Here in the Tasting Table Test Kitchen, we all agree that the best holiday table is the one where there is the occasional blissful silence, when the guests are too busy eating to discuss embarrassing stories. The cause of that quiet this year will be these buttery, decadent mashed potatoes. We boosted the spuds with toasty browned butter, complementing that butter with the deeply caramelized flavor of hazelnuts. We like to sprinkle the browned nuts over the mashed potatoes, but if you're more of a smooth operator, squirrel the hazelnuts away and use them for embellishing green beans or a green salad.
Hazelnut-Browned Butter Mashed Potatoes
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 6 servings
Cook Time: 30 minutes
2/3 cup hazelnuts
2½ sticks unsalted butter
2 tablespoons plus 2½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
6 large Russet potatoes (about 2½ pounds)--peeled, halved and each half quartered
1½ cups heavy cream
¼ cup whole milk (or more heavy cream)
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. On a rimmed baking sheet, place the hazelnuts and toast in the oven until the skins begin to curl away and the hazelnuts are fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a kitchen towel-lined bowl. Cover the nuts with the corners of the towel so the nuts are completely enclosed and set aside for a few minutes to steam. Rub the nuts inside the towel to remove the skins, then transfer the skinned hazelnuts to a cutting board and roughly chop.
2. To a medium saucepan set over medium heat, add the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the chopped hazelnuts. Cook, swirling the pan often, until the hazelnuts are a rich, brown color, the butter is very fragrant and the milk solids in the bottom of the pan are browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and use a slotted spoon to remove the hazelnuts from the butter and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle the hazelnuts with a ½ teaspoon of salt.
3. While the hazelnuts toast in the butter, bring a large pot of water set over high heat to a boil. Add the potatoes and 2 tablespoons salt, reduce the heat to medium and boil the potatoes until a paring knife easily slides into the center of a piece and the potatoes are tender but not mealy around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes.
4. While the potatoes are still warm, press them through a potato ricer and into a large bowl (a food mill or a potato masher work, too, but the latter will yield less creamy mashed potatoes). Drizzle in the hazelnut-browned butter while using a fork to fluff and stir into the potatoes.
5. In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, add the cream, milk and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a simmer. Drizzle the cream mixture over the potatoes, using the fork to fluff and stir it in. Transfer the mashed potatoes to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the salted hazelnuts and serve. (If making the potatoes in advance, add half of the cream mixture and wait to add the remaining hot cream until just before serving.)