Dining Guide 2019 | Dining & Bar Guide | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Dining Guide 2019 

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  • Felecia Helms

Rest In Potato
An ode to Utah's favorite savory casserole.
By Amanda Rock

The first time I ate funeral potatoes, I was celebrating Christmas with my future husband and his family. I was delighted by their cheesy goodness and macabre moniker. (Growing up Catholic in Salt Lake City, I missed out on a few things.)

Made by The Relief Society, the female auxiliary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, funeral potatoes are a mainstay of social gatherings. No post-funeral luncheon in the LDS faith is complete without a few families' versions of 'em. Ever the versatile hotdish, funeral potatoes show up at happier times, too. They are delivered to homes with new babies, and appear as a side dish at potlucks and holiday meals. "When we serve them at Christmastime, we call them 'Christmas Potatoes,'" quips Beckie Rock, my mother-in-law.

In a pinch? They can be made the night before—just pop the casserole in the oven for an hour or so to reach crunchy perfection. Made from ingredients you have on hand: creamy soup, sour cream, potatoes, onions, butter and potato chips or cornflakes, it's a cinch to double the recipe in order to feed a crowd, and the casserole travels well. With a versatile recipe (every family seems to have their own version), the mellow flavor welcomes experimentation. Two popular additions are bacon and broccoli. Representing comfort food at its comfiest, funeral potatoes are delicious and satisfying.

Like its lime-green sweet counterpart, the dish is such a huge part of Utah's food culture, it also appeared on a souvenir pin during the 2002 Winter Games. Yet, they still seem weird—not to mention a little macabre—to the outside world. Augason Farms, a local business specializing in emergency food supplies, advertised their instant funeral potatoes (just add water and top with cheese) across Facebook last spring, bringing the beloved Utah casserole to the attention of a very confused, and slightly offended, wider audience. People took to Twitter to figure out the cultural phenomenon while Utahns were delighted to take center stage on social media, proselytizing about the cheesy potato casserole.

Just how ubiquitous are they? Funeral potatoes can even be found at local restaurant menus across town. "I love them, they're one of our top sellers, and I can talk about them for hours." says Chef J. Looney. The Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes ($8) at Garage on Beck are the stuff of local legend. They're rolled in cornflakes, deep fried, and served with cool, creamy ranch dressing. "This is Utah, and no meal is complete without ranch," explains the chef, referencing Utah's favorite salad dressing and dip. Their original recipe is studded with bacon ("Because we can," he points out). There's also a fiery version with added habanero and a vegetarian offering.

My mother-in-law's famous funeral potatoes are based on a recipe from her ward cookbook, Happiness is Homemade. Winnie Rohde, who wrote the recipe, grated her own cheese, and parboiled and grated her potatoes. She preferred chopped green onions and cornflakes for the topping. It seems like every family takes pride in their own recipe, and has their own distinct take on the dish. "Some friends add a half teaspoon garlic powder, a teaspoon salt, and a half teaspoon pepper," Beckie says. "I have a friend who adds a mixture of cream cheese and sour cream, which makes her's extra creamy."

I recently made Beckie's funeral potatoes for the first time, and like everyone else, I slightly altered the recipe to my taste. I opted for vegetarian cream of mushroom soup, added plenty of salt and pepper, as suggested by my co-worker, and decided on a topping of crumbled potato chips and shredded cheese. I cooked them for a little over an hour because I was after a golden brown, crispy crust. I was impressed by how simple and quick the dish was to make, and imagined what a lifesaver this casserole would be to a busy mom with five kids underfoot—everything comes together in one pot, then you pour the mixture into a casserole dish and throw it in the oven. It doesn't get much easier than that. My potatoes turned out great I must say. They were velvety smooth and just the right amount of creamy. Sharp cheddar added a nice zing and the potato-chip crust was delectable. The recipe produced so much I decided to make two small casseroles. I brought the other one to my mom because, after all, It seemed only right to share funeral potatoes with a loved one. Onto the good stuff!

Beckie Rock's Funeral Potatoes:

Start to finish: 1 hour and 15 minutes (15 minutes active)
Servings: 8

¼ cup butter
⅓ cup diced onion
1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, or cream of celery soup
1 8-ounce package of shredded cheddar cheese. Reserve some cheese to sprinkle on top.
30-ounce package of frozen shredded hash browns.

Topping: Shredded cheese and/or ½ cup bread crumbs mixed with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, sprinkled with dried parsley for color.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-by-13 casserole dish.

In a large pot, melt ¼ cup butter over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the soup, sour cream and cheese. Stir to blend. Add the hash browns, and stir until everything is blended.

Pour the mixture into the casserole dish. Top evenly with the shredded cheese and breadcrumb mixture, sprinkle with dried parsley. Bake 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how crispy brown you want the top to be, and dig in—no mourning attire required!

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About The Authors

Enrique Limón

Enrique Limón

Editor at Salt Lake City Weekly. Lover of sour candies.

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