Sometimes you have to pay tribute to the classics. And mashed potatoes hold a special place in my heart. As kids, my brother and I would battle it out in epic mashed potato volcano competitions. We would race to build the most perfectly sculpted mashed potato volcanoes. To the winner went bragging rights and spoils – or in our case, copious amounts of gravy. The trick was to do a good job building your volcano, otherwise you might get early leaks in the sides or bottom. So not cool.
I'm smiling as I write this – does that give away the fact I’m still a kid at heart?
With the cold weather and heavy rainfall leaving us chilled to the bone these past couple weeks– it seemed like no better time to whip up a batch (or three) of mashed potatoes. We had friends over for dinner last week, so I gave this recipe a try for the first time. My volcano building skills have deteriorated over time, so I decided it was safest to hold the gravy. And, replaced it with a ton of vegetables and a flavorful sauce instead. Healthy decisions for the win.
These are not your traditional mashed potatoes. I wanted to put my own spin on this classic by using a combination of parsnips and potatoes. The parsnips add a slightly sweeter, earthy note to the dish. It tastes bright, fresh and autumnal (it’s a legit word, I swear). And, while I love roasted garlic in mashed potatoes, I definitely don’t love how much time it adds to the cooking process. I found that by tossing whole cloves of garlic into the steamer basket with the parsnips and potatoes, I was able to quickly replicate some of the flavor you get from roasted garlic. It also helps soften them for mashing, so it combines smoothly with the parsnip and potatoes. This is a perfect shortcut for infusing some mild garlic flavor into your mash! And, in case you were at all worried, I made this recipe one you could feel good about eating on a weekday. So, you'll see it has just enough butter and milk to whip up into a smooth mash, but not so much that you feel like you've gone through Thanksgiving round 2. You're welcome.
Now, it's what goes on top of the potatoes that really gets me excited. The braised eggplant cooks down to velvety soft bites. It provides the satisfaction of a warm comforting dish – and in our experience, is appealing to others who are used to eating their potatoes with meat.
Since we haven't yet delved into the depths of winter, I tried to strike that ever elusive balance between comfort-food and food-coma-inducing-food. The lighter, Mediterranean-inspired flavors help. That means tons of fragrant spices and herbs – things like coriander, cumin, lemon and fresh thyme. In addition to eggplant, there's also a good serving of tomatoes, kale and cannellini beans. Everything cooks down in a broth of white wine and vegetable stock to create a silky sauce that you can ladle over top of your potatoes. Think of it as a more sophisticated, weeknight-appropriate form of gravy. Yum.
If you've taken a peek at the list of ingredients, you may have noticed the list is a bit longer than usual. But it isn't nearly as bad as it looks. Most of these ingredients are fairly standard spices you'll already have in your pantry. And the small add-ins, like olive oil, lemon juice and honey (or sugar) are all very minor (but important) things that create a well-balanced sauce. I ended up tweaking the proportions a few times to get the salt, acid and sweetness to marry just right, and this is our favorite version!
So, next time you're feeling like a cozy bowl of comforting mash and veggies, give this recipe a shot. It's our new go-to when cooking for non-vegetarian friends and family.
Parsnip Mashed Potatoes with Braised Eggplant
Parsnip Mashed Potatoes
- ¾ lb parsnips, peeled and chopped
- 1½ lb russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic (peeled)
- ¼ cup milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion, diced (about 2 cups)
- 1¼ lb eggplant, cubed (½-inch) (peeled optional, see note 1)
- 1½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¾ cup white wine
- ¾ cup vegetable broth
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 (15 oz/14 fl oz/398 ml) can cannellini beans, rinsed
- 1 lb cocktail tomatoes, halved (or whole cherry tomatoes)
- 3 leaves lacinato kale, chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 teaspoon honey (or sugar, see note 2)
Parsnip Mashed Potatoes
- Steam: Add a steamer basket to a large pot and fill with water until it's ½-inch below the basket. Cover and bring to a boil. Add parsnips, potatoes, and garlic to the steamer basket. Cover and steam until the parsnips and potatoes are soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Mash: Empty the water from the pot. Return the parsnips, potatoes, and garlic to the pot. Add milk, butter, and salt. Mash until smooth. Cover and keep warm on low heat. (If the mash needs loosening before serving, add a splash of extra milk.)
- Cook: Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add eggplant, coriander, cumin, and paprika. Cook until eggplant is tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Deglaze and simmer: Pour in white wine to deglaze the pan. Once most of the wine has evaporated, add the vegetable broth and bay leaves. Reduce heat to medium low. Stir in beans, tomatoes, kale, thyme, and salt. Cover with lid and simmer for 10 minutes to let the flavors meld.
- Assemble: Remove the bay leaves. Stir in lemon juice and honey. Taste and season with more salt, if needed. To serve, spoon the braised eggplant mixture (and pan juices) over parsnip mashed potatoes.
- Peeling: Eggplant can be peeled or unpeeled, whichever you prefer.
- Sugar: I like to add a bit of sweetness to balance out the acidity in the tomatoes, but you can skip it if you prefer.
- Vegan option: Use plain non-dairy milk (unsweetened and unflavored), and substitute vegan butter or olive oil.