For the ultimate comfort, mash your food

WASHINGTON Sitting down to a warm bowl of her grandmother’s mashed potatoes still makes Holly Herrick feel like a kid, even at the age of 50.

“Like I’m sitting in an oversized chair, just kind of digging into this warm mound of deliciousness hopefully with butter dripping down it,” she said.

In her latest cookbook, Herrick, a Charleston-based food writer, attempts to capture that feeling of youth and comfort with more than 150 recipes of mashed foods, including two for mashed potatoes.

But Herrick wants people to know that potatoes aren’t the only food that can meet a masher — or mill or mixer. As the name suggests, “Mashed: Beyond the Potato,” explores the softer side of a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, meats and sweets.

“I think that the softness of mashed food, it just can’t help but be comforting. It just feels good,” Herrick said.

With the addition of sour cream, butter and parsley, the roughness of rutabaga is transformed into a silky smooth side dish. Macaroni and cheese gets a grown-up makeover with a butternut squash puree, and beads of pomegranate and orange elevate guacamole to a holiday-inspired dip.

Trio of Potato Mashers
There’s no need to get fancy with gadgets — a simple handheld masher will do. (Thinkstock)

“I think that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I think that’s true in life and in food and cooking. And the world has gotten so complicated on so many levels. I think that people really look for comfort in their life as much as possible, and certainly that would include food,” said Herrick, who studied pastry and cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Her tips for crushing your next meal? There’s no need to get fancy with gadgets a simple handheld masher will do and flavors are best when you cook with seasonal ingredients.

Nothing sings “summer” more than Herrick’s savory summer corn and shrimp pudding. And for her panzanella salad, she roasts and mashes tomatoes for an extra burst of sweetness.

Fall ushers in dishes such as maple acorn squash soup, and a hearty English shepherd’s pie staves off the cold days of winter.

“Mashed” also tackles desserts beyond jello and pudding. One of Herrick’s favorite recipes is a homemade lemon curd that’s layered with a blueberry compote and mashed shortbread cookies, then topped with whipped cream.

“It’s just gorgeous to look at, simple to make and delicious to eat,” she said.

The cookbook, Herrick’s eighth, also features a mashed banana foster sundae and a roasted rustic applesauce, plus plenty of sorbets and ice creams.

Recipe: Panna Cotta with Roasted Meyer Lemon Glaze and Fresh Blueberries
An excerpt from Holly Herrick’s “Mashed: Beyond the Potato” 

Panna Cotta
Ingredients for Holly Herrick’s panna cotta from “Mashed: Beyond the Potato.” (Courtesy Gibbs-Smith)

Panna cotta hails from Tuscany and is a pudding of cream and milk thickened with gelatin. Its mild, delicate base invites almost everything under the sun in terms of pairings. Since my sweet neighbor arrived at my doorstep bearing a bushel of freshly picked Meyer lemons (the darling of the citrus world for their delicate lemon-orange flavor and stunning aroma) while I was working on some panna cotta ideas for this book, I decided to roast them and turn them into a mashed compote glaze to finish the panna cotta. The sun-yellow color and citrus topping is a winner, especially when finished with fresh blueberries. The panna cotta can be made ahead, covered, and refrigerated for 2–3 days. Add the compote glaze just before serving.

Panna Cotta:

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk

1 tablespoon (1 packet) plain gelatin

3 cups (700 ml) full-fat cream

1 tablespoon honey

4 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons real vanilla extract

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 teaspoon finely grated Meyer lemon or traditional lemon zest

1 tablespoon Meyer lemon or traditional lemon juice

Meanwhile, prepare the panna cotta base. Heat the milk in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the gelatin, stir, and heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Add the cream, honey, sugar, vanilla, salt, zest, and juice. Simmer over medium low until the sugar has fully dissolved, about 5 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat and cool at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Pour into pretty wine glasses or clear ramekins or bowls. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight, covered, until fully set. Top each with 2 tablespoons of the chilled glaze and fresh blueberries. Serve cold.

Meyer Lemon Glaze: 

4 large Meyer lemons or 2 navel oranges and 2 traditional lemons,

1⁄4-inch (6-mm) of tops removed

4 (6- x 6-inch /15- x 15-cm) squares aluminum foil

1⁄ 2 cup (100 g) sugar

1⁄ 2 cup (75 g) fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C). Tightly wrap the lemons in the aluminum foil and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour, or until soft. Remove from oven and cool until easily handled. Open up the tops of the foil packets and carefully pour the juices gathered in the bottom of the packets into a medium saucepan. Half the lemons and cut into 1-inch chunks, pulling out any seeds and central pith veins.

Place the fruit in the saucepan with the roasting juices. Add the sugar; bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Pour into a colander over a medium bowl and mash firmly with a manual masher (Basic Mashing Tools, page 10). Discard the solids. Return the compote to the pan, stir in the blueberries, and cook for 10 minutes. This will yield about 3 ⁄4 cup (175 g) of compote. Cover and chill in a small bowl until ready to use.


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