Alright, you heard about the pie, now I’ll tell you about the savoury things we ate before we ate the pie.
Most notably, I’ll tell you about the potatoes. Sorry, I meant THE potatoes. These potatoes have a reputation, and it is simultaneously good and bad. Good reputation = they are delicious. Bad reputation = they are totally disgusting (but not taste-wise). I’m talking about the one and only Mormon Funeral Potatoes. Some of you have eaten these potatoes, and some of you have probably heard of them, and others still have likely never heard of them at all and are wondering what that name is all about. Well, I’ll tell you. I am fairly sure I had an incarnation of these potatoes made by my Granny Hastings, on my Dad’s side, at many family gatherings when I was really little and we’d all eat in the living room off of TV-trays. I always loved them then but never knew exactly what they were. Then, when I was in high school, my mom and stepdad and I went to Utah to visit my aunt and uncle and cousins there. They live in Utah, but are not Mormon, unlike basically everyone else. They served us these potatoes with a big ham dinner, and told us that they were called Mormon Funeral Potatoes because they were an old standby dish for funerals in the LDS Church – they’re cheap and easy and a crowd-pleasing comfort food, basically perfect to go along with a ham or some other such relatively cheap thing you can serve a crowd of people that may or may not be in mourning.
In classic church-lady comfort food fashion, this recipe (likely created sometime in the 40s or 50s I imagine) involves condensed soup. Oh yeah, condensed soup. TWO CANS. The recipe is as follows, or is about this as far as I can remember:
500ml Sour Cream
2 cans of Campbells condensed “Cream of” soups (I use one can cream of mushroom, one can cream of celery, because they’re both vegetarian and seem like a good combo in this dish)
a generous amount of grated cheddar (about a cup and a half I’d say)
some diced onion (in the past I’ve used real onion as well as green onion, this time I used a leek)
1/3-1/2 cup melted butter
1kg frozen hash brown cubes (go with Cavendish brand – McCain ones have about a million ingredients, including beef fat and all kinds of scary preservatives)
Basically you mix all the “liquid”-like ingredients together – the sour cream, the soups, the melted butter – then mix in the onion and the cheese, then the hash browns. Spread all of this in a greased 9 by 13 pan and top with crushed cornflakes that have been mixed with about a tablespoon of melted butter.
Then, you bake it. For about half an hour, at about 350. Then eat, and discuss among yourselves how likely you may be to have a heart attack after eating them. Or, you can talk about how some people have said that it is active church involvement that is making many Americans fat! Too many funerals and church gatherings! TOO MANY FUNERAL POTATOES! Because, much as I love these potatoes, they are totally disgusting, and while mixing up the condensed soup mixture it is not uncommon to have second thoughts about the dish. But unlike many people, I don’t go to church, and I really almost never eat these. For awhile my family used to make them with a ham on every Boxing Day, but we haven’t done that in a few years. The last time I made these potatoes myself was for Thanksgiving 2007 in Montreal. So, I think my health will survive the occasional indulgence.
In addition to these potatoes I made some vegetarian stuffing in Kat’s crockpot – Paul’s suggestion as this is how his family always does the veggie stuffing, and it’s totally brilliant! Baking it in a dish both dries it out AND takes up precious oven space during these kinds of feast-preparing days. My mom usually handles the stuffing and leaves me to merely break up the bread pieces, so this was my first crack at it. I bought store-bought bakery croutons from the Sobeys near my house (cheater!) and basically sauteed mushrooms in butter, set them aside, and then sauteed onion and celery in butter until nice and soft, and seasoned them with lots of fresh sage, thyme, a bit of savoury, a tiny pinch of nutmeg, and salt and pepper.
Toss all of that with the bread cubes and mushroom and throw in some chopped parsley and add broth. Most recipes for stuffing say to add about a cup of broth, but that stuffing is going to be cooked in a juicy turkey, so I wasn’t sure how much liquid I needed to add to compensate. I put about 2 cups of broth in and then added a bit more water once I got it in the crockpot. To be honest, it was a bit wetter than I’d like, so I probably would have been fine without adding the extra water at all, and maybe using a touch less broth. But you do want to check on it in the crockpot, because you don’t want it to dry out and burn. I turned the crock to high for awhile, and then down to low. Then basically I just checked on it all afternoon, with my trusty thermometer I acquired in my Food Handler’s Course. When it was really really hot, I’d turn it off for awhile, and then if it started to get too cold, I’d turn it back up to keep it at a safe holding temperature. Working in a kitchen really means you get crazy about these things.
Lastly, I roasted some veggies and chick peas. I have a lot of carrots and beets and winter radishes and a turnip from my CSA, so I chopped them up small and put them in a pan with chickpeas, tossed them in some olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper and thyme and roasted them at about 400 for 20-30 minutes or so. Delightful. Covered almost everything on my plate with a mushroom miso gravy and gobbled up.
See you next year, Thanksgiving!