by Mary Cokenour
A funeral is a time of sorrow, the passing of a family member, friend, neighbor that grips the mind and heart with deep sadness. Usually the reasoning is that this person is missed; no longer can he/she be involved in the lives of the yet living.
However, while the funeral is the saying goodbye, the wake afterwards is the true celebration of, not the death, but the life. Singing, dancing, tales of delighted remembrance are all part of the celebration, along with food and drink.
One such dish for this occasion is “Funeral Potatoes”, supposedly developed throughout the Intermountain states of Idaho, Nevada and Utah. Searching through culinary resources, this “cheesy, creamy potato casserole” shows up in Mid-western and Southern cookbooks as well.
For Utah, it was typical for Relief Societies to make this potato dish for grieving families, giving comfort, not just to the heart, but the body as well. A Blanding, UT friend, Heidi Murphy, gave me her family recipe. I’ve enjoyed it as directed, but even played with different cheeses included such as Swiss, Goat and Gruyere.
It is definitely a potato lover’s delight and accompanies any cooked meat or poultry deliciously; however, it takes two days to prepare and spontaneity is not a friend of this recipe.
I can hear the huge sighs now and the question, “Oh dear, what has she done with this tried and true recipe now?”
You know me so well, don’t you? As much as I, and my husband, love the taste and texture of Funeral Potatoes, when we want a potato casserole now, we want it now!
While my recipe is more in line with an “au gratin” casserole, the comfort can be achieved in two hours, instead of two days.
I still use real butter. Margarine? Seriously, who, in their right mind, would use something one molecule away from becoming plastic!
Instead of a canned soup, a lightly seasoned mixture of fresh eggs and real cream seals the deal. Thinly sliced potatoes, sharp Cheddar cheese enveloped in a rich, creamy sauce; now that’s what I call comfort! To be fair, I am including Heidi’s recipe along with mine; make both, and have a cook-off.
Cheddar Cheesy Potatoes Ingredients: 6 medium potatoes (white, red skinned, or mixture); 1 small red onion, diced; 14 Tbsp. butter or butter with canola oil; 1 (16 oz.) bag shredded sharp Cheddar cheese; Ground black pepper; Salt; 2 large eggs; 2 cups half n ’half.
Preparation: Slice potatoes 1/8 inch thin (leave skin on) and immerse in cold water for 15 minutes; drain and rinse. While potatoes are soaking, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 10 inch skillet and sauté until edges just begin to brown; remove from heat. Preheat oven to 375F; smear bottom and sides of 4 quart baking dish with 2 tablespoons butter.
Begin layering 1/3 of potatoes on bottom of dish; sprinkle 1/3 of onions over potatoes; 1/3 of cheese spread over all; 5 tablespoons butter; ¼ teaspoon each of ground black pepper and salt. Repeat except for final layer, only spread the remaining cheese; no additional butter, black pepper and salt.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat together eggs, half n’ half, ¼ teaspoon each ground black pepper and salt; evenly pour over top layer of baking dish. The mixture will work its way down into the layers and bottom. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover, bake for additional 20 minutes and let settle for 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 8 servings,
(Recipe Source: Heidi Murphy of Blanding, Utah)
Ingredients: 7 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold or Russet); ½ cup butter, plus 8 additional ½ Tbsp. pieces; 1 can Cream of Chicken soup, family size; ½ can milk; 1/3 cup onion, minced; 1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, grated; 1 pint sour cream; ¼ tsp. salt; ½ tsp. ground black pepper; Corn flakes; *optional: real bacon bits
Boil potatoes, skin on, till fork tender (slightly firm); let cook, peel off skin and grate.
In a large saucepan, combine cup of butter, soup and milk, on medium heat, till hot; do not bring to boil. Whisk in onion, cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper till smooth.
In a 9 x 13 baking dish (spray with non-stick spray), layer potatoes then sauce (there will be 3 layers of each). Top with an even layer of corn flakes; dot with the 8-1/2 Tbsp. of butter. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight.
Next day, preheat oven to 350F. Bake, covered with foil, for 45 minutes; uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 8-10 servings.