Set out the cold ingredients to bring to room temperature. Set a large pot of cold water on the stovetop. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Add them to the cold water immediately so they do not brown. Add the garlic and 1 tablespoon salt to the water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 10-14 minutes, until you can easily cut the potatoes with a butter knife.
Drain the potatoes and immediately mash. Do this with a potato masher, or by placing them in the bowl of an electric mixer and beating. Mash the potatoes until almost completely smooth. Do not over-mash.
Place the butter and half & half in a microwave-safe bowl and warm so that the butter melts into the half & half.
Once the potatoes are mashed, add the butter mixture to the potatoes and mix to incorporate. Then mix in the cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Serve the hot fluffy mashed potatoes as-is or bake. (Baking makes them even better!)
Baking instructions: For a crispy top, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Scoop the mashed potatoes into a large sauté pan. Sprinkle with an additional 1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese, and bake for 20 minutes. Once out of the oven sprinkle with chopped chive and serve warm.
Can't find fontina cheese? Use any easy-melting cheese you like!