Mashed Potatoes And Gravy, Oh My!

Everybody loves mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, but experienced cooks know that if you make them too far in advance and reheat them in the oven, they can start to congeal in your casserole, beyond help from gravy or gobs of butter. It's difficult to try to make them right before eating, though, because there's so much else to do to get dinner on the table.

Tori Ritchie of Williams-Sonoma knows the best way to make classic mashed potatoes in advance and even add other delicious flavors that your family will love and she shared her tips on The Early Show.

Tori prefers to use russet potatoes, which she feels are best for the fluffy texture you want in mashed potatoes. You can peel and cut them up a day before and store them in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator. Also, Tori uses an old-fashioned ricer to make her mash. She believes ricers are better than mashers.

Classic Mashed Potatoes

According to Tori: "The potato ricer, a staple in German and East European kitchens, was introduced into this country by Williams-Sonoma in the early 1960s. It does an excellent job of mashing potatoes smoothly, in one pressing. Then butter and half-and-half are beaten in with a spoon until the desired consistency is reached."

5 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups half-and-half, heated
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Put the potatoes and the 2 tsp. salt in a large pot, add water to cover the potatoes by 3 inches and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently cook the potatoes until they are tender when pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well in a colander.

Set a potato ricer over the pot and pass the potatoes through in batches. Alternatively, return the potatoes to the pot and mash them with a potato masher. Add the butter and gradually add the half-and-half, beating constantly with a large spoon, until the potatoes are smooth and creamy. Season with salt and white pepper and transfer to a warmed serving dish. Serve immediately. Serves 8 to 10.

(Williams-Sonoma Kitchen)

Cheddar-Chive Mashed Potatoes

Says Tori: "For many Americans, Thanksgiving would not be complete without a bowl of steaming mashed potatoes on the table. Families often have their own special version of this holiday side dish, which takes well to creative variations. In our recipe, Yukon Gold potatoes, which are prized for their naturally rich, buttery flavor, are paired with cheddar cheese to give the dish a robust flavor and warm golden hue. Fresh chives add a colorful finishing touch."

4 lb. large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
Kosher salt, to taste
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Put the potatoes in a large stockpot, add water to cover by 2 inches and generously salt the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain well in a colander and let stand for 5 minutes. Set a potato ricer over a large bowl and pass the potatoes through in batches.

Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the half-and-half and butter until the butter melts and small bubbles appear along the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat.

Add the half-and-half mixture to the potatoes and stir until just combined. Add 1 cup of the cheese and 3 Tbs. of the chives and stir until just combined. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the potatoes into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup cheese.

Bake until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbs. chives. Serve immediately. Serves 10 to 12.

Make-Ahead Tip: Peel and quarter the potatoes 1 day in advance; place them in a bowl, add cold water to cover and refrigerate. If desired, cook and mash the potatoes up to 2 hours before serving, but do not add the cheese and chives. Cover the potatoes tightly with plastic wrap and keep warm in a bain-marie (hot water bath). Just before serving, fold in the cheese and chives and bake as directed.

(Williams-Sonoma Kitchen)