The secret of perfect mashed potatoes lies in the right floury potato (the russet), a potato ricer, and of course indulgent fats like cream and butter. Singlehandedly the most comforting of foods (no wonder it was touted as an effective cure for hangovers), this cloud-soft fluff is the perfect bed for any and all kinds of herbs, spices, sauces, meats, and even vegetables. Serves 6
2 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea or kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black peppercorns
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chives
- Peel the potatoes and give them a good rinse under running water. Cut them into quarters, place them in a medium-size pan, and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and gently boil the potatoes until they fall apart quite easily when pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes.
- While the potatoes cook, pour the cream into a small saucepan and add the cream cheese, butter, salt, and peppercorns. Simmer over medium heat, uncovered whisking occasionally, until the cream bubbles, the cheese softens and becomes smooth, and the butter melts, 5 to 8 minutes. Keep the cream warm over very low heat until the potatoes are done.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander and give it a gentle shake to remove excess water. Return the potatoes to the pan. Dry them out over low heat until the surface appears dry, stirring occasionally so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Working in batches, if necessary, transfer the potatoes to a ricer and press them through into a serving bowl. (If you don’t have a ricer, use a potato masher and fluff them very thoroughly with a fork when completely mashed.) Pour the pepper-speckled cream over the potatoes and sprinkle with the chives. Fold together with a spatula just until the liquid is incorporated. Don’t overmix it.
- Serve hot. A guaranteed crowd pleaser!