- Small russet potatoes – 3 lb, peeled, cut into 3-in chunks
- Kosher salt – 1 tbsp
- Garlic – 6 cloves, peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- Cream cheese – 1 8-oz package, warmed to room temperature
- Butter – 6 tbsps, warmed to room temperature + 2 tbsps, cut into bits, chilled
- Sour cream – 1 cup, full fat
- Whole milk – ¾ to 1 cup, warmed
- Seasoned salt – 1+ tsp (to taste)
- Fresh ground black pepper – to taste
- Smear a shallow 2 ½-quart baking dish with butter.
- Place potatoes into a large pot. Pour water until it reaches the level of 2 inches above the potatoes. Season with salt, bay leaf, garlic, and thyme. Turn the heat to high, bring water to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot with a lid leaving an outlet for the vapor. Simmer until potatoes are tender (check with a knife or fork); it usually takes about 20 minutes. Do not overcook! Drain the water immediately; return the pot to the cooker and let the potatoes dry up for about 3 minutes or until their edges are chalky. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.
- While potatoes are still hot, press them through a ricer (do not discard the garlic - it will add extra flavor!) into a large bowl. If you do not have a ricer, use a hand-held potato masher, but make sure you mash the potatoes as smooth as possible.
- Mix in butter, cream cheese, sour cream and ¾ cup milk; stir well until smooth. Remember: the mixture will be firmer after you chill it, so don’t worry if it is softer than you would want it to be now. Season with seasoned salt and pepper.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish, scrape the bowl clean. Smooth the top of the potatoes and dot it with pieces of chilled butter. Wrap tightly into plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days ahead of day X.
- You can also freeze the casserole. Reheat it before serving at 1-minute intervals, stir after each to prevent the top from browning. Repeat until evenly heated.
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