13 Easy Ways To Get Fancy With Your Potato Sides

Consider the humble potato. It's versatile, inexpensive, and readily available all year round. But if you're tired of simple mashed potatoes, boring baked potatoes, or plain roasted potatoes, it's easy enough to get fancy with your potato sides. Add in a luxurious ingredient, an unexpected cooking technique, or a fancy serving vessel, and that humble potato gets a whole new image — one that's fancy enough to serve at a dinner party when you've got guests to impress or a special holiday meal. 

Chefs know that a few special ingredients will elevate one of the most inexpensive ingredients in their kitchen to a dish that will be the talk of the town (and can also command a high price on the menu). Consider the $200 French fries served at Serendipity 3 in New York City: Blanched in Champagne and cooked in goose fat, they're seasoned with truffle, dusted with edible gold dust, and served on Baccarat crystal.

You might not be able to go to that extent to fancy up your favorite potato side dishes, but when it comes to the luxury treatment, a little goes a long way. Whatever way you like to prepare potato side dishes — mashed, baked, roasted, fried, and so on — we've found the best ways to get fancy with them. Dressed to impress, those inexpensive potatoes can become the elegant star of your dinner plate.

1. Add truffle to the mix

Earthy truffles are a natural complement to potatoes in all their forms. If you can get your hands on an actual fresh truffle that you can shave over mashed potatoes, go for it! Or take a cue from Ina Garten, who makes her mashed potatoes fancy and flavorful by finishing them with Parmesan and a few ounces of white truffle butter.

Truffle salt and truffle oil are a little more affordable, not to mention easier to find and store. Even though it's been revealed that truffle oil usually contains no actual truffles, we still think that it adds a rich and decadent level of flavor when drizzled over roasted potatoes. And truffle salt is a fancy topping for homemade potato chips or French fries. Check out Truff's Black Truffle Salt, which is one of Oprah's favorite things. Sure, it's $14 for a jar of the stuff, but that will season plenty of batches of French fries and bring the decadence you desire.

2. Try Hasselback potatoes

Hasselback potatoes emerged as a trend a few years back, and for good reason: the simple slicing technique for roasted potatoes gives the taters a crispier exterior area than regular baked or roasted potatoes, as well as creamy, pillowy interiors. Not to mention the beautiful accordion-like appearance is a showstopper.

This technique is a great way to make a potato side dish look like you made a fuss, but in reality, it's not hard at all to prepare. Just make a series of uniform slices into a potato, making sure to leave it connected at the bottom, and the potato will fan out while cooking into its trademark ridges. One trick to keep from cutting all the way through is to use chopsticks as a guide to stop the knife before it slices the tuber all the way.

Once the potatoes are cooked, they're a vessel for whatever sort of toppings you want. Try drizzling them with tarragon-spiked butter or infused olive oil. Even sweet potatoes can get the hasselback treatment, drizzled with butter mixed with maple syrup, sage, and red pepper flakes.

3. Finish off sweet potatoes with meringue

Make sweet potatoes even sweeter and more special by topping them off with meringue. This whipped mixture of egg white and sugar seems complicated, but, as Ina Garten can attest, just keeping an eye on it as it cooks will ensure the perfect crown of lightly browned meringue that's shatteringly crisp on the outside and airy and fluffy inside. While you could just spoon the meringue over a casserole dish of mashed sweet potatoes, using a piping bag with a ridged tip will allow you to make a more elegant presentation. Try piping rosettes onto a casserole dish full of sweet potatoes or a squiggle of meringue onto individual baked sweet potatoes.

If you don't have time for meringue, adding a topping of marshmallow or marshmallow fluff is a fun and traditional way to serve sweet potatoes that dates back to the early 1900s when a marshmallow company hired the founder of the Boston Cooking School's magazine to create recipes using their products. And if both options seem way too sweet, Bobby Flay recommends brushing a sweet glaze onto sweet potatoes. Maple syrup, pomegranate molasses, or simple syrup can be flavored with herbs, grainy mustard, or red pepper flakes to make a sweet and savory finish that will elevate roasted sweet potatoes into a sophisticated side dish.

4. Stir goat cheese into mashed potatoes

Ina Garten is just full of ideas on how to make potato dishes a little bit more fancy, and we love her suggestion for an unusual ingredient to give mashed potatoes a decidedly decadent, and super-creamy, texture. She starts with butter, sour cream, and half and half, but then stirs in softened herbed goat cheese, such as Montrachet. The sharp taste of the goat cheese and its rich, creamy texture, enhances the earthy potatoes. 

