march 7, 2014
Like most Americans, I am a mutt. But having a mother with both parents named Oneal gives me some serious Irish game each St. Patrick’s Day. Not that I ever need an excuse to enjoy potatoes in any form (exception made for tater tots and their dubious character), but the notion of honoring my heritage with green potatoes would likely make my ancestors proud.
Perhaps you have made something similar to today’s creamy herbed spuds by combining a boursin type of cheese with just-mashed potatoes. Adding a tub of boursin would be easier, but this blog is all about cooking, and while my recipes are meant to be relatively easy to execute, I love the idea of chopping, slicing and puttering in the kitchen until a dish comes together. Your guests or family will love you for the extra care and effort. Homemade always tastes better, too.
Red potatoes are a favorite for their naturally creamy texture, and most of my potato recipes preserve the skins for taste, texture and nutrients. For this recipe the skins will decorate my compost pile and no bits of red will muddy up the desired light green palette. Only fresh herbs will do for this recipe; cooking them briefly with the butter will rid them of a grassy taste and leave essence. The recipe calls for cream cheese and half-and-half, but you will get a good final product with reduced fat dairy products (although fat free versions often leave a cloying aftertaste from the sugar added to make up for loss of fat; I would avoid them).
Adding salt to the potato cooking water (and make sure the potatoes are covered with water) makes for a tastier potato and reduces the need for adding more salt later. I favor the low-tech method of mashing with a hand masher, never a mixer. Over beating the potatoes will cause rupture of starch granules and lend a gluey, not fluffy, texture.
If you need to serve the potatoes immediately after cooking, heat the butter, half-and-half and cream cheese in a small saucepan just until hot to touch and steam rises from the mixture (and don’t worry if the cream cheese appears lumpy since you will mix well once added to the potatoes), but otherwise add the room temperature dairy products and heat the herbed potatoes in the oven later. The dish can be prepared a day in advance, making it perfect for holiday gatherings and events, and it can be frozen for up to 1 month. Just be sure to defrost in the fridge for a couple of days before reheating.
herbed creamy potatoes
makes six to eight servings
two and a half pounds red potatoes, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
one tablespoon kosher salt
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup packed italian parsley leaves and tender stems
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
two scallions, chopped
one medium garlic clove, minced or zested
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
one pinch finely ground white pepper
½ cup half-and-half cream, room temperature
- Place potatoes and kosher salt in heavy two or three quart saucepan and cover with water.
- Cover pot, bring to boil, then simmer over medium heat uncovered until potatoes are tender and easily pierced with knife, about 15-20 minutes.
- While potatoes are cooking, finely mince together parsley, chives and scallion with sharp chef’s knife.
- Melt butter in small saucepan, add green herbs and garlic and cook over low heat for about two minutes or until tender.
- Drain cooked potatoes well in colander, dry bottom of cooking pot with towel, then add potatoes back to pot along with warm herb mixture, cream cheese, fine salt and pepper.
- Mash with potato masher just until no lumps remain, then stir in half-and-half, mixing well but avoiding over mixing as this will lead to a gluey texture. Adjust seasoning to taste.
- For serving immediately, half-and-half may be warmed in a small saucepan with cream cheese just until hot to touch (cream cheese will still be lumpy) and added to the hot potato mixture.
- Otherwise, add room temperature dairy to the potato mixture, spoon into oven safe dish and heat in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until warmed through.