Make-ahead Mashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese
I love holidays, all of them. But Thanksgiving has always been my favorite. Roasting a turkey, watching football, and napping by the fire. A great all-American day!
My husband and I even host a “punkin-chunkin” contest. Everyone wears holiday hats (I’m partial to the one where my head is up a turkey’s butt). And we compete with drunken lack of accuracy to roll pumpkins down the ravine into a creek near our house.
Every fourth Wednesday of November, I cook and bake all day. It’s my quiet time to reflect on all I’m thankful for. As mountains of dishes are involved, dinner that night is always order-in or eat-out. The day is as much a part of the holiday as breaking the wishbone or Black Friday deals. I look forward to it every year.
On such a Wednesday 12 years ago, my husband and I walked to a restaurant about a mile away. It was there that I got the call that changed our lives forever. My Mom had died in a car accident. A novice driver had made a mistake. Mom was gone. I later learned she had been running her holiday errands. Filling the gas tank and getting pastries from our favorite bakery.
The rest of that night was a blur. We clutched each other and somehow walked home. We made painful calls to family and friends. We drove to my hometown two hours north to identify her.
The next morning, the funeral home met with us at a time we’d otherwise have been lingering over the Macy’s parade. A time I’d normally be wondering if it was too early to spike my coffee. Instead, we were picking a coffin and writing an obituary.
Later that day, not wanting to be alone, four of us still gathered: us, my sister Lisa, and her son. I remember a very crispy turkey coming out of a 400° oven. We quietly rolled pumpkins, hatless. Football was on, but muted. Drinks were drunk. It wasn’t festive, but it was a little cathartic. Lisa and I stayed up by the fire and cried. And then our first full day without Mom was finally over.
You’d think Thanksgiving would be ruined with bad juju. And most certainly the next year was hard. I kept replaying that call in my mind. I still do to this day.
But to my surprise, Mom’s sudden death kind of slapped me into hyper-thankfulness. For her, and that I had her to lose. And for all that I’ve ever had and lost. There are people who grow up without a Mom hug. Or a Dad who carried them on his shoulders. Or memories of a holiday table overflowing with riches.
My life continues to be very full of much to be thankful for. And frankly, all of it is fleeting. The key is to appreciate it now, before it’s gone. And when it’s gone, if you’re sad for the loss, then it’s something to be thankful for, if only that you had it to lose.
I still prepare most of our meal on Thanksgiving Eve. And I always lean into recipes like the one I’m highlighting here because it’s make-ahead. This frees me up to enjoy the day. To laugh and attempt to catch a football. To take a walk and play cards. To miss Mom and be thankful for her.
Let’s get started, shall we?
- Mix the following in a large pot: 3 pounds large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” chunks; 5 large garlic cloves; 1 Tbl kosher salt; and enough water to cover.
- Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium and cook for about 20 minutes until fork-tender. Drain, then smash the potatoes and garlic using a food mill, ricer, or hand masher.
- While still hot, stir in: 4 oz garlic-and-herb goat cheese, at room temperature; 4 Tbl softened, unsalted butter; 1¾ cups sour cream; ½ cup half-and-half; 4 tsp kosher salt; and 2 tsp pepper.
- Spread in a 3-quart baking dish, then top with ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan.
- Cover and refrigerate. When ready to bake, bring back to room temperature and bake in a 375° oven for 40 minutes, or until browned to your liking.
• These are a great option for folks who don’t like gravy (yes, those weirdos exist). Sometimes if we’re having a large crowd, I’ll make another plain, make-ahead, mashed potato casserole. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll share that with you.
• You can make these up to three days ahead. That’s a Thanksgiving lifesaver! But then again, except for roasting the turkey, I make everything in advance (even gravy). I’ll share more of my recipes each year at this time.
• I often leave the skin on and barely smash the potatoes for a chunkier, homey version. I also don’t smooth the top, as I like all the craggy crevices that get a little crispy in the oven. Heaven!
Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers. I’m thankful for you. ▼
Ed and his husband Jerry split their time between homes near Harrisburg Pennsylvania and Bethany Beach. Ed builds websites to pay the bills but loves to cook, garden, hike, and dote on their dog Atticus. Recipe requests and feedback welcome: email@example.com.