Thursday, December 2, 2010

Creamy Winter Root Vegetable Mash with Frizzled Leeks

Creamy Winter Root Vegetable Mash with Frizzled Leeks at Paprika Red

I love mashed potatoes. Creamy, rich, comforting, starchy goodness, they are at home on my plate any time the weather is under 70 degrees, which is often around here. But man (or woman) cannot live on mashed potatoes alone - we need our veggies, and mashed potatoes are starchy and can be very rich. On the other side of the coin, there are mashed potato haters out there. I know, sometimes I can scarcely believe it myself. Those that say mashed potatoes are bland and boring, like baby food. Even my husband used to say he didn't like mashed potatoes! (Don't worry, I made a convert out of him.)

But what if we could have it all - mashed potatoes that contain other wonderful veggies so they are more nutritious and not such a starch bomb, creaminess without being loaded down with tons of cream and butter, and definitely not boring? To the humble potato I've added celeriac, aka celery root, for nutty flavor, parsnips for earthy sweetness, buttermilk for richness and tang without high fat content, and frizzled leeks for that mild, oniony flavor and great crispy texture. A delicious side dish, perhaps delicious enough to convert even the most stubborn mashed potato hater!

Creamy Winter Root Vegetable Mash with Frizzled Leeks
1 lb yukon gold potatoes (about 3 medium)
1 1/2 lb celery root (about one large)
3/4 lb parsnips (about 2 medium)
1 large leek
1 cup buttermilk
2 TB heavy cream (optional)
2 TB butter
2 TB olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
nutmeg (optional)
Wash and peel your veggies. For the celery root, I suggest carefully cutting off the top and bottom, slicing it in half, and trimming off the outsides with a sharp knife. Cut your potatoes into roughly 1" cubes; cut the celery root into 1/2" cubes, and the parsnips into 1 1/4" cubes.

In a very large pot, bring 3-4 quarts of water to a boil, seasoned with 1 TB of salt. Add the root vegetables, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the frizzled leeks.

Cut off the root end and dark green parts off the leeks, leaving the white and light green part. Slice in half lengthwise. With a sharp knife, cut the leeks lengthwise into 1/8" strips, then cut crosswise into 2" lengths. Wash them very well to get the dirt and grit out from between the leaves, and dry them well. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 TB olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, season with a generous pinch of salt, and let the leeks cook in a single layer, stirring occasionally, until crispy, about 15 minutes. When done, remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

By now your root vegetables should be tender. Drain in a colander and return to the pot over low heat, and stir for a few minutes to remove any residual water. Add the 2 TB of butter, 1 TB of olive oil, 2 TB of cream if using, 1/2 cup of buttermilk, and mash with a potato masher. I mash until it's still lumpy, then take a hand blender to it; it does a good job without making the potatoes gummy. Add more buttermilk until the desired texture is reached, up to another 1/2 cup. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and a little nutmeg, if you like - don't skimp on the salt! Mix in all but a few TB of the leeks, leaving the rest for garnish. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

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