The Daily Spud

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Spud Sunday: Chef du Cream Cheese

Let me explain to you how this works:

(a) Big food brand gets together with well-known chef.

(b) Chef creates recipes using said brand of food.

(c) Brand wants to demonstrate general tastiness of the recipes, so they get the chef to make lunch using some of same.

(d) Third parties get invited to said lunch to provide independent verification of the mouth-watering nature of the chef’s creations.

(e) Lunch is eaten, wine is drunk, everybody goes home happy, well-fed and well disposed towards the parties and the food involved.

Simple enough formula, really, and I got to see it in action up close this week, where the brand in question was Philadelphia cream cheese, the chef was Kevin Dundon (yes, he of the Zest! interview experience) and I was one of those well-fed third parties.

Kevin Dundon's Philadelphia Lunch

Kevin Dundon's Philadelphia Lunchables: smoked salmon and scallops, chicken and mushroom parcel, wild mushroom risotto, philly mille feuille

I will admit that it is sometimes still, if not a mystery, then at least a source of wide-eyed wonderment to me that I get to be the kind of third party who receives such supremely edible invitations. I’m not complaining though, except possibly (and only very slightly) from the extreme fullness of belly that my attendance involves.

And whatever opinions I might have had about such brand endorsements, I was won over on the day, not just by the food (which, unsurprisingly, was lovely) but by Kevin Dundon who (a) remembered me from the Zest! launch (b) did not give the impression that I had conducted what was possibly the worst interview ever last time out (c) was utterly patient and charming and (d) clued me into the secret of his stunning turnip purée.

The purée, which accompanied the main course, was probably the only thing on the menu which did not involve a liberal helping of Philadelphia. What it did contain, though, was potato, making a play, in this case, for best performance by a vegetable in a supporting role. The potato was present in sufficient quantity to tone down the sweetness of the turnip and give the dish more body, without it being obvious that it was there at all. It made for a killer combination and proved, yet again, that the Scots are really on to something with their penchant for combining turnip and potato as neeps and tatties.

And finally, I would like to think that the otherwise notable absence of potato from Kevin’s cream cheesy lunch menu was not an oversight, but rather, an invitation to rectify the situation. I am more than happy to do that right here and right now with some cream cheese mash.

Cream Cheese Mashed Potato

Cream Cheese Mash

Cream cheese is, of course, endlessly versatile as an ingredient and, like many of its dairy product cousins, it is extremely happy in the company of potatoes. You can easily conceive of it layered into a gratin, mixed into a mash, gracing a baked potato or dressing a potato salad.

Here it finds its way into a simple mash with some mustard, parsley and spring onions. This can, of course, be eaten warm, though I think it’s possibly even better served salad-like at room temperature, perhaps with some smoked salmon and brown bread or toast.

I did use Philadelphia as the cream cheese here (the makers had kindly supplied me with some), though you can, of course, use whatever cream cheese you prefer. I’m certainly keen to try this with some Yeat’s Country Irish cream cheese as soon as I get hold of some.

For those interested in the theories behind what makes a good mash, you can take a little detour here, just remember to come back this way when you’re done.

You’ll need:
  • 800g potato (4 medium-sized spuds, preferably a floury variety)
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste plus more for boiling the spuds
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 100ml milk, warmed
  • 6 tblsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 4 spring onions, finely sliced (or 4 tblsp finely chopped chives)
You’ll also need:
  • A potato ricer is useful, though not essential, for this.
The Steps:
  • To soften your cream cheese, remove from the fridge, chop into small chunks, spread the chunks out onto a large plate and allow them to come up to room temperature while you cook the potatoes. Alternatively, you can microwave the cream cheese on high for about 15 seconds.
  • Peel your potatoes and cut into roughly even-sized slices, around 1-2cm thick. Rinse them under cold water.
  • Bring about 1.5l of water to the boil in a saucepan, add about 2 tsp salt and the potato slices. Bring back to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently, covered, for around 15-20 minutes or until just fork-tender.
  • When the potatoes are done, drain well and return them to the saucepan. Then either let them sit, covered by a tea-towel, for about 5 minutes or place the pan over a low heat and stir the potatoes gently for a minute or so while they dry out.
  • Put the cooked and still warm potatoes through a potato ricer if you have one, or mash with a potato masher or, if all else fails, a fork.
  • Add the chunks of cream cheese, the mustard, about 1 tsp salt and a couple of twists of black pepper to the potato and mash in well.
  • Stir in the milk, adding more if you prefer a looser consistency.
  • Stir in the chopped parsley and spring onions and dig in.
The Variations:
  • I might just add a touch of lemon juice to this next time ’round, while you could certainly try adding a few cloves of roasted garlic here too.
The Results:
  • Serves around 6 as a side-dish or salad portion.

