The Flavor-Packed Cheese Ina Garten Adds To Mashed Potatoes

From hand-mashing to milling to immersion blending, there's no shortage of different methods of making mashed potatoes — and there are probably at least as many "secret ingredients." Julia Child put 30 cloves of garlic in her mashed potatoes. According to a Tasting Table survey, mashed potato lovers' favorite way to elevate their mash is simply with butter. But, 14.48% of voters said that when they want to take their mashed potatoes to the next level, they're reaching for cream cheese.

When chef Ina Garten makes mashed potatoes, she isn't reaching for cream cheese exactly, but she does swear by adding a little fromage into the mix. As Garten herself puts it, "I love to take something ordinary and make it really special." In a 2019 episode of "Barefoot Contessa," Garten reveals that when extra special guests come over for dinner, she keeps dinner as simple as possible and serves comfort food at a plain table setting. The Barefoot Contessa is the unofficial hero of uncomplicated yet unexpected cooking, and her mashed potatoes are no exception. 

The chef is a vocal champion of the gouda omelet, but gouda isn't the type of cheese she adds to her mashed potatoes. So, what is it?

Ina Garten grabs the goat cheese

This recipe comes from Garten's cookbook "Make It Ahead," via WNYC. The chef's mashed potatoes start with Yukon golds, fresh garlic cloves, half a stick of butter, sour cream, and half and half. It's a fairly common ingredient lineup for mashed potatoes with a few particularly creamy additions. But, the secret, flavor-packed ingredient that takes Garten's mashed potatoes to the next is goat cheese. Specifically, Garten uses garlic and herb goat cheese softened to room temperature. She recommends Montrachet, which boasts a soft texture that makes for easy incorporation.

To add goat cheese to your dish, says Garten, make your mashed potatoes as you normally would, then stir in the goat cheese while the potatoes are still hot. Then pass the potatoes through a food mill for extra fine grain. And for an extra cheesy bite, Garten suggests sprinkling your pre-made, assembled mashed potatoes with a little grated Parmesan cheese and baking them in the oven. The cheesy top layer will crisp up and make for an especially decadent and savory finish.