Whenever I serve grilled chicken, pork, or steak, finding a suitable side that isn’t humdrum is a chore. The usual—baked, fried, or mashed potatoes—can be boring. Recently, I began experimenting with various hash brown casserole recipes to see which flavor combinations might work best with a hearty meat. I really liked the idea of a potato casserole as opposed to simple potatoes.
There were a few “musts”. First, the casserole must be creamy but not mushy. Second, the casserole must be filled with at least one bold flavor so as not to be one of those filler-foods that we often see on restaurant buffets. And, lastly, the casserole must be quick and easy enough to make and serve for weeknight dinners.
|Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2015|
During the experimentation process, I tried potatoes that were shredded fresh vs. the bagged shredded potatoes found in the refrigerated or frozen breakfast section of the grocery store. Many recipes—some even from very reliable Food Network names like Paula Deen—called for the thawed, bagged potatoes. The fresh potatoes were definitely better. The bagged potatoes worked and were good; although, I must admit that they were slightly mushy in comparison. Consider them as an option if you’re in a hurry or if the idea of shredding your own potatoes would keep you from trying this recipe otherwise.
Although I’m a die-hard fan of Yukon Gold potatoes for flavor, texture, and appearance, I recommend a classic Russet baking potato here. The more durable flesh is best for a casserole that bakes to a much softer consistency. I also recommend that you clean the potatoes well before shredding, but do not peel them. The skin adds texture as it bakes, for sure.
The ingredient list I eventually chose is basically the same as a loaded baked potato or a twice-baked potato, but there is definitely some wiggle room for you if you prefer different add-ins. Jalapeno and cilantro were two of my add-ins that I couldn’t resist. You will probably want to keep the main ingredients the same in order to have a creamy end result, however.
This casserole pairs beautifully with steak more than the other meats, I’d say. I recommend serving it with a green salad (leaf lettuce, red onion, blue cheese crumbles, dried cranberries, and walnuts or pecans) tossed with a balsamic-honey vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, crushed garlic clove, salt, pepper, and honey to taste) to cut the richness of the meat and potatoes.
Hash Brown Casserole
2 lbs. russet potatoes, shredded, peel on
½ stick melted butter
2 cups sour cream
1 can cream of celery soup
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2½ cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese
15 slices bacon, fried until crisp, then crumbled
1 jalapeno, chopped finely, seeds removed
dash of Worcestershire sauce
½ cup chopped, fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
1 can French fried onions (like French’s or Durkee brands)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter/grease a 9x13 baking dish.
After frying bacon, use the bacon grease to sauté onion until slightly soft. Add garlic and jalapeno, and sauté for one more minute. Turn onto paper towel to remove excess grease.
Mix shredded potatoes (these can be shredded with the larger holes of a box grater or you could use a food processor if you have the grater attachment), sour cream, celery soup, diced onion/jalapeno/garlic, Cheddar cheese, bacon crumbles, Worcestershire, cilantro, and salt/pepper in a large mixing bowl until combined.
Pour into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with can of fried onions. Pour melted butter over top of onions and casserole. Sprinkle with Pepper Jack cheese, mostly covering onions.
Cover casserole with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, or until onions and cheese appear bubbly and slightly browned.