Mashed potatoes are often the foundation of meals at family gatherings, but when you’re cooking them for a crowd, it can be a time consuming process. The good news is that with a few delicious additions, you can make a big batch of creamy mashed potatoes days, or even weeks, ahead of time and reheat them right before serving time.
In case you’re wondering, there are a couple of easy tricks to getting nice, smooth mashed potatoes without lumps. First up, chose a starchier variety of potato like Russet or Yukon Gold, or a combo of the two of them. Next, be sure to start your peeled potatoes in cold water, to ensure they cook evenly. Speaking of even cooking, don’t forget to stir them once or twice as they bubble away in the pot – the ones on the bottom will cook more quickly. Follow the instructions below to drain, dry and mash the cooked potatoes prior to whipping together with the delicious add-ins. The last tip: dotting the top of your pre-made potatoes with butter prior to reheating will give them that freshly-prepared flavour and aroma that people love.
Peel potatoes and cut into uniform sized pieces (about 1” is ideal). Place potatoes in a pot and add cold water until it covers the potatoes by about 1 inch. Add 1 teaspoon salt.
Cover pot and bring potatoes to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium. Cook until tender when pierced with a fork; about 15 minutes.
While potatoes are cooking, beat softened cream cheese and sour cream in mixing bowl with an electric mixer. Set aside.
Put the milk in a glass measure and heat in the microwave on medium-high for 45 seconds. Set aside.
Drain potatoes thoroughly then return to the burner on low heat and shake pot frequently for 1 – 2 minutes until potatoes look very dry. Mash potatoes for a minute or two until few lumps are visible.
Add hot, mashed potatoes to cream cheese mixture and beat with an electric mixer just until smooth, adding small amounts of the heated milk as needed to achieve the texture you like – you may not need the whole amount. Don’t overbeat or the potatoes will start to get gluey.
Cut 3 tablespoons of the butter into small pieces and scatter over the whipped potatoes along with the salt and pepper. Beat quickly with the mixer or with a spoon just until well mixed.
Scoop the mixture into an oven-safe dish; don’t pack it down too tightly. If you are making a really big batch, I recommend dividing it among several dishes no larger than 9 x 11 so the potatoes will reheat more quickly and evenly. Little ramekins are fantastic for individual servings or you can also use disposable foil pans.
Cut the remaining tablespoon of butter into tiny pieces and scatter over the top of the potatoes. Cover the dish(es) tightly with foil and refrigerate for up to 48 hours.
For longer storage, put the foil-covered dish into a plastic bag to prevent freezer burn and seal the bag. Freeze for up a month; let thaw before reheating.
To reheat, bake for 25 - 30 minutes at 350°F, stirring gently several times (smaller dishes will only take 15 - 20 minutes). When the potatoes are nice and hot, remove foil and bake 5 minutes more.
Top with garnishes such as chives or bacon bits if desired and serve hot.
Serves 10 - 12
One of the best gifts I ever received was a basket filled with homemade preserves and pretty cloth napkins. I really appreciated the delicious goodies and loved that my really busy friend took the time to make something with her own two hands. This year, I plan to treat my friends and family to loads of homemade goodies, and I'll be making extra to serve at various holiday gatherings. I'm going to start by making this delicious chutney. The tangy flavour of the cranberries blends perfectly with sweet, caramelized onions and I think this year I'll use a spicy balsamic as well to kick up the flavour. I've got a great timesaving tip for you too! Many of my favourite recipes call for caramelized onions, but it can take a long time to get that deep golden colour and rich flavour. I’ve discovered a great new way to prepare them: Put the sliced onions in a dry pan with no salt or oil and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat for five minutes, until browned. Then add a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and cook for just 5 minutes more, until nice and soft. Just like my yummy no-cook pear chutney, you can serve this versatile condiment with roasted meats or even on a cheese board; it's especially delicious as an appetizer, on top of slices of baguette or crostini spread with goat cheese. Keep a jar or two of chutney in the fridge along with some goat cheese and you'll be all set for spontaneous entertaining!
Start by caramelizing the onions. You can this the low and slow way by adding oil and onions, then cooking over medium low heat for about 30 minutes, until golden brown.
Alternatively, follow my tip for the faster method by cooking the onions for 5 minutes in a dry skillet, then adding a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes more.
While the onions are cooking, chop about 2/3 of a cup of cranberries, either fresh or frozen. You want to end up with 1/2 cup of chopped cranberries.
Once onions are caramelized, drizzle the balsamic and maple syrup over top, then add the chopped cranberries. Stir to blend well.
Continue cooking, stirring often, for about 3 – 5 minutes, until cranberries have softened and liquid has been reduced.
Transfer cooked chutney to a clean jar and refrigerate for up to one month or follow instructions for hot water bath processing for longer storage on a shelf.
Serve over baguette slices or crostini which have been spread with softened chèvre; top each one with about 2 teaspoons of the chutney and a sprinkle of fresh herbs.
Makes approximately 1 cup of chutney.
While I originally created this recipe to deal with a whole lot of leftover chicken, you can just as easily bake or poach a chicken breast or two whenever you get a craving for this healthy, hearty salad. I love its contrasting colours and textures and the hint of curry just makes the flavour a bit more interesting, without being overly spicy. It's a great 'clean out the fridge' meal too, because you can dice up all sorts of fruits and vegetables and add them in, if you like. I often serve it on a bed of greens (spinach is a personal favourite) but my family loves it best when tucked into little pita pockets. It's a favourite 'meal-on-the-run' in our house!
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp curry powder
¼ tsp each salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
1 apple, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 green onion, minced
½ cup toasted pecans or walnuts
Combine the mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, curry powder and salt & pepper in a small bowl. Stir vigorously until smooth.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine chicken, apple, celery and green onions.
Pour dressing over the chicken mixture and stir gently until everything is evenly coated with dressing.
Add pecans and stir once more.
Refrigerate for up to 2 hours or serve immediately.
Serves 2; can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled!