I made this for my office potluck, to which I was to bring mashed potatoes and gravy.
I was out the afternoon that the signup sheet was set out. I received an email about it when I checked my email at home later that day, and thought to myself I must go sign up for mashed potatoes in the morning. I’ve made them for the potluck the past two years.
The first year at this job, I had to politely talk to our international guy, and ask him if he really wanted to make them or if there was something else he was really good at. He yielded, and that was year one. Last year, nobody fought me for the slot.
When I arrived at work the next day and made my way back to the lunchroom, our receptionist, who just joined us in the last few months, had already put her name under the line that read Mashed Potatoes and Gravy. Crum, I thought, looking at the list. I could make something else, but I really wanted to make the mashed potatoes. It’s manageable and predictable, and I have a potato ricer, which gives them a great fluffy texture, and, well – I’m good at it, okay?
I went back to my office, and said to my co-worker, “’Receptionist’s Name’ has already signed up for the mashed potatoes.”
She whirled around in her chair to face me. “No!” she cried, a stricken look on her face. “We can’t have that. I want your mashed potatoes.”
“Well, I don’t know what to do. I’m not going to go up to her and tell her that I want to make them. It would sound like I’m telling her that I’m a better cook than she is. It would just be rude.”
My co-worker sat silent for a moment, looked away, then back at me. “I’ll say something to her.”
“What are you going to say? ‘Hey, we don’t want any of your lousy mashed potatoes’?”
“I’ll think of something.”
A couple hours later, she came to my desk.
“I talked to her.”
“What did you say?”
“We were talking about something else, and I asked her, ‘Hey, have you had a chance to buy the potatoes for the potluck yet?’, and she said ‘No, I haven’t bought them yet but I heard that Jocelyn likes to make the mashed potatoes.’”
My jaw dropped. “You mean…”
My co-worker smiled. “Somebody else beat me to it.”
At the potluck, our receptionist, who made a pilaf dish that was also well-received, said, “I
see why everybody wanted you to make the mashed potatoes.”
I may have used more butter and cream than usual, just to drive the point home.
To appease the meat-eaters, because I try to avoid forcing my dietary practices on those who are not joining me for a meal in my home, I brought meat gravy from Whole Foods and this experimental mushroom gravy, which was a first try for me. The meat gravy from Whole Foods got eaten more than the jarred gravy someone else brought last year. This, however, did get some takers and from them, positive reviews.
12 oz. cremini mushrooms (two boxes worth)
2 large shallots, chopped (about 1 c.)
2 T. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 t. paprika
1 T. olive oil
1/4 c. tamari
1/4 c. sherry
Water to process
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and clean them thoroughly using a damp paper towel or small brush. Place the cleaned mushrooms in a glass roasting pan along with the shallots, olive oil, garlic cloves and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, remembering that the mushrooms will lose much of their volume through roasting, and toss thoroughly to combine. Place the mushrooms in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until their liquid has been released and largely evaporated and the mushrooms are wrinkled in appearance. Remove from the oven and place in blender container. Add the olive oil, paprika, tamari and sherry, plus a small amount of water for processing if needed, and blend on high speed until totally smooth. Taste and correct seasoning if needed. It needs a lot of pepper, perhaps more than one would think.
Reheat carefully if needed. Serve over mashed potatoes, use as a basis for soup, or as an ingredient in other dishes.