I don’t think it’s a good idea to get too fancy with the food on Christmas day. What you need is lots of homey soul food – salads, seafood, cherries, mangoes (and more cherries), pavlova laden with summer fruit and some kind of potato dish, of course. Potatoes, roasted, baked or in a salad, are the ultimate comfort food. I used to make an elaborate Russian salad for Christmas day, which I would mound onto a platter, decorate it with sliced eggs, beetroot and roasted peppers, and have it as a festive centrepiece (this was also fantastic for leftovers on Boxing Day). This year, I decided to try a recipe for party potatoes from a book called The 150 Best American Recipes. Party potatoes are basically a mashed potatoes bake. While this doesn’t sound that exciting, and trying to take a photograph to make it look exciting was challenging to say the least, believe me, this is the most awesome mashed potato dish you will ever taste.
How could you go wrong with a dish called party potatoes – mashed potatoes loaded up with butter, cream cheese, sour cream and seasoned with chives, salt and pepper, whipped until smooth and fluffy, then poured into a baking tray, dotted with more butter and baked until puffed up and golden brown on top? These potatoes can also be made up to two days beforehand and baked just before serving. Just in case you think it may be too simple for a special occasion dish, think again! Just check out the quantities of cream cheese and butter and you’ll realise these are definitely ‘party down’ potatoes.
We served these potatoes as part of a traditional Christmas smorgasbord feast and the vinegary tartness of the salads was a perfect compliment to the over-the-top richness of the potatoes. I was in a country supermarket early in the morning of Christmas Eve and there were pillars of Chang’s Crispy Noodles everywhere with the recipe for the sweet Asian style crispy noodle coleslaw conveniently printed on the packet. My mum used to make crispy noodle coleslaw for Christmas, but I had completely forgotten about it. I loaded up with Chinese cabbage and my nieces loved mixing the noodles and ’slaw together, just before Christmas lunch.
The party potatoes were a total hit with young and old. The kids loaded up their plates with chicken and gravy, crispy noodle ’slaw and party potatoes. For the first time, I understood what Colonel Sanders was trying to achieve with his Kentucky fried chicken, mashed potato, gravy and ’slaw combination. Coleslaw and mashed potato are a perfect match.
I doubled the recipe and I thought I was going to have a huge amount of leftovers to heat up for Boxing Day but, from the photo below, you can see how that went down!
Adapted from The 150 Best American Recipes (I used about a two thirds of the cream cheese from the recipe).
- 1.5 kilograms (3 pounds) russet potatoes (or any good mashing spud), peeled and cut into chunks
- 115 grams or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened and cut into 8 pieces
- 225 grams (8 ounce) cream cheese at room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2/3 cup milk, warmed
- Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
- Snipped chives or finely chopped spring onions to taste
- Paprika (optional)
- Put potatoes in a large pot and cover generously in cold water, add some salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover and cook until the potatoes are very tender (but certainly not water logged or falling apart).
- Drain the potatoes, return to pot, and on a low heat evaporate away excess moisture, until the potatoes are floury and have formed a film on the bottom of the pot. Remove from the heat.
- While the potatoes are still hot, add two-thirds of the butter and mash it in with a potato masher (you can use a handheld mixer if you have one at this stage to beat in all the butter, cheese and milk).
- Add the chopped up cream cheese and sour cream and mash through the potatoes until melted.
- If you are doing this by hand, use a wooden spoon, add the milk in thirds and whip the potatoes until smooth and fluffy. Add just enough of the milk to get the potatoes fluffy and light but not too soft.
- Season with pepper, salt and chives, spoon potatoes into a buttered 24 x 30cm (9 x 13 inch) baking pan, smooth the surface then score the top with a fork so it will crust as it bakes.
- At this stage, you cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for up to two days before baking. Bring to room temperature before baking (about half an hour).
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Cut the remaining butter (about 40 grams) into small cubes and dot over the top of potatoes, sprinkle with paprika if desired.
- Bake for 1 hour until puffed up and golden brown on top. Serve hot.
Serves 10 adults as part of a large buffet.
Vegetarian and gluten free.