I am still sick–this time from an allergy attack after driving our old, mildew-scented truck to town on Friday–so on Sunday I settled on the couch with tea and a box of tissues and watched college football highlights.
Nebraska had lost Saturday. I mean, they really lost. It was bad. So bad it made all the highlight reels on the college game review shows.
So I quickly switched to the cooking channels.
Not that I’m cooking.
But the Thanksgiving-themed cooking shows were absolutely captivating. Various chefs on two different channels (I switched back and forth) prepared all sorts of new and different Thanksgiving dishes. They also modified old standard recipes and explained the scientific aspects behind each step in the cooking process.
My head was a little fuzzy so I didn’t quite understand the “potato starch” addition to cool-not-hot turkey drippings/gravy and the resulting pipe cleaner demonstration of potato starch molecules and how hot gravy coagulates into sludge, but it’s not important (I hope).
It was the making of whipped potatoes that scared the dickens out of me.
First the tv chef peeled potatoes (no prob-Banjo Man usually does that for me) and then he sliced them into thin slices by using one of those “mandolin” things. He used a special tool to hold the potato so he wouldn’t slice his knuckles.
Then he lifted them gently into a large cooking pot filled with cold water and put them in the refrigerator overnight. This was to soak every bit of starch right out of them and, he insisted, was a very important, crucial step.
The next day, which would be Thanksgiving and roughly 2 hours before dinner, he lifted them GENTLY (for some reason, “gently” was crucial due to clinging starch molecules) out of the pan and into a colander. Then they were placed–yeah, gently–into a cooking pot and covered with milk. Yep, milk. They were simmered on the stove until done.
The milk was strained out and we were told to save it for that turkey chowder we’d make the day after Thanksgiving. We were told to save a cup of the milk.
Okay, I wasn’t too stressed. Yet. (I think Banjo Man owned one of those mandolin slicers once, but I think it went to the dump years ago. )
And then…..our compulsive and totally delusional tv chef brought out a ricer. Because he said smashing the cooked potatoes with a potato masher would make the potatoes taste like glue. There was more detail about starch molecules, but I’d zoned out.
So he riced the entire colander of cooked potatoes and promised it would only take three minutes and be worth the time and trouble. (Sure, I have time to rice hot potatoes an hour before serving dinner, don’t you?)
But our insane tv chef wasn’t finished!!! Now he poured the one cup of milk into the bowl and whipped the potatoes! FOR FIFTEEN SECONDS, no more, no less. FIFTEEN SECONDS, he insisted. Or those molecules would rise up from the bowl and glue his face to the kitchen counter. Or something.
Clearly it was time to switch channels, and thank God I did. Because on some show called The Kitchen there were five cooks trading Thanksgiving recipes. And the young guy on the left said he always used his mother’s recipe for mashed potatoes and it could be done ahead of time and frozen, and the secret ingredient was……surprise……cream cheese!
Cream cheese? I use cream cheese!! I do my potatoes ahead of time, too, just like this guy’s mother!!!
Sure enough, he went on to demonstrate the recipe. He never mentioned starch or molecules. He just whipped that baby together, stuck it in the oven and presented it to the other chefs as a done deal.
So here it is, the do-ahead whipped potatoes casserole that has saved my sanity for 44 years.
The Creamiest, Butteriest, Tastiest Mashed Potatoes Ever
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Recipe courtesy of Jeff Mauro
1 hr 20 min
1 hr 5 min
5 pounds Idaho russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 ounces cream cheese
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened, plus more for greasing dish
1 cup half-and-half, warmed
1/2 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 cloves garlic, zested
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
For the mashed potatoes: Add the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt to a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook over medium-high heat until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set aside to dry.
Whip together the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed until thoroughly blended, about 2 minutes. Add the still-warm potatoes alternating with the half-and-half. Whip until blended. Add in the pepper and garlic and season with salt to taste.
Grease a 9-by-14-inch glass baking dish with butter and pour the potato mixture into it. Bake right away, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
When ready to bake and serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the topping: Pour the melted butter over the potato mixture and bake until bubbly and slightly golden, about 45 minutes. Garnish with the chives and parsley. The potatoes can be kept warm in a 200-degree oven or tented with foil until ready to serve, up to 2 hours.
Recipe courtesy of Jeff Mauro
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