Make Mashed Potatoes the Night Before

I like to call these “Stress Free Thanksgiving ‘Taters”

After hosting Thanksgivings and Christmases for large family groups for several years now, I realized that the most panic-inducing dish was one of the easiest: the mashed potatoes.

Mashed potatoes are a cinch but time-consuming, fiddly, and when made the traditional way, require your attention right before you serve the meal. Those crucial 15 minutes before the group sits down to the table already are jam-packed with carving the turkey, steaming vegetables, making gravy, decanting dishes from old gnarly baking containers to your wedding china. Even if you have a helpful spouse or relative willing to take over mashed potato duty, your kitchen size or “go time” Turkey Day patience may not be able to handle graceful delegation.

That’s why I am kinda in love with my make ahead mashed potato recipe, or more of a strategy, really. I hope it contributes to lessened stress cortisol levels for you this holiday season!

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Serves 10-12

7 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes (the fastest-boiling) or Russet potatoes (the easiest to peel)

1 stick unsalted butter, room temp

1 1/2 cups sour cream or Greek yogurt (full fat, please)

Approx. 1/2 cup – 1 cup whole milk (if you only have low- or non-fat, use less milk and more butter)

Salt & Pepper

Cooking spray or a tablespoon more butter

Optional seasonings:

Fresh nutgmeg when serving for Thanksgiving turkey

4 Tablespoons finely-chopped chives for Christmas prime rib

One or Two Nights Before

Peel your potatoes and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces.

Put the pieces in your biggest soup pot and cover with cold water. You want them submerged but not floating around.

Put the lid on top and put in your fridge, if you by chance have room or two refrigerators (lucky.) If like me, you only have one and live someplace already fairly cold, stick the covered pot in a cooler that closes and place in a cold garage, or even your back patio/deck. (Stick a brick on the cooler if there are any critters in your area…wow, that sounded so country.)

The Night Before or Morning of Your Feast 

Put the cold potatoes and water on your stove at high heat. Bring to a boil and add a few hearty shakes of salt. Lower heat and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes for Yukons, 30 minutes for Russets.

Drain potatoes and return to pot. Cut the stick of butter into the potatoes like you would slice a banana into your cereal, and add the sour cream or yogurt and 1/2 cup of the milk. Smash by hand with your favorite potato mashing tool. Add more milk for your desired consistency. Mash until smooth (every family has its own policy on lumps).

Grind in some salt and pepper to taste. I like to grate in some fresh nutmeg for Thanksgiving/when serving with turkey, or to stir in about 4 tablespoons of very finely-chopped chives for Christmas/when serving with prime rib. (Just choose one variation, not both.)

Butter or spray with cooking spray a dish that can fit all your potatoes and will fit inside your oven the day-of your feast when other dishes are being heated or reheated that crucial hour before. Pour in your potatoes and cover with a lid or foil.

The Day Of

Pull your potatoes out the fridge and bring them to room temperature or leave ’em cold and reheat, covered.  Just throw them in the oven at whatever baking-ish temp your other items are cooking at, anywhere between 300-400 is good, just don’t remove that foil or cover.

You can also microwave covered with a damp paper towel if you’re really going crazy or your oven is all jammed. (Or if you already heated but your deadbeat cousin Smitty is late and everyone made you wait for him and the mash already went cold. Dammit Smitty!)

When nice and hot in the middle, stir and check consistency. Add a little more sour cream/yogurt if necessary for creaminess, but don’t overdo.

Serve right from the baking dish on a trivet on your table or buffet, or transfer to a fancy serving dish.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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