The Recipe: How to make smooth, rich and fluffy mashed potatoes – sure, serve them right away but these mashed potatoes are especially designed for cooking ahead of time to serve later. This makes them great for serving a crowd and perfect for parties and family gatherings. Trust me, making the potatoes ahead of time takes so much pressure off the cook. Hooray! No more making potatoes at the last minute!
The Story: Memories of my dad making mashed potatoes. He was such a ham!
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.
So it 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.
Time to table: 50 minutes
Makes 10 cups (easy to halve and double)
- 4 pounds (1860g) baking potatoes
- 1/2 cup (1 stick, 115g) butter, room temperature, cubed
- 8 ounces (225g) Neufchatel (low-fat cream cheese), room temperature
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170g) sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (don’t skip, a key ingredient)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- A pat of salted butter, optional
- Fresh thyme for garnish, optional
PREP Wash and peel the potatoes, drop into cold water as each one is peeled. Cut potatoes into same-size pieces and rinse under running water.
COOK 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, then drain off the cooking water.
WARM THE ADDITIONS While the potatoes cook, in a small saucepan, gently melt the butter on low heat. Stir in the Neufchatel, sour cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper until melted. Keep warm but do not allow to boil.
COOK OFF EXCESS WATER Return the drained potatoes to the still-hot pot, leave the pot dry but turn on the heat to about medium high. Stay close, watching carefully, you want to cook off the excess liquid that the potatoes will express without burning them. This takes two or three or even five minutes.
MASH If needed, transfer potatoes to a bowl for mashing. With a hand mixer or a potato masher, mash the potatoes by themselves until almost smooth. Then mix in warm butter-cream cheese-sour cream mixture until light and fluffy. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
TO SERVE RIGHT AWAY Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with a slice of butter and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Serve immediately.
TO SERVE LATER Transfer potatoes to a buttered shallow baking dish and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Cover with foil and refrigerate for up to two days. Return to room temperature for several hours, then reheat at 350F for about 60 minutes; leave foil on for the first 30 minutes, then uncover, stir and finish reheating for the last 30 minutes.
Perfect Party Potatoes, Ready for the Oven
More Favorite Potato Recipes
This Year, Make It a Make-Ahead Thanksgiving
© Copyright 2008, 2014 & 2015 Kitchen Parade