Today’s delicious dish – Potato Casserole
I’m always on the lookout for ways to make a lot of food without a lot of work. Casseroles do this very well. You have probably seen one or more of the many recipes for some kind of potato casserole. Usually these include canned cream of something soup, milk, melted butter, cheese, and sour cream that are mixed with thawed frozen hash browns, then baked. These casseroles could be called “Company Potatoes” or “Funeral Potatoes” or “Hash Brown Casserole”, and may have been potluck favorites from years ago.
I decided to make this dish with homemade sauce and a flavor that is bumped up with a nice blend of spices. Sour cream is whisked into the sauce after it cooks, giving a nice tang to the dish. This is not a low-calorie side dish; it is rich and cheesy and satisfyingly savory. We love to have it with everything from salmon to steak to hot dogs.
Start by making a slightly thickened and boldly tasty white sauce. This gets mixed with shredded cheese and frozen Southern-style hash brown potatoes (cut into small cubes, not shredded) that have been thawed. These frozen potatoes work perfectly in the recipe. No matter how tempted you are to try making this recipe with fresh potatoes, don’t do it. The frozen potatoes have been slightly blanched, then treated with a preservative to keep them from browning, then lightly dried. The result is little cubes of potatoes that retain their shape and color very well. If you used fresh potatoes, peeling them and cutting them into little cubes, you would have too much moisture, and the casserole would be a discolored and watery mess with potatoes that had disintegrated.
You don’t need to grease your 9” x 13” pan because the sauce has plenty of butter in it. Don’t cover this casserole as it bakes, because you want it to dry out a bit and get somewhat crusty. If you like onion and garlic, you could easily add it to the sauce by cooking in the melted butter until translucent, then continuing with the recipe.
I think sharp cheddar cheese has the most flavor, but you should use any cheese you have or like. And feel free to substitute whole or skim milk in the sauce, as well as fat-free or light sour cream, depending on what you have in your refrigerator and what you want to be eating and serving to your family.
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 1/2 cups 2% milk
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces) sour cream
- 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 pounds (about 7 cups) frozen southern-style hash brown potatoes, thawed
- 2 cups cornflakes
- 3 Tablespoons melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add seasonings and flour. Cook, whisking often, until mixture is bubbly and smells toasty. Whisk in milk and continue to cook, whisking often, until mixture is bubbly and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.
Whisk sour cream into sauce. You will have about 4 cups of sauce.
In a large bowl, toss together shredded cheese and thawed hash browns. Pour in sauce and mix well. You will have about 9 cups of this mixture. Turn mixture into a 9” x 13” baking pan.
Using hands, crumble cornflakes, but do not crush them entirely or turn them to dust. Combine cornflake crumbles and melted butter. Sprinkle evenly over top of casserole.
Bake, uncovered, for 50 minutes.
Makes 12 (3/4 cup) servings.
Nutrition information (per serving): 249 calories, 13 grams fat, 8.5 grams saturated fat, 8 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrate, 4 gram sugars, 2 grams fiber, 38 milligrams cholesterol, 616 milligrams sodium
Cost per serving: 76 cents
Preparation time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
What happens next?
Potato Casserole is a wonderful and versatile leftover. It is easily heated up in the microwave, and gets even better as time goes by. It should keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator, and it can be frozen. When I got tired of just heating up this leftover, I thought up a new thing to make with it. My Potato and Tuna Croquettes are one of our favorite things to eat, so I always make sure to set aside at least 2 servings of Potato Casserole.
Another day’s delicious dish – Potato and Tuna Croquettes
Croquette comes from the French word croquer, which means “to crunch.” The crunch comes from a breadcrumb coating that is fried to make it crispy. A croquette may be a little ball, or a roll-shaped piece, or a patty-shaped item. Croquettes often combine a starchy element, a meat or vegetable, and a sauce to bind the mixture together.
In my recipe, 2 servings of Potato Casserole are combined with tuna and cheese, spices, and a few binding ingredients. The mixture is scooped up and shaped into patties, which get a panko breadcrumb coating and are then pan fried to golden, crunchy deliciousness. We think they are fabulous with ketchup.
When you combine the ingredients in your mixture, be gentle enough to allow the potatoes to keep some of their shape. Overzealous mixing will turn them into a smooth paste, which will still taste great, but won’t have the chunky texture that is quite enjoyable. I have a ratchet-release ice cream scoop with 1/4 cup capacity that is perfect for this recipe. I have noticed that when I have a right-sized scoop, I do a lot better at making all the servings the same size.
These Potato and Tuna Croquettes make a wonderful appetizer, a tasty element in a small plates dinner, and a great snack or meal. I had a couple of them for lunch just last week. Kids usually love them, because the tuna is understated in the overall flavor, and the crunch on the outside is superb.
Leftover Potato and Tuna Croquettes will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days or longer, depending on how long the Potato Casserole was held in the refrigerator. The croquettes are easy to heat up in the microwave, and although they will have lost their crunch, they are still delicious.
If you have not saved any Potato Casserole, you can still make Potato and Tuna Croquettes. Prepare about 1 1/2 cups instant mashed potatoes, reducing the amount of liquid to make them very stiff, and then stirring in a spoonful of sour cream. This version will not have as much texture as the original, but the flavor and crunch are sure to win over your family.
Potato and Tuna Croquettes
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
- Dash cayenne pepper
- 5 ounce can albacore tuna in water
- 2 servings Potato Casserole
- 2 ounces (1/2 cup, lightly packed) shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
Combine flour and seasonings in a small bowl.
Drain tuna, then place in mixing bowl and break up large chunks with a fork.
Using a fork, break Potato Casserole into small chunks. In mixing bowl, combine Potato Casserole, drained tuna, cheese, beaten egg, and flour/spice mixture, leaving it somewhat chunky.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet.
Form mixture into a patty, about 2 1/2” across and 1/2” thick, made from a scant 1/4 cup of the mixture. Gently press this patty-shaped croquette into panko breadcrumbs to make crumbs stick to both sides. Set aside and continue working with mixture until all is used and you have made 8 patties.
Fry croquettes on medium heat, turning when the first side is done. When both sides are nicely browned, remove from skillet. Hold in a warm oven until ready to serve.
Makes 8 croquettes.
Nutrition information (per croquette): 229 calories, 15 grams fat, 5.5 grams saturated fat, 10.5 grams protein, 13 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 gram sugars, .5 grams fiber, 56 milligrams cholesterol, 493 milligrams sodium
Cost per serving: 80 cents
Preparation time: 20 minutes