There is (obviously, clearly) nothing wrong with “plain,” butter-and-cream-flavored mashed potatoes. They are without flaw. But sometimes, it’s fun to gild the lily, as perfection is not necessarily decadence — to be decadent, one has to lean into excess. That’s what bagna cauda mashed potatoes are — excessive.
Bagna cauda, if you will recall, is a dip — the dip of luxury. It’s made by slowly cooking an entire tin of anchovies with an entire bulb of garlic in olive oil until the two mellow and meld into a slightly sweet mass of umami. Then you add butter. Its dull, beige appearance belies its deep, developed flavour and, though the anchovies are detectable to anyone who is familiar with the flavour, any outright fishiness is tempered by the sweet, simmered garlic. In short: It’s amazing and I love it very much.
Bagna cauda is traditionally served as a dip for seasonal vegetables, including roasted potatoes, so swirling it into a mash seemed like a fairly logical thing to do. It turns out I was correct (once again), but not as correct as I initially suspected. Though the flavour imparted by the bagna was bangin’, the little bits of chewy garlic created textural issues, breaking up and distracting from an otherwise smooth mash.
Luckily, the solution was simple. I strained out half of the oil and butter (which had been infused with the garlic and little fishes), mixed that into the potatoes, and spooned the little garlic bits on top. Perfect.
To make these luxurious, over-the-top, absolutely extra mashed potatoes, you will need:
- 3/4 cup of olive oil
- 10 large cloves of garlic
- 1 can of oil-packed anchovies (should be 12 in one can)
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 1-1.4kg of yellow potatoes, cubed into 2-inch chunks (you will have extra bagna cauda, but that’s ok)
- 2 tablespoons of mayo (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pan over very low heat (I used my lowest setting on my electric stove), and mince your garlic (you can use a knife or pulse it in the food processor; the former will give you a more consistent mince but the latter is faster). Add the garlic and the anchovies to the oil and let cook over low for about 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and mashing with a wooden spoon until the garlic is fragrant and the anchovies have completely melted into the oil. (Be sure to keep the heat very low — you do not want the garlic to brown even a little bit.)
While the bagna cauda is simmering, cook your potatoes in a big pot of boiling salted water until they are fork tender. Drain them, and return them to the pot to drive off excess moisture. Run the potatoes through a ricer or mash with a masher. Once the bagna cauda is ready, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Strain away about half of the infused fat, then add it to the potatoes and stir and mash until it is fully incorporated. Add the mayo to help everything emulsify, then taste and add more of the bagna cauda oil, if desired. Drizzle the remaining bagna cauda on top of the potatoes just before serving.