13 April 2009

Mashed Potatoes and Sauteed Mushrooms

I know, I know. Mashed potatoes? For real? Everyone knows how to make mashed potatoes.

But I never made them at all before today because I tend not to enjoy mashed potatoes. I never have in my whole life. The flavor might as well be styrofoam, the texture is unbelievably boring, and usually it's filled with fatty dairy products. The only reason I eat them is because I like gravy, specifically George's outer-space-awesome mushroom gravy.

However, my 2007 Thanksgiving in Berkeley, CA changed all that. I invited several of my Mills College graduate student buddies over for a very vegan potluck. Of course I turned once more to Myra Kornfeld's Voluptuous Vegan for inspiration: amaranth-studded cornbread, stuffed delicata squash, cranberry-pear molds, and lima bean gravy. This was the second time in my life that I enjoyed a vegetarian Thanksgiving, and both times were startlingly successful.

But I digress. My friends also brought voluptuous food. Kiyomitsu stewed apples in wine while Sally made both a dessert of oranges, mint, and honey and a side dish of mashed potatoes. For the first time in my life I really loved mashed potatoes.

Two years later we find our heroine staying in D.C. with Mopsy, Bill, and Ezra during Passover. Because it's Passover, we don't eat wheat, corn, soy, beans, string beans, peanuts, and peas. Because I'm on a vegan diet I furthermore don't eat eggs, milk, or butter. Bill has celiac disease. I was scratching my head trying to come up with things I could cook that would fall within these rather stringent parameters, and finally I came up with a few things. One of those things was mashed potatoes. I made this version up myself!

Mashed Potatoes

yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed carefully
sea salt
olive oil
fresh herb like rosemary, minced
1 head garlic plus 1 clove garlic.

1. Put whole potatoes into a pot and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Check with fork. When fork slides easily all the way to the middle, remove potato. The potatoes will probably finish at different times.
2. Meanwhile preheat oven to 350. Peel off all but the last layer of skin on a head of garlic. Cut off the top fourth or third of the head so that part of each clove is exposed. Drizzle the tops with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour.
3. In a small bowl, mix extra virgin olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, minced rosemary and sea salt. Let sit until potatoes are done.
4.Crush potatoes (with skins still on) with bottom of a 1 Cup dry measuring cup. Then cut them up further with a fork.
5. Pour oil and herb mixture over potatoes and mix, tasting to make sure it doesn't get too oily or salty.
6. Remove head of garlic from oven and unwrap from foil. With a heat resistant device, turn garlic head upside down over potatoes and squeeze from bottom of clove. The roasted garlic should just ooze out where you cut it. Mix it all together, add salt to taste, and serve hot.

Then--I can't believe I was such a genius to invent two successful dishes on the same night--I sauteed oyster mushrooms in a tiny bit of white wine and water and sea salt, and they were fantastic. The trick is to cut up the pieces small enough so that they'll cook evenly but not so small that they won't be delightfully chewy. Then you cook them slowly until they've given off all their water and dried up all the liquids in the pan. They'll sear slightly and it will be delicious. Bill scraped the bowl with his fork, they were that amazing. Or maybe I told him to eat up and stared at him until he did.

I served this with homemade applesauce. Bill and Mopsy also ate that old Passover stand-by brisket which, being brown squares in brown sauce, just didn't live up to the standards of my gorgeous vegan masterpieces. Salivate on that, you meatetarians!

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