In the heyday of my misspent youth, I worked as a film grip in various low-budget and no-budget indie films across the Midwest.
The guys on my crew and I worked long hours, in oft-insane conditions, honing our cinematic skills so that some day in the hopefully not-so-distant future we'd be able to translate those hours into actual, real-life, paying gigs.
Our crew consisted of my Key Grip, his Best Boy, a couple of regulars like me, and a gaffer. Gaffers are the guys who work with the Director of Photography to execute his vision of how the scene should be lit -- the DP says "I want streaky shafts of low-angle sunset through Venetian blinds," and the gaffer makes it reality.
The gaffer on our crew was a guy named Ian. He was eleventy feet tall, with ginger hair to his waist. One afternoon, we were sitting in his apartment, which was furnished entirely with lawn furniture. ("It's cheap, durable, and comfy." Classic film crew thought process.) And we were talking about food.
In those days, we generally didn't eat well. We'd eat on-set at the craft services table, or at crew meals whenever we were lucky enough to get them. Otherwise, we ate like college kids do -- as cheaply and easily as possible.
"Except Potatoes," Ian said. "They're my thing. I don't mess around. I do good mashed potatoes." When I admitted that I didn't really have a go-to recipe for mashed potatoes, he looked at me as if snakes had just crawled out of my mouth. Wordlessly, he stood, scribbled something on the back of a hardware store receipt, and handed it to me.
I've kept that recipe as the basis for my mashed potatoes ever since. I've modified it some over the years, but the initial plan was solid. I wrote about these potatoes in my book, Year of the Cow, and I've had several requests that I share the recipe. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I thought this would be a good time.
I don't make mashed potatoes often (glycemic index, yada yada). So when I do, I want to make them count. This is the recipe for my go-to mashed potatoes.
Go-To Mashed Potatoes
5 lb. Russet potatoes
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons-ish onion powder
1 teaspoon salt (and to taste)
some garlic powder (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 Tablespoons butter
Peel potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks, and boil until soft.
Drain, add all ingredients, and mash to desired consistency.
Transfer to a well-buttered pan (9x9 baking dish/casserole works well).**
Using a fork, make small peaks in the potatoes, to provide a little more surface area for browning. The Maillard reaction is delicious. We are not heathens.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the peaks are slightly browned.
**Steps up to this point may be done up to a day in advance.
All my best to your and yours for a delicious holiday.