella ball into slices; enough to cover the area of your dish. Tesselate them evenly on top of the first layer of potato. Onto this, drizzle a generous amount of Worcestershire Sauce, and a generous amount of chili flakes (to taste, but depending on how well you know the heat of your chilis, you should be prepared to be generous here: The potato, cream and mozzarella together will take a lot of the potency out of the chili when you eat it.)
Now, repeat the mash step with the second half of the potatoes, and create a complete layer on top of the cheese and chili. Fill the dish and seal in the filling. Whip the top of the mash with a fork, and brush it with a little oil or butter; you want the top of of the mash to go crispy.
Finally, put the dish into the oven at 400ºF/200ºC to bake for about half or hour, or until the top goes crispy and not-too-brown. I don’t see any reason that you have to bake it immediately, so you can prepare the dish earlier in the day and save cooking until the rest of your meal is synchronised.
A few variations I’ve considered:
- A second layer of grated, hard cheese on top. Something like cheddar, which will brown with the baking and make the top of the mash extra crispy.
- Doing something radically different with the two layers of mash, such that the top will taste notably different from the base. I’m not entirely sure what (plausibly, use different roots: A layer of potato and layer of yam, for example.)
- Bacon chunks. Obviously.
What are your favourite mash recipes?