I love to be able to make things ahead of time for a party, as long as it doesn’t compromise the taste or quality. Certain things just need to be done at the last minute, and for a long time, I thought mashed potatoes were one of them.
I really wanted to serve them at my first Thanksgiving, but couldn’t get comfortable with the idea of mashing five pounds of potatoes, carving a turkey, and plating all the side dishes at once, in front of 15 guests, in my less than 80 sq foot kitchen. So I skipped the potatoes.
But the following year, I was messing around on Chowhound and saw this discussion on using your slowcooker to keep mashed potatoes warm, so that you could make them in advance.
The directions were simple:
1. Butter the slowcooker
2. Pour in a little bit of half and half, milk, or cream (about 1/4 cup worth)
3. Add mashed potatoes and put slowcooker on warm.
These will stay perfect for several hours. I cooked mine at 2:30 and served them at a 5:00 pm dinner.
I consulted with the USDA on the safety of this, because I’m neurotic, and they assured me that as long as the mashed potatoes stay at 140 degrees (which they should, easily, in a slowcooker), they will be safe. You can check with a food thermometer if you are worried. Actually, you probably should check with a food thermometer just in case your slowcooker runs hot- if it's too hot, it will keep cooking the potatoes, and that’s not good either.
This is seriously one of the best tips I’ve gotten- you will be so relieved when your mashed potatoes are done hours ahead and still taste perfect!