Mashed potatoes are one of the most popular side dishes in American cuisine. It is versatile, easy to make, inexpensive and comforting. The basic composition of mashed potatoes consists of boiled potatoes, butter, milk or cream and seasoning to taste. Healthier options replace the dairy with chicken or vegetable stock. However, the dish can accommodate stronger flavors. Garlic, horseradish and herbs are popular add-ins. Because the dish is so versatile, it can be made to accompany a variety of entrees.
Menus featuring poultry often include mashed potatoes as a side dish. It is among the most common side dishes served with fried chicken. Many Americans consider it a traditional holiday dish, frequently included in Thanksgiving dinners alongside roasted turkey. The combination of poultry and mashed potatoes is especially prevalent in Southern cuisine, also referred to as "home-style cooking" or "soul food." However, mashed potatoes are not exclusively a regional Southern dish. Their popularity is constant from coast to coast.
Mashed potatoes frequently accompany beef as well. While restaurants typically serve baked potatoes with steaks, mashed potatoes are a popular replacement. They are often served beside meatloaf and roast beef. Mashed potato recipes that feature strong ingredients, like garlic and horseradish, usually accompany beef entrees.
Overall, people serve pork less frequently than poultry or beef, but it is still widely eaten. Pork and mashed potato pairings are common, but that is due mostly to the popularity of mashed potatoes. The low-key flavor of the dish is a particularly suitable foil to sweet pork dishes, such as barbecued pork or glazed ham.
Fish is a lighter entree selection, but can be accompanied by weighty mashed potatoes nonetheless. Since there are alternative ways to make mashed potatoes, cooks preparing fish often lighten the standard mashed potato recipe to make it more suitable for the menu. This can be done by replacing the dairy components of the standard recipe or whipping the potatoes instead of mashing them. While the preparation is different, diners still consider the two variations the same dish. People will most likely include mashed potatoes with fish if they are serving fried fish, as mashed potatoes accommodate the starchiness and oil of fried foods.