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Eric Akis: Make-ahead recipes to lessen the load on Thanksgiving

Gravy base and mashed potato bake can be prepared the day before, lessening the workload on the day of the big meal
This gravy and mashed potato bake can both be prepared mostly in advance. ERIC AKIS

Preparing a Thanksgiving dinner of roast turkey and all the trimmings can be arduous. But you can lessen the load if you prepare some side dishes almost entirely in advance the day before, as you can with today’s recipes.

One is mashed potato bake, made by spreading garlic- and-cheese-flavoured mashed potatoes into a baking dish. The potatoes are then cooled, topped with more cheese, and then refrigerated until ready to bake.

When needed, you bake the potatoes in 350 F oven for 25 minutes. You then broil them a short while, to make them golden on top and hot throughout. You can bake the potatoes when your cooked roast turkey is out of the oven resting.

The other recipe is a gravy base made by thickening turkey (or chicken) stock with a roux. The gravy base is then cooled and refrigerated until needed.

To use it, when your turkey is roasted and out the pan, you set the pan on the stovetop and add some stock to it to deglaze it. You then whisk in the base you made and simmer it, quickly creating gravy to serve with your turkey.

Make-Ahead Cheesy Garlic Mashed Potato Bake

Cheesy, garlic-flavoured mashed potatoes that can be made oven-ready a day in advance.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Makes: eight servings

5 lbs. yellow-fleshed or russet potatoes, peeled and quartered

4 to 6 large garlic cloves, sliced

1 cup warm milk

1/3 cup sour cream

1/4 cup butter, melted, plus some for casserole dish

• salt and ground white pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cups (about 125 to 150 grams) grated Gouda or Gouda-style cheese (divided; see Note and Eric’s options)

3 green onions, very thinly sliced (divided; see Note and Eric’s options)

1/3 cup freshly and finely grated Parmesan cheese

Place potatoes and garlic in a large pot and cover with at least two inches of cold water. Set over medium-high heat and bring potatoes to a boil. Lower heat until water is just simmering. Simmer potatoes until very tender, about 20 minutes.

Drain potatoes well, ensuring the garlic stays in the pot, and then thoroughly mash. Mix in the milk, sour cream and 1/4 cup melted butter. Season potatoes with salt and pepper; then mix in half of the Gouda cheese and two-thirds of the green onions.

Butter a 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Spread potatoes into the dish, and then cool to room temperature. Top with remaining Gouda cheese and Parmesan cheese. Cover and refrigerate potatoes and remaining green onions until needed.

When needed, bake potatoes, uncovered, in 350 F oven for 25 minutes, or until heated through. Turn oven to broil, and then broil the top of the potatoes a few minutes, until golden. Sprinkle with remaining green onions and serve.

Note: I used a Gouda-style cheese called Amsterdammer when testing this recipe. Courtenay’s Natural Pasture Cheese Company makes it. For a list of stores selling it, go to

Eric’s options: Other tangy cheese, such as aged cheddar or Swiss, will also work in this recipe. Instead of green onions, use chopped parsley, to taste, in and on the potatoes.

Turkey Gravy Base

This recipe makes a thickened stock base for gravy to serve with roast turkey.

Preparation time: five minutes

Cooking time: About 12 minutes

Makes: About 6 cups

5 3/4 cups turkey or chicken stock (divided)

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place five cups of the stock in a medium pot, set over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove stock from the heat.

Place butter in a second medium pot set over medium, medium-high heat. When butter is melted, mix in the flour, creating a roux. Cook and stir the roux several minutes, until it turns a tan brown colour. Remove pot from the heat, and then very slowly, being mindful of splatters, whisk in one cup of the stock. When mixture thickens, slowly whisk in remaining stock.

Set pot back over the heat, bring to a simmer, and simmer this base for gravy until lightly thickened, about two minutes. Remove from the heat again, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate until needed. It can be made up to a day in advance.

To use, when your roast turkey is cooked and out of the pan, remove fat from pan drippings and then set the pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of stock to the pan and bring to boil, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge the flavourful brown bits. Whisk in your gravy base, bring to a simmer, and simmer a few minutes, until gravy has thickened a bit more. Seasoning gravy with salt and pepper, and it’s ready.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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