For some people, Thanksgiving is the biggest day of the year to eat mashed potatoes. It's not solidly in the category of do-not-mess-with-this traditions, like turkey and cranberry sauce, but it's close. But – just playing devil's advocate here – there are already a lot of starches on the Thanksgiving table, and if you do a sweet potato casserole of some sort, a lot of puree-type textures. Why not step out a little? Here are four potato dishes that might open your eyes.
Pommes Anna is a classical French preparation: a shallow dish stacked with very thinly potatoes, drenched in butter and baked until they come together in a cake of crunchy, tender, buttery goodness. It's also a dish that will take you 12 years to prepare unless you have a mandoline, because the slices must be uniformly 1/8 of an inch thick. (And for the love of god USE THE FINGER GUARD on your mandoline; you don't want to spend Thanksgiving in the ER.) This Bon Appetit recipe for mini herbed pommes Anna is super-adorable, and the individual servings may help with portion control. Whatever.
Hasselbacks are another way to do potatoes in the oven – originally a Swedish preparation – and they are much easier to prepare, plus they look like hedgehogs! Just slice most-but-not-all of the way through your potatoes (any kind will work), stuff each cut with herbs and a thick slice of butter, and throw them in the oven to roast, where they'll fan out picturesquely. Here's Nigella Lawson's recipe, but there are a million variations out there (ahem, bacon) – Google's your friend.
If you are committed to the mash, there are a lot of ways you can think different. Lighten things up by adding steamed or parboiled celery root, parsnips or cauliflower to the potatoes, then mashing all together with milk, butter, etc. Smoke your potatoes on the grill before mashing, for a more exotic flavor (as per this recipe at Princess Tofu – and don't worry, despite the blog's name, there's hella heavy cream and butter in this dish). Or emulate the master of decadent mashed potatoes, French chef Joël Robuchon, with his recipe for pommes mousseline. These potatoes are legendary for incorporating equal amounts of butter and pureed potato.
Next up: It's time to consider the gravy.