You may know them as Yummy Potatoes, Potato Casserole, Potatoes Supreme, Cheesy Potatoes, Tater-Tot Casserole, Hash Brown Bake, or any of a dozen other permutations. There’s at least one variant recipe in every Ladies’ Auxiliary self-published cookbook (whether written by the Junior League, Hospital Helpers, or Church Ladies). They show up in Southern Living magazine every two years or so.
Some variations use frozen hash browns; others use tater tots, or dices. Some call for cream of chicken soup; others for cream of mushroom. They come with French-fried onion rings as a topper, or crushed crackers, or potato chips, or buttered bread crumbs. Everyone has their own little family twist on the topic, you see.
In my part of the world, they’ve become known as Funeral Potatoes.
I’m sure they started as an economical, efficient way to serve dressed potatoes to a large crowd, which, around here, is just what you’re going to get with any funeral, or church supper, or family reunion. Large families beget large families, and when you throw mid- to late-19th century polygamy into the mix (as so many early settlers in this area did), there are some large families hanging out 100 years later.
They taste great hot, lukewarm, and even cold, so if you’re one of the last through the buffet, you still end up with happy tastebuds. Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but I’ve seen very dignified Church Ladies in heels and pearls scrape out the last bits from the serving pan back in the kitchen and sneak the spoon between their appropriately-lipsticked lips, eyes closed in bliss.
Not that I’m one of them. Really.
We don’t save them for just funerals. Even if people start popping off right and left, these are too tasty to save just for comforting the bereaved.
Having a baby? You’re likely to get some Funeral Potatoes delivered to your kitchen.
Surgery? Funeral Potatoes with some ham and green peas mixed in, for a one-dish wonder.
Feeling low? Make some Funeral Potatoes, and you’ll feel better.
And if someone actually dies? Funeral Potatoes are like a gastronomic hug.
Here’s my version. I like it made from fresh potatoes, and I don’t like extra stuff on top.
Grate 5-8 medium baking potatoes, and rinse well. (If you’re using the Big Behemoth Idaho Bakers, you might only need about 2. One fall, I made a whole batch with one Extreme Potato… I think it weighed about three pounds. Most of them are not like that. It may have come from a radioactive test field. Regardless, you want about 6 cups of potato shreds, more or less.)
Set them to boil in salted water until they’re just tender, but not mushy at all.
In a large mixing bowl, combine:
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1-2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion if you have it
Blend all that together smoothly.
When the potatoes are just cooked through, drain them and mix them into the sauce thoroughly.
Turn the really fragrant goopy mess into a buttered casserole dish, and either pop it into a 350* oven until it’s browned and bubbling, or turn it into a foil-lined pan and freeze it solid before popping it out of the pan, wrapping it well, and storing it in the freezer for up to a month. (To use it from frozen, let it thaw in the fridge for awhile, and plan to give it a stir mid-way through cooking, as sometimes the sour cream wants to get a bit watery. Just stir it, Una! Stir it!) (And, serious holiday bonus points if you know where that quote came from. It’s one of my favorite movie bits. No sieving needed.)
Funeral Potatoes. Not just for dead folks anymore.