Monday, December 6, 2010

Studio 5: Gourmet Mashed Potato PARTY!

It's been a really long time since I've had more than 4 friends or my family over for dinner, so it was with trepidition that I invited 14 dear friends/family over a few weeks ago.
Fortunately, I had an idea.  Steve and I went to a fund-raiser at the St. Regis in Deer Valley (giving credit where credit is due!) in October and the chef had prepared a beautiful, but simple buffet: Three gourmet mashed pototoes paired with 3 gourmet dishes.  It was comfort-food and foodie-food all in one!

Gourmet Mashed Potato Bar Tasting Menu
Garlic Mashed Potatoes paired with Coq au Vin
Horseradish Mashed Potatoes paired with Braised Short Ribs
Wasabi Mashed Potatoes paired with Thai Coconut Chili Shrimp

I realized this could be the perfect party food, as everything could be made in advance.  I happened to have a chaffing dish with three compartments and then picked up another one (slow cooker) from Costco.  Not that you need these necessarily, but it was handy.  I could get everything into their dishes, plug it in an hour in advance and then relax!

No table settings; just bowls, napkins and forks.  Stand-around or sit socializing kind of food.  Mix & Match.  Have the hard task of decided a favorite.  It was a great evening!

Now bear with me, as this will be a long post, but I love including step-by-step pictures.  Mashed potatoes are pretty basic, but there are six steps to ensure perfect mash everytime!

6 Steps to Perfect Mashed Potatoes

Of course, when the potatoes are the star of the show, you have to make sure they are pretty perfect.

1. Use Starchy Potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold)
2. Cut uniformly and bring to boil in salty water

3. Drain and dry cook on low for 1 minute
4. Use a food mill or ricer to mash
5. Add HOT liquids (Cream etc…) and room temp additions (butter etc…)
6. Salt Liberally

Trouble shooting
• Lumpy: Undercooked Potatoes
• Gummy: Overcooked Potatoes, too much water left on potatoes, used Waxy Potatoes and/or over mixed.


• 5 lbs starchy potatoes (Russets or Golds)
• 6 Tbsp. Butter, soft.
• 1 to 2 cups milk, hot.
• Kosher Salt to taste 
• White pepper to taste

• Cut potatoes to uniform size. The size depends on how long you cook them. If they are big chunks, plan on 15-20 minutes. If they are 2” squares check after 10 minutes. They should be fork tender. Pierce potato with fork, if it enters easily and breaks a bit they are done. Do not overcook, or the potatoes will start to disintegrate.
• Drain well, return to pan and cook over low heat to remove any trace of water.
• Mash. Best way is with a ricer or food mill. They will be fluffy and lump-free.
• Add butter, 1 cup hot milk, salt and pepper. Mix just until combined. Do you want smoother potatoes, add more milk. Taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
Options:  If you want a healthier mashed potato, add low-fat milk and cut the butter completely. As long as it’s salted properly, they are wonderful, especially for every-day family meals.

But to really add some ‘zing’ to your potatoes consider adding the following.
Hot Liquids: Whole milk, Half & Half, Cream, Buttermilk
In addition to butter: Sour cream, Cream cheese, marscapone cheese, shredded Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, goat cheese, Boursin or any other kind of flavored soft cheese
Other root vegetables: celery root (my favorite), parsnip, rutabega, turnips, carrot, kohlrabi.
Flavor: Roasted Garlic, Horse Radish and Wasabi (see recipes below), Red pepper flakes, chopped green chilis, caramelized onions or shallots.
Herbs: chives, parsley, cilantro, thyme. Go easy with sage or rosemary.

I doubled the recipe for each of the 3 kinds of mashed potato and a group of 24 people ate two thirds of everything.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes: Prepare basic Mashed Potato recipe, but substitute buttermilk for milk. Cut a Garlic Bulb in half (do not peel), drizzle with olive oil on cut sides, wrap in foil and roast in 350 oven for one hour. Squeeze out garlic cloves and mash. Add a quarter of the paste to potatoes and taste, keep adding to your personal taste. Garnish with Cheddar cheese.

Horse Radish Mashed Potatoes: Prepare basic Mashed Potato recipe, but add ½ cup sour cream and only 3 Tbsp of butter. Add 4 Tbsp Prepared Horse Radish, 1 Tbsp at a time to determine your personal taste. Garnish with chopped chives.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes: Prepare basic Mashed Potato recipe. Thaw a small pkg of frozen Spinach. Chop ½ cup of spinach finely and heat in microwave before adding to mashed potatoes. You will not taste the Spinach, but it will give it a green color. Add 3 Tbsp of Wasabi paste, 1 Tbsp at a time to determine your personal taste. Garnish with chopped Cilantro.

Any dish you serve with mashed potatoes would work for this concept,
but there are a few things you should think about before you start.
Make sure the food is fork-friendly. No knives! This is walk-about,
socializing food. I’ve altered some of my favorite dishes to accommodate
this idea by removing bones and cutting small bite-size morsels.

Thai Coconut Chili Shrimp
An unusual pairing, but really good if you like the taste of sweet & spicy Thai food. This came in first.


