October is, without a doubt, my favourite month. I adore Thanksgiving—it has all the qualities of Christmas, minus the demand for shopping and gift exchanges – and Halloween is also a big deal in our house, as we have a fun family tradition of fashioning homemade costumes each year (stay tuned for more on that later this month). I feel like I thrive the most during the first few weeks of fall, and I find it impossibly difficult not to be inspired by pretty much everything right now.
Next weekend, is our annual outdoor Thanksgiving (assuming the weather cooperates, as it has for five out of the past six years), and I’ve been making my lists and checking them twice (and three and four times because I have the worst case of baby brain ever, and can barely remember what I ate for breakfast let alone what I need to feed 21 people) in preparation.
Part of my strategy this year is to make as much in advance as possible. Not only do we cook a feast for plenty of people, but we also have games and activities for the kids that everyone counts on. It keeps us all busy in the days leading up the big meal, so anything that can be done ahead of time is. This year that will include the carrot cake for dessert (I’m baking it tomorrow and freezing it until next weekend), and the massive amount of mashed potatoes – 15 pounds - needed to feed this group.
If you’re sceptical about making mashed potatoes ahead of time, I can assure you it really does work. However, the key to keeping them moist is to ensure they are mixed with plenty of fat, which is totally okay for a holiday meal, right? Cream cheese is really that secret ingredient here, but don’t worry… if you or one of your guests isn’t a fan of the flavour or texture you honestly won’t even know it’s in the dish.
I actually make my potatoes a full week in advance and freeze them until needed, but if you’re unsure about that process, you can just make them two or three days ahead of time and keep them covered in the fridge until your big dinner. Either option will work well, and you’ll be grateful not to be standing over a steaming pot of boiling potatoes when your family and friends arrive for dinner.
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
- 5lbs. russet of Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- ½ - 1 cup half and half or sour cream
- ½ cup butter, softened, plus extra for baking pan and dotting top of potatoes
- Optional: fresh ground pepper
Place the potatoes and a tablespoon of salt in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and cook until the potatoes are tender and can easily be pierced with a fork. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl.
Using a handheld or electric mixer, combine the potatoes, cream cheese, ½ cup half and half, and the butter and mix until combined. Season well with salt and pepper, if using.
Lightly grease a 9” x 13” (or similar sized) baking pan with butter. Spoon in the mashed potatoes and smooth the top. Dot with butter.
Cover the potatoes and let cool in the refrigerator. Keep for 2-3 days, or alternatively place in the freezer for up to two-weeks (if going with this option, make sure you use a freezer-safe baking dish).
To serve: If potatoes are frozen, thaw in the fridge. Bring the potatoes to room temperature, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 45-60 minutes or until warmed through.