Is there really anything better than a big bowl of creamy, silky mashed potatoes? Maybe, but I really doubt it. I once worked with a gal who jokingly (sort of) said that if she could swim in a delicious vat of buttery, mashed potatoes – she would…..I agreed.When I think of mashed potatoes, I think of holidays with my two grandparents, three aunts, three uncles and seven cousins, all crammed together at my grandma and grandpa’s house on Arlington Street. I think of my grandma standing at her stove coating chicken breasts in flour and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and methodically dropping them into a greased pan to brown while my aunts and my mom would sit at the kitchen table laughing and talking and peeling potatoes. I think of the windows of the steamy kitchen fogging up as water boiled and stories were told. I think of the whirring sound of a hand mixer whipping up boiled potatoes and butter and cream into what would eventually turn into a hollowed out vessel for gravy on someone’s plate. I think of bellies filled fat with the flavors of family and home, and hearts filled to brim with love and with tradition.
You see, I love mashed potatoes. I love that they are so perfectly simple and comforting. I love that they can be topped with cheese, or gravy or bacon or butter. But, I think the thing that I love the most about mashed potatoes is the ritual behind them. I love the peeling and the dicing and the mashing. I love the time spent around the table with a giant bag of red bliss potatoes, a colander and a paring knife, hands aching and stories spinning. I love that the creating of mashed potatoes involves work. And I love the memories that come along with that work.
For this recipe, I decided to kick it up a notch and add in the sweet, earthy flavor of a rutabaga. Before a couple of years ago, I had never eaten a rutabaga. The thought of how many years I went without knowing the distinct and delicious flavor that is a rutabaga kinda bums me out. And since both potato and rutabaga pair beautifully with a little bacon and grated parmesan cheese, I’m really not sure why you wouldn’t just marry them all together. Add in some half and half and a few caramelized onions and you’ve got yourself a bowl of creamy, oniony, bacony, cheesy goodness. Feel free to just eat them as is directly out of the pan with a dollop of butter or use them as the base for your favorite slow cooked stew (it’s crockpot season folks!). Either way, take the time to enjoy the work, get your peeler out or your best paring knife and make sure you call in some of your favorite storytellers to share in the process. Enjoy!
Loaded Smashed Rutabaga and Potatoes
1 Lg Rutabaga
5-6 Med Potatoes
1/2 Lb Bacon
1 Med Onion (diced)
3/4 c. Half and Half
1 c. Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper
3 Green Onions (diced)
Peel rutabaga and potatoes and dice into 1 inch cubes and place rutabaga only in a large kettle. Add enough water to cover the rutabaga plus approximately an additional two inches and add about a palmful of salt. Bring to a boil then continue to simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add in the potatoes and continue simmering for an additional 15-20 minutes until rutabaga and potatoes are fork tender. Drain rutabaga and potatoes and set aside.
While the rutabaga and potatoes are boiling you can get started slicing the bacon into 1/2 inch slices. Fry bacon in skillet over medium to medium-high heat, breaking it apart with a spatula. Fry until bacon is browned then remove it with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reserve a 1/4 c. of the bacon grease in the pan and to that, add the diced onion. Saute the onion over medium heat until caramelized.
To the cooked potatoes and rutabaga, add in the onions and all of the bacon grease, the half and half, the parmesan cheese and a few cracks of fresh pepper. Mash thoroughly with a potato masher. Don’t worry if it looks a little wet at this point, the half and half will absorb into the potatoes. Continue mashing until the mixture reaches your desired consistency. I like a few lumps left in my mash. At this point, I like to taste test for seasoning. Often, the cheese and the bacon grease add enough flavor, but if not, you may want to add a little salt. Serve hot, topped with remaining cheese, bacon and diced green onions.