The host has to create a menu, accommodating every one's inevitable favorite requests. Which baking dishes are used for each course has to be decided ahead of time. Where to put things, how to keep the kitchen clean, and how to stay sane all have to be figured out. And in the end every part of the meal needs to be hot and ready at the same time...
Accomplishing a successful home cooked Thanksgiving meal is like performing a highly choreographed ballet of food and family. And fellowship. And fun.
It's nice when there's a dish that can be made ahead of time.
Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes is that dish.
This is an old family recipe. I like to make this at Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is light, rich, creamy, and good. The top and sides develops a delicate buttery crust. This is different from everyday mashed potatoes. This is special.
But the best thing about this is that it can be prepared two to three days ahead of time and baked early on The Big Day, leaving the oven free for Everything Else.
Seriously. This stays hot for hours.
If you're planning Thanksgiving right now, you've probably got no time to waste, so let's get right to the recipe!
THANKSGIVING MASHED POTATOES
3-4 pounds of potatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
salt, black pepper, and white pepper, to taste
Peel potatoes, chop into large chunks, and cook until tender in salted water. I use about a quarter cup of salt in two quarts of water and I don't usually have to add more salt later.
While potatoes are cooking saute onion in butter for a few minutes, just to soften and sweeten the onion. Add minced garlic to saute and cook for just a minute after onion is softened. Remove from heat.
Drain cooked potatoes. Add onions and garlic. Add cream cheese and milk. Then whip everything together really well with an electric hand mixer. I don't usually use the hand mixer for everyday mashed potatoes, but I do use it for Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes... I think it breaks down the starch of the potatoes. Or something. I don't know the science of it. All I know is I use the the electric mixer for Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes and I use my ricer or potato masher most of the rest of the time. And Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes have a different texture from everyday mashed potatoes.
At this point you'll want to season and taste your potatoes. I like to add a generous amount of fresh ground black pepper and a pinch of white pepper. The sauteed onion and garlic will disappear upon baking. You won't be biting into bits of onion or garlic, but they add a rich sweet taste to the finished, cooked dish.
Let the potatoes cool to just warm and then add the egg and whip again. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. (Use a casserole dish slightly larger than your amount of potatoes because these puff up in volume a little bit while baking.) Potatoes can now be baked, or you can put them in the refrigerator for a couple of days until The Big Day.
To cook: Bake, covered, in moderate oven (I usually bake these at 350 degrees) for one hour. Remove lid for last 10-15 minutes to develop a nice golden crust. After one hour, remove from oven, replace lid, and set aside until ready to serve. These will stay warm for a Really Long Time.