Whether you bake, fry, scallop, mash or smash them, potatoes are one of the hardest-working ingredients in the kitchen, especially this time of year. Because mashed potatoes will be served at nearly every Thanksgiving dinner, grocery stores often have them on sale right now. Look for deals on the 5- and 10-pound bags and start getting creative. With just a little butter and salt, a plain spud will go far, but here are a few ways to spiff them up.

— Addie Broyles

Scalloped Potatoes

These scalloped potatoes can be prepped up to a day ahead. Prepare them up to the point of adding the cheese, then refrigerate. Continue with the recipe when ready to bake and serve.

It might seem unusual to refrigerate the potatoes just before putting them in the oven. This allows the cheese to brown in the oven; if the cheese was sprinkled over hot potatoes it would melt into the milk before it could brown.

8 large (about 3 pounds) Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick

6 cloves garlic

4 to 5 cups milk

1/2 bunch fresh thyme

1/4 bunch parsley

1/4 pound grated Gruyere cheese

Salt and black pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes and garlic. Add the milk and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.

Using kitchen twine, tie the thyme and parsley into a bundle and add to the milk. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are slightly tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Transfer the potatoes to a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan. Discard the herbs, then pour the milk over the potatoes. Refrigerate until cooled to lukewarm. Sprinkle the potatoes with the cheese, then bake until the milk is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.

Roasted Garlic And Sage Mashed Potatoes

Take your mashed potatoes to another level with garlic roasted in simmering oil and fried fresh sage. A potato ricer or food mill produces especially smooth potatoes, but if you don't have those you can just skip ahead to the mixer step.

5 large or 10 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks

1 head garlic

Canola or vegetable oil, for roasting the garlic

15 fresh sage leaves

1/4 cup heavy cream

6 Tbsp. butter

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan of lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and trim the garlic cloves, then place in a small saucepan. Add enough oil to cover, then set over low heat and bring to a simmer. As soon as the oil is simmering, add the sage and cook until slightly crispy, about 1 minute.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the sage and transfer to paper towels to drain. Leave the garlic in the oil and continue simmering until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain and cool. Finely chop the garlic and sage.

When the potatoes are tender, drain them. Press them through a food mill or potato ricer into a large bowl. Add the cream, butter, garlic and sage, then use an electric mixer to beat the potatoes until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 6 to 8.

— Ryan King, for the Associated Press