Number 91 of my list of the top 100 (mostly Southern) meals and side dishes of all time.
We were not big potato eaters when I was growing up. My mom was a stay-at-home housewife and did most of the cooking, and baked or mashed potatoes weren’t high on her list of dinnertime sides. Rice and black-eyed peas, however, were. And as much as my dad loved black-eyed peas and rice, he did not fail to let us all know that he sure missed an occasional side of mashed potatoes, rolls, and gravy. I think the sore point here was the gravy, but it could have been the rolls.
To this day I’m not sure why, but we had very little bread at our evening meals. I didn’t know that most Southern families can’t live if they don’t have biscuits, rolls, or corn bread in the evening. When I prepare soup, for instance, my wife still looks around the table, in the oven, and on top of the stove, wondering where the corn bread is. Mostly, it’s not. Like my mom’s meals, I don’t fix a bread unless . . . well, unless my wife demands it beforehand. I keep several cornbread mixes in small packages hidden in the cabinet for just such emergencies. And the resulting cornbread is all my wife’s. I just don’t need it with my soup. She does.
And I don’t think my dad needed mashed potatoes and rolls, either. What he needed was the gravy. Dad was a gravy-loving fool. He’d pour gravy (when he was fortunate enough to have some) over every food item on his plate—the meat, regardless what it was—rice, potatoes, rolls, sliced tomatoes (now this I love, too), green beans, okra—hell—he’d put gravy on everything.
Then again, what’s not to like about gravy? It’s lots of fat, white flour, and a ton of salt, all mixed into a gooey mass, ready to flavor whatever it lands upon.
I love gravy, too, but rarely prepare it. Actually, I can’t make it taste worth having. I can’t get it to taste like Mom’s. Which is easy to understand because I don’t put lard or bacon fat or beef fat in anything, and I only add about one-tenth the salt Mom used in everything. I’m not the healthiest cook around, but I do have my limits. I was in my late forties before I realized my fried eggs, sunny-side-up, didn’t taste as good as Dad’s when I was a kid was because I fried mine in butter and he used pure bacon fat. That’s also the reason his doctor forbade him to eat any more eggs, too. Poor Dad. He thought it was the egg. It wasn’t. It was the bacon fat.
Back to my recipe—Blue-Cheesy Mashed Potatoes. I think the main reason I like this dish is because I don’t need gravy. The fat from the blue cheese and butter make an acceptable alternative, and the potatoes taste great.
One other little bit of advice. The recipe calls for garlic. Don’t omit it. I tried fixing it without garlic other night, as a test of this recipe without it. Yuck. It was awful. Use the garlic. I quit eating the potatoes until I added the garlic. Then, wow! Great dish.
Blue-Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
• 4 cups water, salted.
• 3 large or six small potatoes, cut in 1-inch pieces. I leave the peels on.
• ¼ cup sunflower/safflower/olive oil mix
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
• 1/3 cup milk (go for whole—what the hell)
• 6 tablespoons butter
• teaspoon of salt
• ½ tsp. black pepper
Bring water to a boil, drop potatoes in water, and reduce heat to a light boil for 20 minutes. Drain. Pour into mixing bowl. Mash. Add oil to a sauce pan, turn to medium heat, add garlic and sauté until tender, 3 – 4 minutes. Add garlic and oil, blue cheese, milk, butter, salt and pepper to potatoes. Mash again and mix thoroughly.
And before I go, let me tell you about a short conversation I had with my mom when she was in her later years. It was a complaint about Dad, which was rare from my mother. She always held him in high esteem when she talked about him to us kids.
“He never liked my gravy,” Mom said. “He complained it wasn’t as good as his mother’s. That’s why we only had it on rare occasions. If he wanted gravy, I told him to go home and ask his mother to make him some. But he was a smart one, your dad. He never took me up on it. And after that, he would praise my gravy as if it were brown ambrosia. Yep. Smart man.”
Mama didn’t raise no dumb kids, either. If she were still alive, I’ll bet I could call her up, ask her to make me some gravy, and when I drove the 400 miles to her house, It would be sitting in the gravy boat, waiting for me. You see, I bragged on my mom’s cooking everywhere I went. It’s one habit a good son learns to use with abandon.
All this talk of gravy has made me want some. I re-heated the mashed potatoes and a box of Beef Gravy. I poured a big dollop of gravy on top of the potatoes—ugh! The gravy didn’t add one thing to the potatoes.
This recipe is now officially named “Blue-Cheesy Mashed Potatoes Without Gravy.”
Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad.
Y’all enjoy. Just don’t overdo it.