In the Eleventh Hour

Long before the word “vegetarian” had even entered my vocabulary or tofu occupied a place on my plate, Thanksgiving turkey nonetheless failed to excite any hunger in my young belly. I had yet to cultivate a true appreciation of any greener fare, and yet the side dishes were what always held the key to holiday dinner bliss. Anything starchy, buttery, and sweet was piled on with aplomb, moderation be damned. No matter how they were prepared, potatoes especially were key to a successful meal, often turning up in multiple forms to satisfy all family members. Mashed, roasted, scalloped, or fried, they all had equal billing on the menu, devoured far more enthusiastically than the obligatory bird.

Ironically, this habit has made the main dish beside the point, the backup singer rather than the star of the show. I’d gladly make space for another side dish or two than an extra serving of seitan roulade, no matter how delicious or painstakingly stuffed.

That’s why I have no compunctions about suggesting yet another starchy side, even in this eleventh hour of Thanksgiving prep. Inspired by my grandpa’s classic potato puffs, my rendition lightens the potato load with golden butternut puree. Pumpkin could effortlessly slip into that same role as well, if canned butternut is hard to come by. Crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside, these tiny mountains of mashed potatoes finally introduce the textural interest that plain old smashed spuds lack. Mercifully, their compact design allows for advance prep as well; bake them through as instructed, chill until dinner time, and them pop them back into a 400 degree oven for 5 – 10 minutes, just to heat them through.

Butternut Potato Puffs

1 Pound Yukon Gold Potatoes, Peeled and Diced
1 15-Ounce Can Butternut Squash Puree
3 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine or Coconut Oil, Melted
1 Teaspoon Seasoned Salt
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Poultry Seasoning
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Whole Flax Seeds, Ground

Place your peeled and cut potatoes in a medium-sized pot of cool water. Set over moderate heat and bring up to a boil, reducing the heat to a lively simmer and cooking them until fork-tender. Drain thoroughly.

Mash the potatoes as smoothly as possible before adding in all of the remaining ingredients, mashing and stirring to combine and beating out any lumps. Transfer the mashed mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe the potatoes into small rosettes on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silpats. Aim for them to measure approximately 1 1/2 – 2 inches across the bottom, but there’s no need to break out a ruler here.

Place the whole sheets in the freezer for about an hour, until solid. Once they’ve had ample time to chill out, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, until golden brown all over. Serve right away while still hot.

Makes 1 1/2 – 2 Dozen Puffs

Printable Recipe


36 thoughts on “In the Eleventh Hour

  1. those are beautiful! i’ve got “enough” starches on the table for tomorrow (sacrilege?) but these will definitely grace my holiday season at some point, thanks!

  2. If this wasn’t the 11th hour and I didn’t have to spend part of tomorrow driving to the Thanksgiving dinner location I would totally make these. My husband loves mashed potatoes but i find them kinda boring. These are so cute and sound delicious! Maybe for Christmas dinner…

  3. I agree–the side dishes have been the main point of our Thanksgiving forever! All mashed potatoes all the time. :) These potato puffs look great!

  4. Hannah these are beautiful! It is not the 11th hour here as we are going to celebrating thanksgiving whenever my oven finally gets fixed. So until then I will save this recipe. Piping your little puffs and then baking them is brilliant and quite elegant. I like that I can make these ahead and just pop them in the oven. Take care, BAM

    1. Ugh, I do feel your pain… My stove is broken, too! It has been for over a week and a half, and might be another week until any progress is made. I had to boil the potatoes for this recipe on a hotplate for crying out loud!

      Either way, I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

      1. I know how sad is this… Foodies disabled by appliance issues. Thank goodness you and I can think outside the box for alternatives. I hope the parts for your stove are repaired soon. Take care, BAM

  5. I’m with you on the sides — stuffing and potatoes would make me happy. And maybe a big plate of roasted veggies. I always feel obligated to create a main dish for everyone else, though — especially those who would otherwise be eating bird.

  6. I think the charred bits would be very delicious! And piping them out in rosettes make them look really beautiful! I can imagine them on a table for a party. Maybe I’ll make this for Christmas!

  7. I’ve never really had a thing for turkey either…it’s definitely all about the sides for me!! These puffs look they’d have no trouble outshining the bird!

  8. These are so pretty! I love how you added an interesting textural and flavour to traditional mashed potatoes!

    I’m with you- side dishes always ruled my Thanksgiving. Turkey was always there, but never the star- it’s always a little dry and flavourless anyway meaning what you tasted was the gravy you smothered. I certainly don’t miss it :)

  9. I know exactly how you feel, Hannah. I grew up in a meat-loving Polish family. But my young belly also said no to the flesh, yes to the carby and green goodness (and, well, dessert, too!). These are lovely little stars. Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. These look amazing (of course) and I’m totally with you on the sides! I am not going to wait for a holiday–making these “just because”! :) Hope your Thanksgiving was a happy one! Big hugs–xo Ricki

  11. These are so perfect and pretty. I’ll be making these with a regular meal soon! happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Hannah.

  12. This recipe looks and sound so good that I have immediately printed it for a super fast experiment. Can i use any kind of potato for this recipe?

    1. In a pinch, you can use any “all purpose” type of potato that isn’t particularly waxy or starchy such as Peruvian Blue, Superior, Kennebec, or Katahdin; I just think that Yukon Gold taste better here.

  13. This looks delicious. One drawback for me–my daughter is allergic to flax. Does the flax serve a purpose in this recipe other than taste? Wondering if I could leave it out or if there’s something else you would substitute it with.

    1. Yes, the flax does act as a binder in this recipe and therefore can’t simply be omitted. However, you could try substituting and equal amount of chia seed, which should also yield good results. Let me know how it goes if you do try! :)

  14. My daughter is allergic to a lot of seeds, so I’m nervous about using chia. Do you think applesauce would work? Or some flour (she’s okay with wheat).

    1. I haven’t tried it so I can’t say for sure, but flour would probably be a better bet in this case. You might want to double the amount (to 2 tablespoons) since it doesn’t have the same sort of thickening power. Please report back on how it goes!

  15. Can these be made several days ahead and refrigerated, then reheated? Can they be frozen? Thanks -Karon

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