Creamy Buttermilk Potatoes

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Welcome to Thanksgiving Week on A Newsletter. Today, we’re talking about POTATOES, a vegetable that some people put in their top five favorite vegetables where my cousin, Ben, say’s that it’s a waste of a plant.

Historically I’ll admit I’ve been indifferent to potatoes, considering them almost exclusively for a salad, or roasting them alongside a large piece of meat that requires them ( rib roast! whole chicken!). I don’t give them much thought otherwise, always having preferred onion rings to fries and Doritos to Lays.

BUT I GET IT, it’s Thanksgiving and the people demand a potato. Probably a mashed one, since every year I’ve advocated for a different variety I am met with so much resistance I can’t take it anymore.

This recipe is a direct riff on the ones my mom used to make, although she always used a handheld mixer to get them extra fluffy and smooth, whereas mine are uh, definitely more on the “rustic” side. But please don’t call it an oversight! I love texture in my mashed potatoes, enjoy the lumps, prefer the irregularities. I’m also using buttermilk in place of sour cream, which can be great (add some into these, if you want), but going for something with equal tang and half the heft really does make these feel above average ethereal.

The ideal mashed potato should function happily as a dip to everything else on the table— never speaking too loudly, not demanding too much attention, but always there for when you need a little pillow to rest upon (metaphorically). I think these, with the tender, plump little cloves of garlic melted in, plus the egregious amount of black pepper (I use The Unicorn and think you should, too!), are perfect with everything on the table without competing for attention.

Creamy Buttermilk Potatoes

serves 6–8

Click here for a printable PDF.

Equal parts yukon gold and russet, heavy cream and lots of buttermilk for a “make it tangy but keep it light” vibe. No ricer/masher required, because you know I don’t own either. To be sure you don’t end up with lumpy-in-a-bad way potatoes, just make sure the potatoes are as tender as tender can be (without being waterlogged—it’s a fine line!). You could finish with sour cream or more herbs if you were truly, as the kids say, “going for it.”  

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 pounds yukon gold or other creamy potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
Kosher salt
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 cup buttermilk, whole or 2% milk
4 garlic cloves, smashed
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for serving
½ cup finely chopped chives

1. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with about 2” of salted water (salted like you’re making pasta). Bring them to a boil and cook until all the potatoes are completely softened and tender (test one with a fork, it should be easily smashed), 45–60 minutes (I have a small burner and it takes a while, if you have a large burner, will not take as long). For what it’s worth: if you’re picking between overcooking and undercooking, I say overcook here (undercooked bits = lumps that never soften). 

2. Meanwhile, combine cream, buttermilk, and garlic in a medium pot and season with salt and lots of black pepper. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to the lowest possible setting. Simmer the mixture until garlic cloves are completely softened and the cream mixture is reduced by about ¼, 15–20 minutes; remove from heat. 

3. Drain potatoes and return them to the pot in which they boiled. Using the back of a wooden spoon or other wooden-spoon-like implement, smash/crush the potatoes until they’re totally mashed (a few lumps are fine by me).  Want to use a ricer or potato masher? Go for it! 

4. Pour the hot cream mixture over the potatoes, followed by the butter, and mix until well blended, but not gloopy or gummy. Season with salt and pepper before transferring to a serving bowl and topping with chives, more pepper, and another knob of butter.

DO AHEAD: A helpful thing my mom would do is peel and cut the potatoes the night before and store them in the pot of salted water (don’t even have to refrigerate). 

Otherwise, people LOVE to ask how long in advance they can make mashed potatoes and I LOVE to tell them: Don’t make them in advance if you don’t have to! Potatoes continue to absorb liquid as they sit, so if you make these the day before you’ll certainly have to add more liquid when reheating, which is fine, but will be a different texture. Just make them a few hours before dinner, keep them on the stove, and rewarm when you’re ready to eat.

LEFTOVERS: Warmed in a pot with a splash of cream, buttermilk or milk (water also works!). Fried in oil in a non-stick skillet like a pancake. Cold out of the container. 

Thank you for reading and see you back here tomorrow for STUFFING (!!!)