• 2 lb. large shrimp, shelled, deveined and butterflied)
• 2/3 cup sweet chili sauce
• 1 lemon (juice and zest)
• 2 Tbsp Chili sauce
• 2 Tbsp Fish Sauce
• 4 cloves Garlic, minced
• 2 tsp brown sugar
• 1 red pepper, sliced thinly
• 1 onion, sliced thinly
• 1 cup coconut milk (reg. or light)
• ½ cup cream
• Corn starch and water slurry
• ½ cup chopped cilantro


Mix sweet chili sauce, lemon juice and zest, fish sauce, chili sauce, garlic and brown sugar. Toss the sauce with shimp and let marinate for 1 hour.

Heat 2 Tbsps of canola oil in a large pan. Saute the red peppers and onions until soft (approx. 5 min.) Add the shrimp and marinade and continue to cook at high heat for 2-3 minutes until shrimp are cooked through (do not overcook, as shrimp will be tough).

Add coconut milk and cream. Taste. If the flavor is too spicy, add a little more cream. If necessary to create a thicker sauce, mix a little cornstarch with water in a cup and add it to the dish. Mix in Cilantro and use some for garnish
Timewise: You can make the marinade, prepare the shrimp and slice the vegetables early in the day. Marinate the shrimp 1 ½ hours before the party and then finish cooking shortly before the dinner starts. Keep warm in a chafing dish.

Braised Short Ribs

The tang of sourcream and horse radish in the mashed potatoes plays off nicely with this warm & hearty dish. This came in a close second.

• 2 lb. boneless short ribs
• 2-3 Tbsp canola oil
• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
• Smoked paprika
• 1 large onion, chopped roughly
• 4 large carrots, sliced into chunks
• 4 ribs celery, sliced into chunks
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• 4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
• ½ can tomato paste
• ½ cup red wine vinegar
• 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
• 3 bay leaves
• 6 sprigs Thyme tied in a bundle with cotton twine
• 1 32 oz. container of beef broth
• ¼ chopped chives or scallions

Heat oil in large dutch oven or large heavy covered pot. Pat ribs with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Cut ribs into 2” x 3” chunks. Season liberally with kosher salt, pepper and papricka. Cook 1/3 of the meat at a time, making sure it is browned on all sides before removing.
After all the meat has been searing and removed to plate, add onions, carrots and celery and cook for 10 minutes, pulling up the fond (brown bits) from bottom of pan.  Add garlic and cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add tomatoes, vinegar, worcestershire sauce, all the meat, tomato paste and enough beef broth to almost cover the ribs.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for 2-3 hours or until the meat is very tender.

Sprinkle a little wondra (super fine flour used for thickening sauces) to thicken the sauce. Garnish with chooped chives.

Timewise: make the day ahead, slowly reheat in oven 300 F. for 30 - 45 minutes.

Coq au Vin (Chicken in wine)

One of our all-time favorite dishes. I used chicken thighs and carefully de-boned the meat after it cooked. Stir as little as possible after adding the meat back into the dish so you have nice chunks of chicken.

• 1 lb bacon, diced
• 2 lb. chicken thighs
• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
• 3 cups pearl onions (frozen or fresh)
• 3 cups whole cremini mushrooms
• 3 Tbsp olive oil
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• 6 sprigs Thyme tied in a bundle with cotton twine
• 3 bay leaves
• ½ Cognac or Brandy (substitute ½ cup peach or apricot juice/syrup)
• 2 cups red wine (substitute 1 cup cranberry or grape juice and 1 cup water)
• 2 cups chicken broth


Heat 1 Tbsp oil in Dutch oven or large heavy pot. Cook bacon until rendered and crisp. Remove bacon and reserve for garnish. Pat chicken thighs with paper towel to remove excess moisture. Season with Kosher salt and pepper. Brown chicken in batches in hot bacon fat. Remove and set aside.
Cook onions (if using fresh. If frozen, add later) and mushrooms in fat in pan for 10 minutes or until onions and mushrooms are slightly browned. Add garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add chicken back to the pan. Add pearl onions now if using frozen. Add Thyme, bay leaves, Cognac and wine. Add enough chicken brown to just cover the chicken. Bring to boil and simmer for 1 ½ hours.

To prepare for Gourmet Mashed Potato bar, carefully remove chicken thighs from pan. Let cool to make it easier to handle. Carefully pull the bone and any cartilidge from thighs, leaving only chunks of meat. Carefully return to pan, stirring as little as possible to avoid shredding of the meat. (meat was cooked with bone in for added flavor, but you could use boneless chicken thighs for ease in preparation). Thicken with wondra if necessary.

Timewise: make the day ahead, slowly reheat in oven 300 F. for 30 - 45 minutes.


Kathy said...

Mmmmm. Your post and pics made me hungry! I'm going to jot down your recipes. We've had baked potatoe parties that were similar. Thanks for sharing!

UtahJenny said...

I am still recovering from the stress of making 50 pounds of mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving ... but I am a sucker for garlic mashed potatoes. I'll have to give your recipe a try. ALL of it looks DELISH!!!!

kwgirl said...

Yummmm, I was salivating through the TV! I had no idea you needed to add warmed cream to the mix, or all the other tips....THANKS:)

Contact Me

Favorite Quote

"The art of being
HAPPY lies in the
POWER of extracting
happiness from
COMMON things."
~Henry Ward Beecher



MyEyeQ | Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial License | Dandy Dandilion Designed by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates