Mashed potatoes are one of those sides that I tend to overlook, or else drown in gravy, salt and pepper -- but I think this version has more than enough flavor to stand on its own. Sage adds a warm umami that's amplified by fragrant brown butter and crisped-up garlic, and the nuttiness from the brown butter echoes again in the slight nutty flavor from the creme fraiche. Use a potato ricer or a food mill for the lightest, fluffiest texture. —Cynthia Chen McTernan
6 to 8
Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
salt, for boiling
(2 ounces) butter
4 to 5
2 to 3
cloves garlic, minced
Oil, for frying
3 to 4 tablespoons
whole milk, or enough to reach desired consistency
Scrub potatoes under running water with a bristle brush or stiff sponge to clean them. Skin them or leave them whole, according to your preference. Combine 6 to 8 cups of water, 1/4 cup salt, and potatoes in a large pot and bring to a boil (the large amount of salt will result in a creamier, more flavorful potato). Simmer over medium-high heat for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until a fork inserted into the potato slides easily through the entire potato.
While the potatoes are cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the sage leaves and let cook until leaves are crisp, and the butter has both turned a rich brown and given off a nutty aroma. Pour into a bowl, leaves and all, and set aside.
Add a bit more oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté until the garlic crisps, and turns golden. Turn off the heat, remove the pan from heat, and set aside.
When potatoes are ready, drain them, rinse the pot, and add potatoes back to the pot. Placing the pot over very low heat, mash the potatoes with a potato masher, or even a large fork. For fluffier, lighter potatoes, press the potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill (also best if you prefer the mashed potatoes without skins).
Add most of the brown butter to the potatoes, reserving the sage leaves and a bit of butter for topping (if desired). Add the crème fraîche and half the minced garlic (reserving the rest for topping), and stir gently until incorporated.
Finally, add the milk, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring gently until the potatoes reach your desired consistency. Take care not to overmash, or the potatoes will turn gummy.
Season with black pepper to taste and salt, if needed. Top with remaining brown butter, sage leaves, and minced garlic. Serve!