2 pounds Red Bliss potatoes (about 2 inches in diameter), unpeeled and scrubbed*
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and warm
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
Freshly-ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (optional)
* New potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes may be substituted, but the red skins of the Red Bliss potatoes give a wonderful contrast. Try to purchase potato of equal size. If only large potatoes are available, increase the cooking time by approximately 10 minutes.
In a large pot, add whole potatoes and cover with 1-inch cold water; add 1 teaspoon salt and the bay leaf. Bring just to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until a paring knife can be inserted into the potatoes with no resistance, approximately 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and set aside. Then drain potatoes of remaining water; discard the water and bay leaf. Return cooked potatoes to the pot and allow potatoes to stay in the pot, uncovered, until surfaces are dry, about 5 minutes.
While potatoes are drying, whisk the melted butter and softened cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth and fully incorporated. Add the 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, chives (if using), and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Using a rubber spatula or back of a wood spoon, smash potatoes just enough to break the skins. Fold in the butter/cream cheese mixture until most of the liquid has been absorbed and chunks of potatoes remain. NOTE: Add more reserved cooking water if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the potatoes are slightly looser than desired. The potatoes will thicken slightly with standing. Adjust salt and pepper, if desired.
Place in a serving bowl and serve immediately.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.