Mashed Potatoes with Crema Mexicana

Crema Mexicana 2013I don’t get the immigration debate. Why would the U.S. want to keep out any people who have invented something as delightful as crema Mexicana–or any of the other foods from South and Central America? A nation that let lutefisk in but tries to keep empanadas out ought to re-think its policy.

Lutefisk aside, food seems to get better when cultures come together, even under troubling circumstances. Where would Italy be without Native American tomatoes–and where would America be without the pizza and spaghetti that Italian immigrants brought back? Or yams and okra, or tacos and burritos, or bratwurst . . .

These mashed potatoes are the result of just such a fortuitous collision. Crema Mexicana is a close cousin of sour cream, creme fraiche, and quark. Sour cream is the typical substitute north of the border, but crema Mexicana is less tart, richer in taste, and thinner. (Typically, it’s about the consistency of cake batter.) You can make it from scratch, a day or two before you need it, by combining whipping cream and sour cream–one recipe is here. Crema also comes in varieties from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and probably every other country south of the border, and I haven’t encountered any that I didn’t love. (There is a good discussion of the differences here at eGullet.)

Crema Mexicana adds depth and richness to mashed potatoes without stretching them very far past the traditional. Your guests won’t even realize they’re a experiencing fusion cuisine–they’ll just think that they’re eating the best mashed potatoes they’ve ever had.
Mashed Potatoes 2013 15
Mashed Potatoes with Crema Mexicana

4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 – 3″ chunks
4 Tbsp. unsalted  butter
1 cup crema Mexicana (NOTE: Some brands are closer to the consistency of sour cream than typical crema Mexicana. If you are using a thicker version, you may need to add more half and half.)
1/4 cup half and half
2 tsp. salt

Put potatoes in a 6-qt. or larger pot and cover with water. Add about 1/2 tsp. salt to water. Bring to a boil, uncovered, on high heat. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover and cook until potatoes are very tender (that is, they break apart easily when pierced with a fork), at least 10 minutes. (NOTE: If pot threatens to boil over, reduce heat to low; this can alter cooking time.)

While potatoes are cooking, measure out other ingredients. Once potatoes are done, drain and return immediately to pot. Add remaining ingredients and cover. Let sit, covered, until you are ready to mash potatoes, up to 30 minutes. (I’m quite careless on this last point and suspect I’ve let them sit up to an hour, but they always seem to be okay.)

At this point you can mash the potatoes with a hand masher or mix with an electric mixer in the pot. If the mix is too dry, add more half-and-half. Once potatoes are blended to the right consistency, taste them, stir in more salt if needed, and serve immediately.

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