Goat cheese isn't the only type of cheese that can make ordinary mashed potatoes a little fancier. Why not try stirring crumbled blue cheese into mashed potatoes? The pungent cheese is an unexpected flavor and for blue cheese lovers, makes a delicious side dish that pairs particularly well with steak. 

Whatever cheese you add, make sure your mashed potatoes are as smooth as can be by using a potato ricer, which will break down chunks, leaving you with the creamiest, silkiest spuds. Don't have a potato ricer? Try pressing the cooked potatoes through a mesh sieve for a similar result.

5. Mix mascarpone into twice-baked potatoes

With their crispy shell and creamy filling, twice-baked potatoes are an elegant and delicious presentation that doesn't really take much more work than making mashed potatoes or baked potatoes. You can make this potato side dish even more elegant by using mascarpone in place of the typical sour cream for the filling. With its tangy, buttery flavor and light, creamy texture, this specialty cheese will be sure to become a favorite fancy potato side dish.

The mascarpone-spiked filling is a blank slate for whatever other ingredients you want to add to your twice-baked potato filling. Try finely chopped vegetables, such as blanched broccoli or red bell pepper, crispy bacon, minced scallions, or tangy capers. If the ingredients are finely chopped enough, you can use a pastry bag with a large tip to pipe it back into the potato shells for a fancy presentation. Whatever you mix into your twice-baked potatoes, make sure to cook them long enough for the filling to brown and crisp on top  — it's the best part of twice-baked potatoes.

6. Pair fries with gourmet dipping sauces

Chefs and restaurants are catching on to the fact that the ubiquitous French fry can be elevated with a selection of dipping sauces that go beyond a boring bottle of ketchup. David Chang, for instance, loves dipping his fries into au poivre sauce, a mixture of butter, peppercorns, and liquor that usually accompanies steak.

You, too, can make the French fries you serve a little more special. Whether you're making fries from scratch or just cooking up some frozen fries, serve them with a trio of dipping sauces in cute dishes. Scour your condiment aisle for unusual options that would pair well with hot, crispy fries: ranch dressing, cheese dip, aioli or flavored mayo, or smoked ketchup, are all good options.

The Aldi Charcuterie Board of Directors even predicts that with the popularity of charcuterie boards, French fry boards will be the next hot thing. Picture a spread of various fries — shoestring, waffle, thick steakhouse fries, and tater tots— interspersed with dishes of dipping sauces ranging from beer cheese to truffled ketchup to garlicky aioli, and you get the picture.

7. Try some different potato varieties

The next time you want to prepare roasted potatoes, head to a farmer's market or a gourmet food store to find some unusual varieties that will be an unexpected and upscale take on the typical potato side dish. While russet and Yukon gold potatoes are ubiquitous, there are many potato varieties that are worth exploring. Check out German butterball, which has a naturally buttery flavor. Or look for Vitelotte, a stunning tuber that's a gorgeous bright purple inside and out. Purple majesty and red thumb potatoes also will add a bold splash of color to your dinner plate. And fingerling potatoes, with their oblong shape, hold their shape when they're boiling or roasting, and have a delicate, nutty flavor.

Another colorful spud, the huckleberry gold, was developed by University of Idaho students and researchers, and not only has a gorgeous purple hue but is also one of the first potatoes to boast a low glycemic index, making it a better option for those with diabetes.

Mix up a variety of these potato varieties for a colorful and interesting plate that is far fancier than the typical varieties found in the produce aisle of your local supermarket.

8. Top baked potatoes with caviar and crème fraîche

Like twice-baked potatoes, loaded baked potatoes are a delicious individual serving of tater goodness that can be dressed up with gourmet ingredients to make a special side dish. For the ultimate in luxurious loaded baked potatoes, we recommend splurging on caviar and crème fraîche.

This is how Martha Stewart's Vegas restaurant, The Bedford, upgrades its smashed baked potatoes. The side dish usually comes with crème fraîche, chives, and bacon lardons. But for an upcharge, you can get your taters topped with Golden Osetra caviar (just be prepared for sticker shock: even the one-ounce portion of caviar will bring the price of the dish up to a whopping $115.95).

Even buying a tin of caviar to top your loaded baked potatoes at home can be expensive, so it's definitely a treat best saved for a special occasion. If you want to save a bit of money, look for other types of fish roe, such as salmon roe, which will still give your loaded baked potatoes a fancy feel. Don't forget the crème fraîche, which is a classic pairing with caviar. If you can't find it at the supermarket, it's actually easy enough to make it at home with buttermilk, heavy cream, and citric acid.

