…and I say “casserole.” 😉 When planning the menu for our Welcome, Spring! BBQ, my potato casserole quickly came to mind. The flavor — cheesy with just a hint of heat — complements many a dish, including the BBQ pork ribs we had as a main. It comes together quickly and easily. It can be made ahead of time (several hours, at least) and kept refrigerated until you’re ready to bake it. It feeds a crowd. It freezes and reheats beautifully. And everyone seems to love it, whether they say “po-tay-toe” or “po-tah-toe” (go on, spare 87 seconds and give yourself a giggle with the video — you know you want to! 😉 )
I developed this recipe YEARS ago. My former mother-in-law had a potato casserole recipe that was a favorite in the family. I had a pot luck function coming up at work and had asked her for her recipe. However, when I read through it, I noted that although it used frozen hash brown potatoes and condensed soup, it also required chopped onion and rather copious amounts of shredded cheese and chopped green chilies (tinned). I had a rather tiring work schedule and commute at that time (I would get up around 5 AM to be at work by 7:30 AM), and while I enjoyed cooking and baking then just as much as I do now, just the thought of getting up that much earlier in the morning — or having to stay up that much later the night before — to dice onion and grate cheese in the middle of a tiring work week made me feel exhausted. Also, my ex-husband and I were living on tight budgets, and quite frankly, the cheese and tinned green chilies started making the dish a bit more pricey than what we had budgeted.
So I put on my thinking cap and, recipe in hand, started meandering around the grocery store. In the freezer section, I found Potatoes O’Brien, which already had onion diced up into them — and some pretty bits of red and green bell pepper, too! In the soup aisle, I espied some Fiesta Nacho Cheese soup — perfect! That would keep me from having to purchase and grate cheese, as well as getting me off the hook for the green chilies — and all for significantly less money. And as an added bonus, when I started mixing all of this together, I realized that these changes enabled me to add 1/3 more potatoes (3 pounds instead of 2 pounds), thereby increasing the number of servings significantly, making this dish that much more economical!
While this casserole does take advantage of several convenience products — primarily condensed soups and frozen potatoes — and also contains butter or margarine, sour cream, and milk — it’s not as heavy a dish as you might think because 1) I use primarily reduced-fat items and 2) the delicious butter or margarine, sour cream, milk, and soups are spread out among so many servings.
So go ahead, make up a casserole dish — or two! — of comforting but delicious potato casserole. It smells — and tastes! — yummy!
Note on Potatoes O’Brien: Potatoes O’Brien are frozen, diced potatoes that also have diced onion and bits of green bell pepper and red bell pepper. If you can’t find Potatoes O’Brien, you can use diced frozen potatoes and add in some diced onion and green and/or red bell pepper(s). Potatoes O’Brien are actually featured in the little spot below!
Note on Fiesta Nacho Cheese Soup: If you can’t find Fiesta Nacho cheese soup, you can use cheese soup and add in some diced green chilies for a bit of “bite.”
Note to Vegetarians: I’ve never tried doing so, but I’m betting you could replace the cream of chicken soup with another cream-based soup — I’m thinking cream of celery would be a great substitute — and it would still be a tasty, delicious casserole.
Potato Casserole for a Crowd (Really, it feeds a crowd — 12 to 16 folks)
- Three pounds (48 ounces) frozen potatoes O’Brien
- 1/4 cup (half a stick or 4 tablespoons) butter or margarine
- 1 cup milk (I use skim or 1% — they work just fine)
- 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream (I use reduced fat)
- 1 can undiluted cream of chicken soup (I use reduced-fat)
- 1 can undiluted Fiesta Nacho Cheese soup
- Coarse ground black pepper to taste
NOTE: You can mix the soups, butter, sour cream, milk, and pepper in a medium sized bowl and then stir into the potatoes in a large bowl, OR, you can mix them in a large bowl and then stir the potatoes into the mixture. The first option makes the mixing a bit easier, but adds another dish to be washed; the second makes you work a bit more at stirring (I look upon it as arm exercises 😉 ), but you have one less dish for the wash.
- Stir together cream of chicken and Nacho cheese soups.
- Stir in melted butter or margarine until smooth.
- Stir in sour cream.
- Gradually stir in milk.
- Season with ground pepper to taste.
- Stir in frozen potatoes O’Brien in manageable batches.
- Lightly spray or grease a 13″ X 9″ casserole dish or two 8″ x 8″ or 9″ X 9″ casserole dishes.
- Spread potato mixture into casserole dish(es).
- Bake at 350F until bubbly and cooked through; about 45 to 60 minutes. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.
- Freezes beautifully — just bake, cool, cover well, and freeze. Reheat at 325F until bubbly and heated through.