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Good gravy, it's Thanksgiving already 

The big feast of the year is only three weeks away. To help get you in the mood, a primer of mashed potato dos and don'ts.

DO: Branch out beyond Idaho. Consider the Yukon gold, blue Peruvian and Russian fingerling potato varieties, to name a few.

Rinse potatoes well and remove any brown spots or signs of rotting.

Chop potatoes into manageable pieces so they don't take forever to cook.

Salt the cooking water; it makes an enormous difference in taste.

Cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 20 minutes. There's nothing worse than an undercooked boiled potato.

Reserve some of the cooking water. You may need it while mashing, and it's a low-fat way to moisten those spuds.

Mash potatoes a bit before adding liquid and while potatoes are still warm. Liquids should be warm but not boiling.

Go wild and try buttermilk this year instead of milk, cream or butter. Consider the addition of olive oil, potato water, roasted garlic, chopped fresh herbs or horseradish.

Get to know your hand masher if you like lumpy potatoes; for smoother spuds, a food mill or potato ricer is in order.

Taste for salt and other flavorings before the bowl is delivered to your guests.

DON'T: Use a food processor; those poor things will turn into wallpaper paste.

Try to save time by boiling spuds in advance, then mashing while cold. You may as well throw those potatoes in the garbage.

Worry about removing every lump. Lumpy potatoes reveal the character of the cook.

Forget the salt!

Fret: It's only a heap of mashed potatoes, and more often than not, they turn out just fine.-- Kim O'Donnel

Coming next week: apple and cranberry sauces. Questions about your T-Day meal? E-mail kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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