Ah, all those New Year’s resolutions are relentless. Who knew we were so lazy, so fat, or such wastrels? Or that self-improvement could feel so dogged? The parking lot at the Y has been extra crowded this week, as everyone in bright, brand spanking new sneakers eagerly packs into the morning Jazzercise group or self-consciously trots on the treadmill. For once, I am part of the in-crowd: I’ve met my 10,000 steps goal for the past five days. I’ve also eschewed cheap white wine, sigh. And I am being more careful about what I eat – which is easy considering what a sybaritic life we briefly led over the holidays: French 75s, sparkling wine, peppermint bark, Chex mix, shortbread drizzled with ganache, cakes, roasted turkey, spaghetti Bolognese, beef tenderloin, bacon, Béarnaise sauce, brandy butter – and that is just the beginning of the alphabet of delicious calorie-laden holiday treats. Perhaps New Year’s resolutions are just pressing the reset button. Sticks and twigs in 2024?
We roasted a turkey one night during the holidays, as one does. It really is almost as simple as roasting a chicken, it just presents dramatically. There was more help in the kitchen than we normally have. There were helpful hands to baste the bird every half hour, and even more to peel a mountain of potatoes. I watched helplessly as we ended up with a 5-pound bag peeled, cooked and mashed. For four people (and one clueless, yet ever-hopeful, dog). You could see that bowl of mashed potatoes from outer space: there were more potatoes than we could possibly eat in one sitting. And yet, we tried mightily, piling our plates high with that buttery, starchy goodness that first night; candles lit, wine decanted, napkins in laps. They warmed us later as we sat by the fire, glowing with wine and bonhomie.
Then we ate potatoes with leftover turkey sandwiches for lunch. We ate more repurposed as potato pancakes, with eggs and sausage balls, for breakfast. And like Strega Nona’s pasta pot, we still had more potatoes. After our company departed we confronted the refrigerator, packed with leftovers: a motley assortment of Tupperware, Saran-wrapped bowls, Baggies, aluminum foil packets and that towering bowl of mashed potatoes. We turned to the internet, which led us to Shepherd’s Pie, which is what we call Cottage Pie, because we use ground beef. (You might want to be more authentic and use ground lamb.) And we made a large Shepherd’s Pie. Too large for two people. But it was perfectly suited to this season of New Year’s resolutions: it used up the last bit of potato. We could check “Thrifty” off on our list of New Year’s virtues, because we hadn’t wasted any potatoes, and managed to get three more meals out of that original batch. And now I would like a nice green, leafy salad. Dressing on the side, please.
Here is the recipe for the original batch of mashed potatoes. I think you can safely name it, just like you named your sour dough starter during COVID, as it might be around for a couple of weeks. Milk Simmered Mashed Potatoes
This is the recipe I used for our Shepherd’s Pie, but there are plenty out there floating around cyberspace, even vegetarian versions: Shepherd’s Pie
Guinness even makes a Shepherd’s Pie mix, that you can keep in with your spices, in case you ever find yourself, like us, with an embarrassment of mashed potatoes: Guinness Shepherd’s Pie Mix
Go easy on yourself with all your good New Year intentions. Slow and steady, with a side of potatoes.
“During all this, Mary had been extracting eyes from potatoes with such energy that they had been flying around the kitchen like hailstones. At this moment, one hit me in the eye and caused a momentary pause in the conversation.”
― Agatha Christie