My go-to recipe for make-ahead mashed potatoes. Perfect for parties, potlucks and special occasions.
When I was a child, Dad was in charge of mashing the potatoes at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Sunday Dinner, a stage-worthy performance of dramatic flourish and culinary tension.
Act One: Dad smashed the potatoes with a hand masher, but just so far. “You want lumps,” he admonished. “This isn’t Hungry Jack.”
Act Two: He swiped a tasteful of potatoes with the tip of his little finger, then air-smacked his lips, tasting in turn for smoothness, creaminess and saltiness. In the next minutes, he would add what sure looked like equal measures of butter and cream – making my young eyes widen and later, my nutrition-conscious eyes wince – and plenty of salt and pepper.
Act Three: Tableside, we moaned over Dad’s comfort-perfect mashed potatoes, declaring them ‘heavenly’. Still, like cooks everywhere, Dad was more critical of his results than anyone else, smacking his lips once more, asserting that another pat of butter would make all the difference.
Is it any wonder I have celestial standards when it comes to mashed potatoes? No ‘diet’ mashed potatoes here, thank you, at least not for special occasions. So when my dad’s not around to make the potatoes, I turn to these wonderful make-ahead mashed potatoes. The butter, cream cheese and sour cream combine in a smooth consistency (with a few lumps of potato!) and reveal a certain earthy sweetness when the potatoes are made a day ahead.
PERFECT MAKE-AHEAD MASHED POTATOES
Time to table: 50 minutes
Makes 8 cups (easy to halve and double)
- 4 pounds baking potatoes, washed, peeled, cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup salted or unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
- 8 – 12 ounces Neufchatel (low-fat cream cheese), room temperature
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces) sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (don’t skip, a key ingredient)
- Kosher salt to taste
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- A pat of salted butter, optional
- Fresh thyme for garnish, optional
Place potatoes in a large saucepan, barely cover with water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer; cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and return potatoes to hot pot or a large mixing bowl.
Mash til almost smooth. Mix in the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Mix in the sour cream and nutmeg. Season to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl. If using, top with a slice of butter and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Serve immediately.
Alternatively, transfer potatoes to a buttered shallow baking dish and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Cover with foil and refrigerate. Return to room temperature, reheat at 300F for about 30 minutes.
To save a dish, use a cooking pot in which a hand mixer can be used.
Baking potatoes are the starchy potatoes, ones like russets and Idahos. (Did you know? An Idaho potato is a russet that’s been grown in Idaho, branded by location like Parmesan Reggiano from Italy!) Some times baking potatoes are described as ‘mealy’ potatoes since the flesh is a little dryer. I haven’t tested this recipe with any other kind of potato (why mess with perfection?) and think that a baking potato’s flesh is perfectly suited for this particular recipe, which adds moisture with the dairy ingredients and can be made ahead of time and reheated.
For mashing, I love the control afforded by a hand-held electric mixer. Otherwise, mash by hand or use a stand mixer. Never mash potatoes in a food processor unless you favor mashed potatoes in a glue-like mess.
The potatoes will reheat more evenly and quickly when a shallow baking dish is used.
More Potato Recipes
This Year, Make It a Make-Ahead Thanksgiving
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