12 Comments

  1. You get to go to all the cool events. Which further inspires me in so many ways. Not the least of which (remains) the neeps and tatties, which keep popping up here. But until I get around to those I am sure I can manage these creamy cheese taters soon. GREG

  2. Who knew cream cheese can be eaten so elegantly. I agree with Greg, you get to invited to some really awesome events.

  3. cream cheese is really versatile, i like it in my mashed too. and it’s also wonderful for making cotton light Japanese cheesecake.

  4. Sounds like a wonderful event – someone else is cooking a world class meal, you get wined and dined and reduced to a state of bliss and you do not have to do the dishes. Honestly, does life get better?

    Cream cheese is such a versatile product, and really its attraction to spuds should be legendary – that’s a blissful marriage to be sure. Your cream cheese mash looks sinfully good. Sinful as I know I’d be gluttonous in consuming it.

  5. How fun to sample all those scrumptious cream cheese creations! And I love the idea of cream cheese mashed potatoes!

  6. and I had been asking if you were getting invited to some freebie events – should have been reading your blog more promptly!;)

    lovely lovely to see you the other day – and fed you with some of my chillified borsh. am seriously considering making Gastroanthopologist’s Caledonian Cream recipe with your wonderful gift;)

    p.s. what was the name of the company you use for hosting again? sorry, was too busy chopping things up when asking!

  7. Daily Spud

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 12:11 am

    sippitysup: If it serves as additional inspiration for you, then I will happily keep on attending such events :) Meanwhile, I cannot wait to see the Sippity Sup take on neeps and tatties!

    jenn: yep, cream cheese is not just for bagels :)

    adel: Gosh I love the sound of cotton light Japanese cheesecake – even if I don’t know exactly what it’s like! Am now doubly curious to know what a Japanese cheesecake entails…

    OysterCulture: To answer your question, no, I don’t think it gets much better than that :) And the cream cheese mash is indeed sinfully good. I just polished off the last of it this evening, accompanied by added lemon zest and a piece of baked salmon. I miss it already!

    Natasha: As OysterCulture said, it’s great to sit back and have a top chef go to work on an ingredient like that :) And the cream cheese undoubtedly works well with potatoes, no question about that.

    Katrina: …and it was so lovely to be able to drop in and have some of your borsch – think I’ll be adding chili to mine next time :) Meanwhile, the Caledonian cream sounds like an excellent way to use some of that whiskey – I might have to make some myself, seeing as it also involves cream cheese! And Bluehost is the name of the hosting company you were asking about, btw.

  8. Chef Dundon sounds like a gem, not only for his delicious creativity with Philly cream cheese but the charm and graciousness you described. Now, as for this cream cheese mash – I have the CC and the taters. I know what’s for dinner tomorrow!

  9. Indeed, you go to these wonderful events & tell us about it!! I so love reading such great stories,..You so write with enthousisasm & fun!

    This special mash is something for me! I so love it!! Thanks for another grand recipe, my friend!

  10. Cream cheese with potatoes – another match made in heaven! Philadelphia cream cheese (the full fat version) is my favorite (american) cream cheese brand…I think the water content is lower than some of the others, making it more rich. My uncle used to make these kitchen sink potatoes which included ranch dressing, mayo, and cream cheese…sounds kind of gross, but they were actually really tasty – the cream cheese makes all the difference.
    A block of soft cream cheese with pepper jelly poured on top is also a delicious dip for crackers!

    So looking forward to what you might do with the Irish cream cheese! Sorry, I missed you in London again.

  11. Daily Spud

    Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Tangled Noodle: ah yes, a gent indeed and he certainly has a way with Philadelphia, that’s for sure; now, how was that cream cheese mash for you? :)

    Sophie: thank you as always – glad you enjoy the stories (and the recipes :) – it’s great to be able to share both!

    gastroanthropologist: Sorry to have missed you too – will manage to meet up one of these days… Meanwhile, I have now had a chance to try that Irish cream cheese and it is even richer and creamier than Philly (in fact I wish I had some pepper jelly to go with it right now). I’ll have to make sure I don’t eat it all before I get a chance to cook something with it!

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