Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The mellowing agents of casserole

I don't even know if I should bother writing the recipe because it was a disaster. Do you like potatoes and cheese? Do you cook with cream of chicken soup?

A few years ago a Mormon literary arts journal sent out a call for submissions for an issue on women and spirituality. I sent in an essay on Mormon soul food featuring a recipe for scalloped potatoes (aka funeral potatoes) cobbled together from several different ward cookbooks (non-Mormons, a ward as in congregation, not psychiatric ward). Needless to say the journal rejected my essay because it didn't quite fit the editorial vision of that particular issue.

Anyway, this morning I woke up with a case of the mean reds. I don't know why. I'd just had a wonderful evening with Monroe at the Public Theater, front row for See What I Wanna See and Lane stayed home with Jasper. But today I felt short tempered and cranky. This seemed an appropriate day for the mellowing agents of casserole. Plus I'd promised the recipe for scalloped potatoes a couple weeks ago.

But it all went to hell. I didn't cook the potatoes long enough, so they were too firm. And the cheese and glop mixture started separating and I got little yellow pools of oil. It was all too disgusting. As I was serving it all up I got so discouraged I yelled one of those words I don't want Jasper to say and started banging my head against the kitchen cupboard and saying WHY WHY WHY WHY (maybe because I was listening to Fresh Air from WHYY).

At this point Jasper came running into the kitchen and said "gass ah wine, Mommy?" Ok, how did he know how to say this? It's bad enough that he runs around saying "Mommy says agggghhhh." Lordy, we're headed towards a Tennessee Williams melodrama. But that aside, I did happen to have two bottles of some wonderful sparkling red wine (La Luna, thanks to David at 7th Avenue Wine and Liquor Co. for the suggestion), so dry your mouth will turn inside out, but loads of fun. Good idea, son.

I really wanted to be down with the homies on this scalloped potatoes thing. But I can't. Do you know, I looked at the list of ingredients on a can of cream of chicken soup and came to realize that with the exception of several infelicitous preservatives it's basically bechamel made with cream and chicken broth. But there I was, mixing the stuff together with butter, sour cream, milk, and cheese. WHYY indeed. I'm sorry Relief Society presidents of the world, but I'll take scalloped potatoes' antecedent, potato gratin (with the wonderful Gruyere cheese), any old day over the glop.

But if you're morbidly curious, here is the recipe.

4-6 potatoes, boiled in their skins until soft (but soft, real soft, to quote Woody Allen, and I recommend 6)
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1 1/2 cup cooked diced ham
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Combine soup, sour cream, 1 cup of the cheese, milk butter, salt and pepper. Slice potatoes about 1/8 inch thick. Layer potatoes in a dish with the ham, onions, and glop. Cover and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with remaining cheese and paprika. Bake uncovered for another 15 minutes. Let sit at least another five minutes before serving.

I recommend a salad with this. Today it was watercress with tomatoes dressed only with lemon juice. Jasper likes his dumped into a cup along with some chocolate milk and sparkling water.

At least the pie turned out well. For the last ten minutes of baking I topped it with salted, roasted pumpkin seeds and a sprinkling of maple sugar.


shaunamama said...

Oh my goodness, sleep is eluding me tonight, so I thought I'd pop in. This dish happens to be one of my hubby's faves. I omit the milk, and before baking it, I crumble corn flakes and spread them on top. The combination of crunch versus soft is fun, and the kids devour them.

No, my dad wasn't an elementary school principal... my maiden name was Millspaw. (Shudders) My friends and sisters all tease me relentlessly for my memory because it kind of follows that of the fabled elephant...Lane and I had Ms. Cashmore for English in the eigth grade. Mr. Hughes for English as Sophomores...and Mr. Jensen for psychology as juniors. I know...I know, pretty scary that I remember that stuff hence the relentless teasing from my sibs not to mention my best friend Susan (who I met as sophomores at Bonneville). I still remember her old phone number that I haven't used in nearly 16 years. (I told you it was scary).

As for the lambrusco, it does sound like a lot of fun. I would love to try it, but I highly doubt the stores here in Utah would have it. My friend Koen from the Netherlands just brought back a case of fabulous bordeaux from France, but he didn't say from which region. We had it at a wine tasting party a few weeks ago and I can't get it out of my head, it was that fabulous. It was from St. Patz vineyard a 2000 vintage.

I've taken too much of your time with this comment, so I'm off. Before I do, though, Jasper is a little doll!!! Oh my goodness, what a cutie!

liz said...

loving the pictures!

janeannechovy said...

I think I only know this because I spend way more time in Utah than you do any more, but the latest trend in funeral potatoes is to make them with frozen hash browns. I think you have to increase the cooking time some if you don't thaw them first. But anyway, it pretty much eliminates that undercooked-potato hazard.

puddle said...

Too funny. I just did a post on Funeral Potatoes, with the hash browns, and a friend from Chicago thought I'd dreamed up the name myself, lol! Didn't have the heart to tell her that you could get "funeral potatoes" pins at the Olympics. . . .

I kid you not.

mary ellen said...

In my barely functional but entertaining home ward, they make funeral rice--a concoction of grilled onions, beef broth, rice, bottled mushrooms (I know, eek!), and oregano. My mom was RS president for 5 years in a ward that had funerals more frequently than ward activities, so she made this a lot. It smells good. It tastes pretty good. We always got to smell it cooking but never got to eat any; perhaps that's part of its mystique.