I'm here in the Chicago area visiting family and it's been chaotic and loads of fun. My brother and his wife are out with their two little rambunctious girls (aged 4 and 6) and we have our baby. Add to that my sister's brood of three and all the associated adults (including grandma) and the possibilities for chaos are impressive. The baby stares around, wide-eyed at all the running and shouting and excitement around him. So far, breakfast and lunch are fairly simple meals: bacon and eggs or oatmeal first thing in the morning and then sandwiches with fresh fruit at noon. But last night we wanted a simple dinner for seven adults and somewhere between 3 and 6 children (teens don't always want to hang with the family). My sister and I hemmed and hawed about various ambitious recipes, but it was getting late and every time we found a recipe we liked my mother's kitchen would be missing one essential ingredient. (Or it would be out of date...I'll have to see if my mom minds being "outed" on her interesting kitchen!) So we fell back, as one does, on bottle sauces, of which my mother has plenty. Spicy stir fry sauce for the chicken (with fresh garlic, onion, pepper flakes and lemon juice added), corn on the cob (more on that in a later post) and mashed potatoes.
When you are cooking for someone else's kids, you need to consult the parents frequently about what is likely to be accepted. Spicy sauce? No. Barbecue sauce? Maybe for dipping after the chicken is cooked plain. Corn on the cob? A given. We were making the mashed potatoes because we had it on good authority that one of the little girls loved mashed spuds. And then my sister mentioned that her littlest (nearly 12 years old) loves garlic mashed potatoes. We consulted the parents of the other children and they thought it would pass. Perfect.
Now my way of making garlic mashed potatoes turns out to have been the Wrong Way. I love garlic and I love it with potatoes. But I've always cooked the garlic in melted butter before adding it to the potatoes at the mashing stage. For some reason, the resulting mash always comes out feeling a little greasy. I assumed it was because I used too much butter. But we all know there is no such thing as too much butter in mashed potatoes, don't we??
My sister's way (and now mine) is to boil a few pieces of garlic in the water with the potatoes. Then when she strains the potatoes she retains the garlic and mashes it all together. And she adds a pound of butter and milk and salt and pepper. ("Really, it comes out to a tablespoon per helping!" she brightly assured our skeptical health-conscious brother.)
And it was delicious. She left the red potatoes only partially peeled, so there were tasty bits of skin here and there and the creamy delicious garlic flavour throughout. My big sister is a genius sometimes.
(Sorry about the lack of photos but as mentioned we are in a constant state of chaos.)