9. Dress up instant potatoes with white wine

If you don't have the time to make mashed potatoes from scratch, there's absolutely no shame in using instant mashed potatoes. But we're going to let you in on a little secret on how to make that boxed stuff taste positively sublime. When you've mixed up your spuds (try swapping broth in place of water for better flavor), make a luxurious wine sauce with reduced white wine and butter and stir it in. The buttery sauce will add complexity and depth of flavor to the simple spuds dish.

You can dress the mashed potatoes up further by adding garlic or minced shallot to the wine sauce as it's cooking, or stirring minced fresh herbs into the spuds just before serving. A swirl of good olive oil drizzled over the dish will also add a fancy touch that will ensure that no one knows your potatoes came right out of the box.

10. Level up mashed potatoes with lobster

Next time you're serving mashed potatoes at a dinner party, delight your guests by folding in succulent chunks of lobster cooked in butter. The sweet, tender seafood is the perfect foil to creamy, rich mashed potatoes, especially if you've already stirred in butter and something creamy like double cream or crème fraîche.

Lobster mashed potatoes could be a meal in itself, accompanied by a green salad to offset the richness. If you're nervous about the prospect of cooking a whole lobster, consider instead using lump crab meat for a similarly indulgent feel.

Mashed potatoes with a fancy ingredient like lobster or crab deserve to be silky-smooth, so consider using a bit of culinary gastronomy to make them as supple as possible: mixing diastatic malt powder into cooked potatoes, then letting them sit for half an hour in a hot water bath. The enzyme breaks down the starch in the potatoes, so you won't even need to use a potato ricer or masher to puree them.

11. Give potato salad a French twist

Mayonnaise-based potato salad can seem so ... ordinary. Next time you're invited to a potluck and the host asks you to bring potato salad, give it a much more upscale twist by making French potato salad. Instead of mayo, this salad calls for a homemade vinaigrette dressing made of olive oil, champagne vinegar, garlic, and Dijon mustard. The cooked taters (or shall we say, pommes de terre) are tossed with the vinaigrette, along with fresh parsley, dill, and scallions.

This salad is lighter and more refreshing than its American counterpart, making it the perfect accompaniment to an equally light side dish, such as grilled fish or chicken. You could get creative and even more upscale with this recipe by adding capers, cornichons, or fresh tarragon, or using a variety of potato varieties to create visual interest. Serve it on a bed of arugula or mixed greens for a presentation that's as elegant as this salad. Bon appetit!

12. Make Duchess potatoes

If you really need to impress, there are few potato side dishes as fancy as pommes de terre a la Duchesse, or Duchess potatoes. This classic French dish dates back to the 1700s, and was also a favorite of American cookbook author Fanny Farmer.

Duchess potatoes start out much like mashed potatoes: potatoes are boiled, then pureed through a ricer. Add butter and cream, as well as egg yolks, which give the potatoes a rich flavor and also provide structure for them to hold their shape. The mixture is loaded into a pastry bag and piped into rosettes, then baked until browned. The finished nugget has a crispy exterior and a creamy inside. If this sounds too fancy, you could spoon most of the potato mixture into a casserole dish and just pipe a few decorative rosettes or swirls on top. It'll taste just as good, and will still look fancy. Duchess potatoes have a retro feel, like something Midge Maisel would have enjoyed at a supper club, so serve them up with something that has a similar old-school fancy element, like steak au poivre or roast Cornish game hens.

13. Serve mashed potatoes in a martini glass

Hold the vermouth ... and the gin as well. Martini glasses, and their curvier sister stemware, coupe glasses, are the perfect elegant vessel for a serving of mashed potatoes. It's a trend that has its roots in creative wedding-reception fare. Fancy wedding receptions in the '90s often featured a mashed potato bar where guests could fill martini glasses with mashed potatoes topped with cheese, bacon, vegetables, sour cream, and more.

The trend deserves a resurgence because chances are, your martini glasses are just gathering dust anyway. To host your own mashed potato martini party, make up a batch of mashed potatoes and set it out (use a slow cooker to keep it warm) along with a variety of toppings both traditional and unexpected. Try a selection of different cheeses, chopped smoked fish, fresh herbs, or assorted sauces. Give each guest a martini or coupe glass and let them go to town assembling their own loaded mashed potato creation in their glass. And then toast yourself and your guests for finding such a fancy way to serve a dish as simple as mashed potatoes.