2tablespoonsother herbssuch as a combination of chives, dill, thyme, basil, etc., finely chopped
Peel the potatoes and cut them into equal-sized, 1 1/2-inch chunks. Place the potatoes and the garlic cloves in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and stir in 2 heaping teaspoons of salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are very tender (but not crumbly) when stabbed with a fork, around 20 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, heat together the milk and the butter (in a small pot on the stove or in a large glass measuring cup in the microwave) until warm and melted.
Drain the cooked potatoes and garlic and return to the pot. Pour the milk/butter mixture on top and mash with a potato masher until smooth and creamy. Mix in salt and pepper, to taste, making sure to add enough. Fold in 1/2 cup Parmesan plus all of the chopped herbs until just combined.
Spread the mashed potatoes in a 9- by 13-inch (or equivalently sized) baking dish. Evenly sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top. Bake immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
When you're ready to bake, place the uncovered dish in a preheated 375°F oven. Cook for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the mashed potatoes are hot and the Parmesan on top is melted. For a golden crust, turn on the broiler for the last few minutes, watching closely the entire time. Garnish with additional fresh chopped herbs on top, if desired, and serve immediately.
It's important to make sure your mashed potatoes are well-seasoned. The potato chunks will be slightly salty after boiling, but you'll need to add additional salt to taste as you're mashing. Add salt gradually and taste frequently...you can always add more salt but it's impossible to take it away! Typically, I stir in 1 teaspoon of salt and then add an additional 1/4 teaspoon at a time until I think the mashed potatoes are adequately seasoned. I ended up adding 2 teaspoons of salt total when I made this recipe. And of course, don't skimp on the freshly ground black pepper!
For even richer, more decadent mashed potatoes, you may swap half-and-half or heavy cream for all or part of the milk.
Either salted or unsalted butter will work in this recipe.
Instead of a potato masher, a potato ricer also works great for mashing potatoes. I don't recommend using an electric mixer, though. It can easily overbeat the potatoes and result in that gluey texture that is to be avoided.