Sunday, December 28, 2003


Compiled by Chuck Martin

I'm planning to serve mashed potatoes with roast pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day. Any tips for making the best mashed potatoes?

Here are suggestions from Sharon Tyler Herbst, in her Food Lover's Tiptionary (Hearst; $15):

• Use russet potatoes.

• Boil potatoes until just tender, drain thoroughly and return to pan over low heat to evaporate any moisture.

• Heat milk or any other liquid before adding to mashed potatoes.

• Beat potatoes only until light. Over-beating may cause them to turn sticky and starchy.

• If you make mashed potatoes ahead, cover them in a casserole dish. Before serving, microwave potatoes on high 1 to 2 minutes and stir. Or, brush top of potatoes with melted butter, cover and heat in 250-degree oven for 30 minutes.

Late night: Don't have a date for New Year's Eve? Then stay home and watch an Iron Chef marathon on the Food Network, beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday and ending at 4:30 a.m. Thursday.

How to open a bottle of sparkling wine

• Have towel and glass handy in case of overflow.

• Shielding bottle with one hand, remove foil and wire cage from bottle neck.

• With bottle pointed at 45-degree angle and away from everyone, place fingers of one hand firmly over cork. Gently rotate base of bottle with other hand until you feel cork loosen.

• Ease cork off with thumb.

• Bottle should open with a muted poof - not a loud pop.

Tiny bubbles: If you are one of those who can't possibly finish the bottle of bubbly, the tool for you is the champagne bottle stopper ($19.95) from Sur La Table. The stopper seals in the delicious effervescence with a twist of the handle. At Rookwood Commons or

Caviar caveats: The best and most expensive caviar is beluga (about $70 an ounce), harvested from beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea. Most consider osetra and sevruga caviar the next best ($54.99 per ounce), but other, less expensive options include caviar from lumpfish, whitefish and Kentucky spoonfish, which is available at Hyde Park Gourmet Food & Wine (along with beluga, osetra and sevruga) for $39.99 per 2 ounces. Keep caviar refrigerated, and serve very cold with toast points, lemon wedges, sour cream, minced onion and chopped hard-cooked eggs.

Best of 2003: Classical music
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Get to it!