This really isn't the best picture, but these are the best potatoes!
2 lbs red potatoes (about 16 small to med; 2 inches in diameter), scrubbed 1 1/2 tsp salt, divided 1 bay leaf 4 tbs unsalted butter, melted and warm ½ cup cream cheese (4 oz), room temperature 1/2 tsp ground black pepper 3 tbs chopped fresh chives or 4 ½ tsp dried (optional)
1. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with 1 inch cold water; add 1 teaspoon salt and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until a paring knife can be inserted into the potatoes with no resistance, 35 to 45 minutes. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the potatoes. Return the potatoes to the pot, discard the bay leaf, and allow the potatoes to stand in the pot, uncovered, until the surfaces are dry, about 5 minutes.
2. While the potatoes dry, whisk the melted butter and softened cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth and fully incorporated. Add ¼ cup of the reserved cooking water, ½ teaspoon pepper, the chives (if using), and ½ teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula or the back of a wooden spoon, smash the 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. Add more cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed, until the potatoes are slightly looser than desired (the potatoes will thicken slightly with standing). Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper; serve immediately.
Notes: White potatoes can be used instead of red, but reds are so much better. Try to get potatoes of equal size; if that’s not possible, test the larger potatoes for doneness (using a paring knife). If you only larger potatoes, increase the cooking time by about 10 minutes. I usually end up using all of the reserved liquid, it will look a little loose at first, but after standing for five or so minutes, the potatoes soak up all the excess.