My wife Molly’s dad requested a hash brown casserole for our family Thanksgiving meal this year. I knew it was a side dish we’d have no trouble making, but I didn’t know it was a dish that would lead us on quite an adventure.
I associate Hash Brown Casserole mostly with Cracker Barrel, probably because a lot of people who regularly visit that particular roadside restaurant go for the Hash Brown Casserole, among other “home-cooked” Southern-style country dining favorites. There’s nothing wrong with Cracker Barrel, but it’s not a place we visit often because we prefer one-of-a-kind eateries to chains when we dine out. For that reason, I decided to skip out on all the “Cracker Barrel copycat” versions of Hash Brown Casserole recipes that are everywhere on Internet cooking websites.
We have a wonderful reference shelf of cookbooks in our home, and it’s rare I need a recipe I can’t find in one of the books, so I turned again to our printed resources for Hash Brown Casserole. Finally, after quite a bit of flipping pages, I arrived at a simple recipe originally submitted for a Springfield Elementary School cookbook in the 1990-91 school year. Better yet, this recipe is credited to Jimmy (we called him James) and Cathy Honeycutt, a boy who was a friend of mine later on in elementary school and his mom.
So, we made the recipe for Thanksgiving, but we decided to replace the bag of frozen hash browns (as is suggested in the recipe below) with freshly-grated potatoes. I’ve grated hash browns for breakfast before for me and Molly, and it was no trouble. Just grate, steam in a pan and serve! Homemade hash brown potatoes for casserole aren’t as easy. Grating lots of fresh potatoes, enough to have a two-pound bag worth for a casserole, produces a lot of moisture, too much to bake into a casserole without risking a certain soupiness you don’t want. Over a period of about two hours, I grated potatoes, boiled them to remove a lot of the starchiness and then strained and drained them in a tea towel. Everything turned out great, but the process had me seriously sweating all over our kitchen the day before Thanksgiving.
The moral of this story is that this recipe for Hash Brown Casserole, the one we’re sharing with you below, is outstanding, just as it is. We DO NOT suggest you grate your own potatoes unless you really want to put in the work. Stick with the bag of frozen potatoes. It might say on the back, “Do Not Thaw,” but we removed our frozen hash browns from the bag and microwaved them for about two minutes before mixing them with the other ingredients, just to knock out some of the ice from the freezer to cut down on the moisture going into the dish in the oven.
Cathy and James, thank you for sharing this recipe for the elementary school cookbook all those years ago. Like so many other family favorites, it has stood the test of time. I would far prefer to make my own Hash Brown Casserole at home in lieu of fighting the crowd at Cracker Barrel. This recipe is the kind by which you can mix everything in one bowl and then cook it in one dish, which cuts down on cleanup, too. Our family ate this casserole up on the Thanksgiving table, and we’ve already made it again since. Enjoy!
Hash Brown Casserole
What You Need:
2-pound (approximately) bag of frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
8 ounces sour cream
1 stick butter, melted
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup cheddar cheese
¼ cup onion, chopped
salt and pepper
What You Do:
1. Grease a 9-by-13 casserole dish.
2. Mix all ingredients well, and pour into the dish.
3. Top with paprika and more cheese.
4. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour and browned as you like it.
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