The Triumph of the Mashed Potato Bar

by Lian on December 27, 2011

On Chaos Chronicles Podcast 441, I mentioned my Christmas Eve menu breakthrough: the Mashed Potato Bar. I was looking for a meal to serve that satisfied many appetites, could be eaten informally without a knife, and frankly, gave the guests something to talk about because we’d had quite a few family events lately and we needed some fresh topics besides the movie “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” I’d pulled off a Mashed Potato Bar last year — and eaten at many more as they’ve been in vogue here in Pasadena for a good 5 years. But this was Christmas Eve, and my mother has big expectations. Good news! The Mashed Potato Bar passed the Edna Dolan Good Taste Test!

So many of you asked for directions/instructions/reviews, I thought I’d let you know it was a huge hit. No photos from mine, unfortunately, as  I was too busy getting out the gourmet toppings to take photos… but I did find others online to give you a sense of what one looks like:

Mashed potatoes + Gourmet Toppings + Martini Glasses = Happy Guests. Thanks to San Diego Cooks for this photo. Click here to see their spread.

Here are a few details from my Mashed Potato Bar:

Simple Mashed Pots: I went with simple, butter-free mashed potatoes so as not to compete with toppings. I used a combination of russet and Yukon Gold potatoes mashed with chicken stock and low-fat buttermilk. Creamy, but with a crisp bite thanks to the buttermilk. I served them hot, hot, hot in two serving dishes  to keep the guests  moving around the table.

Martini Glasses and Lots of Glass Bowls: I bought a case of martini glasses ($20) and lots o’ glass bowls to serve the many, many toppings. The table looked sparkly and fun. And now I’m all set to repeat the whole menu over and over again!

Gourmet Toppings: I went for it, knowing that anything left-over would make fantastic dinners, hors d’ouevres or pasta toppings in the day after. Plus, the fun is including topping that you wouldn’t normally eat on mashed potatoes– like crabmeat. Several items were traditional food gifts from family, like the Honeybaked Ham or the Smoked Salmon my brother sends from Alaska every year. My “stations” were:

  • Roasted Ratatouille. Made the day before to let the flavors mingle.
  • Smokes Salmon and Lump Crabmeat Louis with Chopped Egg, Capers, Chives, Sour Cream and Remoulade.
  • The Barefoot Contessa’s Pot Roast for Company, shredded for easy eating. Click here for The Most delicious Pot Roast Recipe Ever! Made the day before for best flavor.
  • Honeybaked Ham and Cranberry Sauce

Give Instructions: It was a new experiences for most guests. I had to give an “overview” of the concept, a “tour” over the bar and kept encouraging guests to “return to the bar.” I caught several people trying to use the 7.5 ounce martni glass as a buffet plate! No, no… one topping sttaion at a  time, then come back.  You don’t have to squeeze the pot roast in next to the crabmeat!

I think I’ve stumbled on a new tradition for Christmas Eve. It would be perfect for New Year’s Eve as well!

Embracing my Chaos, Lian

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Holiday Entertaining To Do List






Marge December 30, 2011 at 4:20 PM

Thanks for another year of hilarious podcasts and blogs! I loved the one with your sisters recently where you talked about your $8 necklace. I have similar taste in fine jewelry but lack the tact needed to refrain from sharing how little I paid for it! It’s just so much fun to see the look on someone’s face when you burst their “I know fine jewelry when I see it” bubble. Happy New Year!

Lian December 29, 2011 at 1:32 PM

Thanks all. Mari- I think it’s a perfect vegetarian party strategy. Roasted veggies, chick pea stew, anything yummy on top from sour cream to tzaziki. Make the mashed pots with buttermilk and veggie stock. Lian

Cyndi December 28, 2011 at 12:22 PM

That is such a fantastic idea and execution! I’m ok in the idea department, it’s the actually pulling it off part that is hard for me. Everything sounds delicious.

Susan December 28, 2011 at 8:39 AM

I have tried the potato bar concept for standard family dinner with more ‘typical’ toppings, and it is always a hit. Speaking of Lian Dolan hits, those Fairytale Brownies please recipients year after year. Thanks, and Happy New Year!

Marycatherine December 27, 2011 at 6:47 PM

Sounds wonderful! Can’t wait to try it for my next BUNKO party. Thanks so much for a great idea.

Mari (bookworm with a view) December 27, 2011 at 4:54 PM

I have never heard of a potato bar… Interesting concept. I have also never heard of chicken stock in mashed potatoes but I bet my husband would like that. We will never try this though since I’m a vegetarian (bummer for him) HA!

Can’t wait to make the potato bar floor our next party!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and have a wonderful new years!

tina toran December 27, 2011 at 2:05 PM

What a great idea, Lian, and I have a suggestion for the bar. What about shrimp sauteed in oil, garlic, and chipolte pepper in adobo. Perfection on potatoes! Maybe for New Year’s…

Kristin December 27, 2011 at 1:37 PM

As when I heard the show, this just makes me really hungry for mashed potatoes!~ If only my kids would eat them :(

Bev December 27, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Delicious idea! I did see online lots of ideas for meat free
toppings as well.

pat in o.c. December 27, 2011 at 9:53 AM

That sounds like fun!
However, with my male relatives, they would ditch the martini glasses for a beer stein quickly.
I love the Honeybaked Ham per Dame Edna as well!
Happy New Year!
I hope 2012 is brilliant & blessed!

Jennifer December 27, 2011 at 8:49 AM

I love the idea and your stations sound interesting…am definitely going to have to try the pot roast recipe. Happy holidays and thanks for the blog and podcasts – they have given me many laughs and many hours of entertainment and I am looking forward to more next year!

chpdlivr December 27, 2011 at 7:57 AM

I finally got to listen to the podcast on 12/26. What a brilliant idea!! I’m keeping the mashed potato bar in mind for future holidays. I have a couple of chafing dishes. Did you use anything else to keep things warm?

Saw the movie Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy last week………it’s a lot of work to watch!! As my DH said: “you have to think alot!”…..but heck, anything with Colin Firth is worth it!!
Happy New Year, Lian!

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