Instead of doing things the way they’ve always been done, here are recipes for Thanksgiving 2020 that throw tradition out the window — at least just this once — and show how the classics can be much easier, and more fun, when you focus on highlighting the qualities in each that really matter.
Russet potatoes are ideal for this recipe, since their dry starchiness can absorb the amount of dairy and butter required. Any sour dairy works here, although crème fraîche is a particularly extravagant splurge if you use it. The fried potato skins can be stored in an airtight container for a couple of days before you need them. And save the oil once it cools; it can be repurposed to fry the onions for the Dry-Fried Green Beans and Mushrooms.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While waiting, peel the potatoes with a vegetable peeler; you should have about 2 heaping cups (or 5 ½ to 6 ounces) of peels. Spread the peels out to air-dry until ready to cook. Cut the potatoes into 1-inch chunks.
Add the potatoes to the pot, allow the water to return to a boil (this should take 6 to 8 minutes), then reduce the heat slightly to maintain a steady simmer. Cook the potatoes, stirring occasionally, until you can easily pierce the center of the largest pieces with the tines of a fork, 8 to 10 minutes.
Drain the potatoes, then return them to the pot. Mash the potatoes (or use a potato ricer or food mill to process them back into the pot), then add the 1 ½ tablespoons salt, the crème fraîche, black pepper and eggs and stir and mash until smooth. Taste and season the mashed potatoes with more salt and pepper, if you like.
Transfer the potatoes to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and smooth the top. Let cool to room temperature, then dot evenly with the butter cubes. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the potato peels and oil (the oil won’t cover the peels, but it will by the time they finish cooking). Place the pan over medium heat and, once the skins start to sizzle, continue cooking, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until they are light golden brown and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the sage leaves and stir to mix with the peels; cook until the leaves are crisp, about 1 minute more. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the peels and sage leaves to paper towels to drain; immediately season with flaky salt or more kosher salt. Let cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container for up to 1 day. Let the oil cool completely, then save for another use or discard.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the foil-covered dish of potatoes in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the potatoes are puffed and browned at the edges, 25 to 30 minutes more. Remove from the oven and scatter the fried potato skins and sage leaves evenly over the top. Serve hot.
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