FARGO - Back in our cruise ship days with Holland America Line, the culinary staff would celebrate the line's Dutch heritage once each cruise with a Dutch-themed lunch buffet. This event featured a mix of Dutch and Indonesian dishes and was always highly anticipated by the crew, especially those with roots in Holland or Indonesia.
The spread included traditional foods from the Netherlands, like Dutch meatballs in gravy (like Scandinavian meatballs) and Rookworst (Dutch smoked sausage), as well as exotic dishes from Indonesia, including a beautiful pink tandoori chicken and savory bami goreng noodles.
I loved Dutch lunch days because it presented an opportunity for me to try new dishes like bami goreng noodles as well as Dutch Bitterballen (fried meatballs) and Rookworst, a smoked sausage similar to a hot dog, but better.
But, for my Dutch friends, there was one simple dish that made them swoon with delight whenever it was served in the way that you knew this was something their mothers had made for them "Hutspot!" they would squeal, even the burly deck and engine officers.
When pronounced in Dutch, hutspot sounds to an English-speaking ear like "hodgepodge," thus I've named my recipe Hodgepodge Potatoes. Hutspot is a humble yet comforting mash of potatoes, carrots, onions, butter and cream. At first, I didn't understand the appeal - although I was becoming an adventurous eater, my roots were still in North Dakota where our mashed potatoes were simple, plain and white.
While I was keen to embrace the more exotic foods on the buffet, I was well into the sixth month of my first stint before I finally decided to try hutspot and find out what all the fuss was about. It seems funny to me now, 20 years later, because before I started working on cruise ships, I had a very limited palate and these potatoes would have been right up my alley.
As it turns out, they were and still are. With their pretty peachy-pink color, Hodgepodge Potatoes are not only pleasing to the eye, they are also comforting, filling and delicious. While they're traditionally made with carrots and onions, the ship's crew would often mix up the ingredients and feature sauerkraut hutspot, which was surprisingly delicious, or the blander version with kale and cabbage in a nod to healthier eating, I guess.
Making hutspot is easy and requires just one large pot and a potato masher or large wooden spoon. For this recipe, I use four large russet potatoes, three to four medium or large carrots, two yellow onions, a quarter-cup of butter and a half-cup of heavy cream. You can make hutspot at least two days in advance of serving, and it also freezes wonderfully for several months.
Easy to make and versatile enough to serve with a variety of main dishes, Hodgepodge Potatoes are a cold-weather comfort and exciting enough for me to shout "Hutspot!" whenever they're on our table.
Note from Sarah: Whenever I showcase the bowl in the photo with the potatoes, I always receive inquiries from readers who want to know where I bought it. The bowl was made by Tama Smith of Prairie Fire Pottery in Beach, N.D. You can find her pottery online at prairiefirepottery.com.
Dutch Hutspot/Hodgepodge Potatoes
Serves: 6 to 8
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 medium or large carrots, peeled and diced into half-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, diced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ cup cream or milk
¼ cup butter (half a stick), cut into small pieces and at room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh parsley or chives, finely chopped, to garnish
Place the cut potatoes, carrots and onions in a large stockpot and fill with water, covering the vegetables by at least an inch of water. Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Cook over high heat until a rolling boil is achieved, then reduce to medium heat and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender and starting to fall apart, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove from heat and drain the water. Return the vegetables to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the moisture has mostly evaporated, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Use a potato masher or large wooden spoon to mash the vegetables together until well combined but still somewhat chunky. Add the butter and use the masher to incorporate it into the potato mixture.
Slowly add the cream, starting with ¼ cup, and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to stir it into the potatoes until well combined. Add more cream if mixture is too thick and stir aggressively until incorporated. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
Transfer mashed potatoes to a serving dish, garnish with fresh parsley or chives and serve.
This dish may be made at least 2 days in advance and reheated before serving, or frozen for 2 to 3 months in an airtight container.