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Mashed Potatoes with Golden Onions

The sweet, long-cooked onions spooned atop the rich soft potatoes add lovely flavor and a textural contrast. Should you choose to forgo the onions, the potatoes will still be delicious.

Make-ahead tips: The day before, prepare potatoes, spoon into dish, dot with butter, cover with foil and refrigerate. Cook onions; cover and refrigerate.

Transporting tips: Potatoes will stay hot in insulated case up to one hour; wrapped in towels, about 30 minutes. Keep onions separate and warm at the host's house.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
6 to 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 cups water
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken or vegetable broth
1 container (16 ounces) regular or light sour cream
1/2 cup heavy or light cream or milk
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For onions: In large heavy skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Stir in onions and garlic. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Cook 10 minutes, stirring often, until light golden. Stir in brown sugar, reduce heat and cook about 20 minutes more, stirring often, until deeply colored and tender. Season again. Spoon into small bowl and cover to keep moist.

For potatoes: Generously butter 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In one or two large pots, put potatoes, water and broth. Cover and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender.

Scoop out and reserve 1 cup potato cooking liquid. Drain potatoes well in large colander. Return potatoes to cooking pot. Stir over medium heat about 4 minutes until floury and dry.

Mash potatoes with potato masher or portable electric mixer at low speed, adding reserved cooking liquid as needed. With wooden spoon or mixer, beat in sour cream, 1 stick butter, cream or milk and any remaining reserved cooking liquid until potatoes are fluffy. Season well with salt and pepper. Spoon potatoes into prepared baking dish; dot with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cover with foil.

If serving soon: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Otherwise, refrigerate. Bake potatoes 30 minutes (45 minutes if refrigerated), until piping hot. Reheat onions on stovetop or in microwave and spoon over potatoes. Makes 12 generous servings

Miriam Rubin

Monday, November 20, 2000

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