Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hashbrown Casserole: A Love Story

I have never met a potato dish I didn't like.

It's true. Remember that part in Forrest Gump when Bubba tells Forrest all of the different ways that his family cooks shrimp? I feel like that...except with potatoes.

Mashed Potatoes. Baked potatoes. French fried potatoes. Potatoes Au Gratin. Roasted Potatoes. Shoestring potatoes. Farmhouse potatoes. Fingerling potatoes. McAllister potatoes. Potato soup. Potato pancakes. Potato gnocchi. Scalloped potatoes. Smothered potatoes.

But then there is my most favorite kind: hashbrown potatoes. For whatever reason, I can't go to a restaurant, see hashbrowns on the menu, and NOT order that dish. There's something about their crispy-yet-soft texture that makes them the best sort of potato to mingle with other ingredients-- bacon, sausage, ham, peppers and onions, and (of course) cheese. Lots and lots of gloriously melted cheese.

Yes, I just rhapsodized about hashbrowns. No, I do not feel ashamed.

Part of the allure of hashbrowns comes from their status in my book as a treat. My mother never made them at home, so growing up, I had no immediate access to them-- hence, I could only get them in other food venues such as restaurants. However, the only other time I could count on seeing hashbrowns was at church potlucks when some blessed old woman would make a hashbrown casserole. And oh, how I would covet that dish-- its cheesy, starchy goodness making a happy addition to my plate. But as a child, I had a problem: all of the elderly had the privilege of going first in line, making the young whippersnappers like myself go last, thus missing out on the really good food-- like my beloved hashbrown casserole. And nothing would make me more angry than old people enjoying my food.

I have obviously learned how to make a lot of friends in my day.

Now that I am a mature, independent woman, my culinary choices are not defined by such stacked social situations. I have a car; I have a bank account; I have an oven. Therefore, I can make hashbrown casserole and share it with the world. And I tell you what: few things are more gratifying than being the hashbrown casserole lady to somebody else. I never knew I could bring so much happiness to the world.

As a casserole, this dish promises easy assembly with the convenience of a "fridge-hibernating" dish-- meaning you can make it early in the week, store it in the fridge, and pop it in the oven when you need it. Because it's such a rich dish, I like to keep it to special occasions only. However, I have been known to bake it when I need some comfort food. Sometimes, a girl's gotta have her hashbrowns. Just sayin'.

Hashbrown Casserole (serves 10-12)

Print this recipe
  • 2 lbs. shredded hashbrown potatoes (I usually purchase frozen for convenience's sake)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, melted
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1 10 oz. can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, being sure to mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into a greased 9x13 pan. Place into the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Turn up oven to 450 and bake for 15 minutes, lightly browning the top of the casserole.

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