Garlic Mashed Potato Knishes

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield: About



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Fat, fragrant cloves of garlic, six or seven at a time, were often sautéed whole with foods in my mother’s kitchen. No one bothered to fish them out before serving—whoever unearthed the little treasures from a pile of chicken was as much to be envied as the one who landed the wishbone.

As a teenager, I was smugly pleased to read that some food savant dubbed garlic “the ketchup of the intellectuals,” gratified that I had been nurtured since babyhood to stand with Camus and Huysmans.

Readers who have noticed my lavish use of the “stinking rose” will note such love is not merely familial—it is ancestral. Stoked with Pharaoh’s garlic when forced to build his pyramids, Jews loved it still when wandering in the desert and pined for it as much as for the winy, thirst-quenching pomegranates they had left behind.

In these knishes, where phyllo substitutes for the traditional pastry dough, light and fluffy garlic mashed potatoes stand in for the accustomed onion-potato filling. The garlic does not stop there, however. It is used to flavor the melted butter brushed so deliciously between each flaky phyllo layer.

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  • 10–12 sheets of frozen phyllo, plus several extra to allow for tearing
  • 3 large russet (baking) potatoes, or about pounds Yukon Gold, peeled and cubed
  • sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter (you may need up to 4 tablespoons more, depending on how generously you butter the phyllo)
  • 3–4 heaping tablespoons finely minced fresh garlic (according to taste)
  • About ¾ cup heavy cream, half-and-half, or whole milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Oil for greasing the pan


  1. Thaw the frozen phyllo sheets slowly in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight. Remove the unopened package from the refrigerator about 2 hours before you begin the recipe to allow the sheets to come to room temperature.
  2. In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, slowly melt the butter with the garlic over low heat, stirring, until the garlic just begins to color, 5–7 minutes. Don’t allow it to cook beyond the palest blond color—it should be tender, not crunchy. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and let the garlic sit in the warm butter so the flavors continue to mingle until the potatoes are ready.
  4. Mash the potatoes until smooth, using your favorite tool—a food mill, ricer, potato masher, or electric mixer (but not a blender or food processor). Whisk in about 4 tablespoons of the garlic butter (use a slotted spoon to retrieve most of the minced garlic and add that too). Beat in the cream, half-and-half, or milk and season to taste with salt and pepper. The potatoes should be very smooth and light, like very thick whipped cream (punctuated with bits of garlic), not dense and pasty like potato fillings you could slice with a knife. It will stiffen somewhat more when chilled. If necessary, add a bit more half-and-half, cream, or milk. Beat in the egg, let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until cold.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets.
  6. Remove the phyllo sheets from the package and carefully unroll them on a damp kitchen towel. Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, cut the stack of sheets in half, then cut these two stacks in half again, forming 4 equal stacks of rectangles (exact size will depend on brand of phyllo used). Immediately cover the cut phyllo sheets with a large piece of plastic wrap and another damp towel to prevent them from drying out.
  7. Work with one phyllo sheet at a time, keeping the rest covered with the plastic wrap and towel. Remove 1 sheet from the stack and brush it lightly and quickly with the melted garlic butter so it doesn’t dry out. Carefully lay another sheet evenly on top of the first, and brush with the melted butter. Lay a third sheet on top, brushing lightly again with butter. Spoon about 1¼–2 tablespoons of filling along the short bottom edge, leaving a 1-inch border at the sides. Fold the bottom edge toward the center so that it partially covers the filling, then fold the sides in. Roll up the knish, jelly-roll fashion, into a neat, cylindrical package. Brush the knish lightly with more melted butter over all surfaces and place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet. Keep the baking sheet lightly covered with plastic wrap as you continue making knishes with the remaining phyllo and filling, using the second baking sheet as you fill up the first. If necessary, melt some more butter and add it to the garlic butter. (You can refrigerate the knishes at this point, well wrapped, up to 1 day before baking.)
  8. Bake the knishes for 20–25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot or warm.