The TV writer and Instagram personality claims he basically invented mashed potatoes with crispy bits of potato skin on top.

By Jordan Firstman, as told to Ryan Grim
November 10, 2020
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Credit: Illustration by Yeji Kim / Photo by Grant Spanier

The holidays will be different this year. Our series, "The One Dish," collects stories about what we're doing for Thanksgiving that will make us feel right at home.

Thanksgiving is truly different for me every year. One year I visited my sister in Minneapolis and went to an all-lesbian Thanksgiving, which was so intense. It was like 20 lesbians, and I think I was 22 at the time, and I didn't really have much experience with lesbians at that point. I had just started meeting the gays, and that was already like, Whoa, you guys are weird. Then meeting the lesbians I was like, You guys are really weird. There was so much drama. I was expecting it to be this chill Minneapolis lesbian party, but everyone had dated everyone. I was just watching it happen. They were all being so dramatic.

One time I went to my mom's place. She had moved to Idaho to marry this person that she decided she had to marry. I cooked this huge, huge feast. Like really went all-out. It was a very good 12-course thing. We were eating, and her husband is not very talkative so he just kind of sat and ate, and it was fine.

So I'm a huge leftover queen. I absolutely need my turkey sandwich the next day. I have the rolls, the onion, the cold turkey, the mayo. I do it, I really do it. We woke up the next morning, and my mom's husband had eaten every single leftover overnight. It was like Thanksgiving never happened.

I walked downstairs, and he was finishing up. He had this huge salad bowl, and he was just staring out the window, just eating this huge bucket of leftovers. I went into the fridge, and there was nothing. It was really traumatizing. I was like, “But that's our food. You took our food.”

So I have a special recipe. When I was five I created a mashed potato dish and it really stuck with me. I do it every year. I mean now it seems so elementary because we have grown so much as a culture with food. I would peel all the potatoes, save all the skins, and then would fry the skins with garlic and butter. Then I would make the mashed potatoes, always using a lot of dairy to make them really fluffy. And then I would add back in the skins. It gave it this garlicky, buttery crunch. I love a crunch. Anything soft truly needs a crunch for me. So I made that for ten years.

It's a simple recipe, but it works and I think people aren't necessarily prepared for the crunch when they're in a mashed-potato scenario. I think a lot of people were blown away that they never thought to add the crunch and that they needed the crunch. I was a little ahead of the curve with the crunch. It was very 90s, very garlic and butter vibes.

I think I made it last year. Wait, no. Oh my God. I was so mad last year. I went to my dad's place upstate. I have this document of 20 recipes, and I'll usually make maybe 12 of them. And I sent my dad all the ingredients I needed, and when I got upstate he said, “I didn't get any of them. We ordered it all from Whole Foods.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” He was like, “We're doing it from Whole Foods.” I came prepared to cook and make my meals, and now it's Whole Foods? That was actually almost as traumatizing as the leftovers being eaten.

The last couple years I've also done a big latke moment for Thanksgiving, and that just rocks people's worlds. No one’s expecting a latke on Thanksgiving. Really, really fried, almost burnt, very crispy. And I do a mulled cider every year, which is pretty simple. I like it pretty orangy, with wine. It's like a Scandinavian mulled wine. I’m all about that glögg life.

As for this year, I don't have any plans. I’m kind of the guy that's like, “Take me in.” I'm the take-me-in guy. I'm really into being fed. I like to cook, but I want to manifest more situations where I come into a house and food is being made and it's really next level. I want to see really major, intricate dishes, and then I come in and maybe cut an onion, and that's what I do, and drink natural wine and talk and make people laugh.

An ideal situation would be... I'm seeing cozy Laurel Canyon. A group of artists and intellectuals, but they’re funny. They know how to laugh. They're not uptight. And they bought all the food at Erewhon, so it's really, really good, and it's really expensive. And there’s a lot of natural wine and a fireplace. I'm meeting new people that end up becoming friends, and it goes really late. And everyone will say, "Who brought those latkes? Those were so good!" And it was me.