Mashed potatoes are one of the easiest and most comforting side dishes you can make. They’re delicious with just butter, salt, and pepper, but adding another layer of flavor (like garlic, for instance) can really make them pop. If you’re looking to fancy-up your potatoes with a touch of something special, there’s one unexpected spice that adds a ton of depth and a surprisingly compatible flavor: ground nutmeg. That’s right — nutmeg isn’t just for sprinkling onto pumpkin-flavored coffees.
What Nutmeg Adds to Mashed Potatoes
Nutmeg, typically, is something you may think of only for baked goods and sweets (along with cinnamon, cloves, and allspice). But the bright, pungent spice should not be limited to desserts. In mashed potatoes especially, a touch of nutmeg offers a brilliant counterpoint to the creamy texture, similar to the way a touch of salt can make a sugary food like caramel even more delicious.
For the best flavor, I like to use whole nutmeg, and grate it myself. Unlike pre-ground nutmeg, a whole nut will keep for much longer, ensuring the freshest and strongest flavor. And it’s not hard to grate: Simply use a Microplane, the fine end of a cheese grater, or a spice mill.
A Little Goes a Long Way
The next time you make mashed potatoes, simply add a pinch or two of freshly ground nutmeg along with the cream, butter, salt, and pepper. Stir it up and give it a taste — it should be enough, but feel free to add a little more if you like. The subtle flavor will have your family and guests wondering just what you did to make the potatoes so good, even as they clean their plates and come back for seconds.
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