When I was in culinary school I had an instructor who told us about a party he catered where the theme of the party was potatoes. Sounds strange I know, but if memory serves me right he explained that they served a variety of different potatoes and flavor profiles. Among the flavors I can recall were: potatoes with corned beef & cabbage, potatoes with three cheeses, potatoes with Bailey’s Irish Cream, and merlot mashed potatoes. After class that day my classmates and I were talking about the different potatoes and strategized the endless possibilities of how we could make them. I set myself on a mission to try the Merlot Mashed Potatoes, because to me they sounded lusciously rich and I envisioned them with the most beautiful hue. After many tries I have come to a recipe that s not only delicious, but fabulous as well.
This brings me to the first Thanksgiving after I graduated from Culinary School. I had not visited New Jersey or our families in quite some time, so Brian and I packed a bag and my knives and off we went. I was going to cook a Thanksgiving meal for our family…all twelve of them. I composed a menu of many snacks, appetizers, soup, and then the traditional turkey meal with many fixings. Of course on the menu were these Merlot Mashed Potatoes. Being that they were different, the morning of Thanksgiving my dad asked: “Are you sure you want to make these? We usually make regular potatoes.” My mother insisted I did not have enough potatoes (with all the courses - snacks - appetizers) and sat there after I peeled the potatoes and had them in a pot, peeling more and stating “There are twelve people coming to dinner. You need more potatoes!” There are some battles I have chosen in life not to crusade in, this was one of them. I let me mother cook more potatoes, I just had to adjust my seasoning.
As we all sat down to the table to eat our Thanksgiving meal, the food started making its way around the table. Once the Merlot Mashed Potatoes began their rotation I heard Oohs and Aahs. When they reached my Uncle Frank (my mother’s brother) I heard him exclaim, “What is up with these potatoes? Why are they pink?!?” I chuckled to myself, and we all began to eat. Everyone ate everything! Everyone loved everything! The one dish that everyone complimented the most…the Merlot Mashed Potatoes. Even my father-in-law (a man of very few words) said to me: “Danielle, those potatoes were so good.” That is when I knew I had a really valuable recipe on my hands. My family was super pleased and my mother knew then that more than enough potatoes were made, as we had a big bowl of the potatoes still on the table!
This year I will be making the Merlot Mashed Potatoes again, and I will be missing my family as I enjoy them. We will be enjoying our Holiday here in Seattle, my family will be in New Jersey, and my In-laws will be in Maine. Maybe they will make the Merlot Mashed Potatoes for themselves? Anything is possible. I will be thinking of all of them as I enjoy our meal. Maybe we will all be side by side at a table for a Thanksgiving in the years to come? I hope you all have a wonderful Holiday and make many memories of your own. I have so many that make me smile and I revel in them every year.
Merlot Mashed Potatoes (Serves 6)
***NOTES: These potatoes can easily be made ahead of time and reheated for serving. When I do this I make the potatoes a bit creamier than I normally would as they dry out a bit in the reheating process. An extra spoonful of sour cream or heavy cream works just fine. I also store the potatoes in a shallow dish letting the reheating to take only about 15 minute in 350 degree oven when covered with foil.
2 pounds of yukon gold potatoes
3 tbsp of butter (unsalted)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 - 1/3 cup of heavy cream
1 1/2 cup of Merlot wine
sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
First, clean your potatoes well and cut them into even pieces. (Even pieces leads to even cooking time for all of them.) I usually cut my potatoes into four to six pieces depending on their size. I also leave the skins on. The skins of the yukon gold potatoes are thin, break down easily, and add flavor.
Next, place the potatoes in a pot with enough cold water over them by at least one inch. I also add about 1 tbsp of sea salt to the water. Place the pot over a medium to high heat and bring to a simmer. Let it all cook until the potatoes are pierced easily with a knife. Remove from the pot from the heat and strain the water from the potatoes.
Meanwhile, place your wine in a small pan and bring to a simmer. You are looking to reduce the wine to a 1/3 or 1/4 of a cup. I let the wine simmer about 15 - 18 minutes to get this result.
Then, proceed with the potatoes with how you like to mash them. You can use an electric beater, stand mixer, hand masher, food mill, or ricer…what ever you wish. I personally like a food mili. I place it over my bowl and work the potatoes through the finest holes until all is processed through and mashed. To the potatoes I add the butter and sour cream and stir them until it is incorporated. I then add the cream, stirring in a little at a time until you get the constancy you prefer.
Finally, add in the Merlot reduction. mixing until completely even and not streaky. Season the potatoes with sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Serve warm.