Mashed potatoes, that venerable side dish, gets a lively makeover with sweet potatoes, parsnips and garlic. Recipe below.
Let me start by saying I love mashed potatoes. They can be a creamy, delicious addition to many meals and a blank canvas for many sauces. But they can also become, well, a blond and bland default side dish.
Here’s an easy way to liven things up, visually and tastewise, with two or three simple additions. A few weeks ago, I sang the praises of sweet potatoes when I made Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Shallots. The Center for Science in the Public Interest calls them a “nutritional All-Star—one of the best vegetables you can eat.” Added to mashed potatoes, they bring beautiful color to the plate and their signature sweetness.
Parsnips bring a lot to the nutrition party too. They’re rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants and high in cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. Parsnips are also a good source of folic acid, which is shown to reduce risk of heart disease, and may help prevent dementia and osteoporosis. They pack a lot of potassium too, which can help lower blood pressure. Flavorwise, they’re sweet like their relatives carrots, with maybe a slightly sharper edge. Marion finds them indispensable when making chicken stock; in this mash-up, they add some depth to the sweetness the sweet potatoes bring.
Adding garlic will give a nice savory note to this mash-up, tempering its sweetness. I highly recommend including it. That said, when I made this dish to serve with Braised Lamb Shanks, I skipped the garlic—the recipe’s onion/shallot sauce had plenty of garlic, and I didn’t want the side to be all matchy. Spooning the sauce over the mash-up delivered all the savory flavor needed. But if you’re serving this as a side with a non-garlicky main course, don’t skip the garlic.
Potato Root Vegetable Mash-up
Serves 2 to 3 [can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled...]
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, about 3/4 pound total
1 smallish sweet potato, about 1/2 pound
1 parsnip, about 1/4 pound [see shopping tips in Kitchen Notes]
1 or 2 cloves garlic, chopped [optional—see above]
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
scant 1/4 cup milk
Peel potatoes, sweet potato and parsnip and cut into chunks. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with water by 1 inch. Add garlic, if using. Salt generously. Bring to a boil over high heat with pan partially covered. Reduce heat to medium and cook partially covered until vegetables are just tender when pierced with a knife point, about 15 minutes. The parsnip may take longer to become tender, so make sure you test it as well.
Drain potato mixture and return to pan, placing pan on still warm burner to steam off excess moisture. Add butter and milk and mash with hand masher until fairly well combined. Adjust seasoning with salt as needed. Can be made ahead up to this point and kept covered on stove, up to 1/2 hour. Gently reheat over very low heat before serving.
Picking the perfect parsnip. Parsnips look like pale yellow-white versions of their cousins, carrots. You want them to have the same firmness as carrots. Choose parsnips that aren’t shriveled or spotty. Also, go for smaller parsnips when you shop—larger ones can tend to be woody.