My late grandma wasn't the greatest cook. She was a prolific baker, but there were few homecooked meals I looked forward to at my grandparent's house. But every Easter, beside the cold sliced ham, pastel colored Easter bread, pickled herring jar, and Polish sausage, was a casserole dish of decadently creamy, cheesy potatoes with a crown of corn flakes that was always a safe bet.
Later on in life, I figured out that these cheesy potatoes were a staple for many families, and they go by many names — including "funeral potatoes," because of one common occasion to prepare them (vaguely ironic for a Catholic family's Easter meal celebrating an un-funeral). The dish is easy and quick to whip up with canned cream soup, frozen potatoes, and copious amounts of dairy.
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Not everyone appreciates the corn flake topping, but they tend to hold their crispness after baking better than Ritz crackers or potato chips, some of the other common crunchies. Just don't make the mistake of using Frosted Flakes. If you want to make this the day before, put everything together except the corn flake topping. Keep it in the fridge, and on Easter, just add the topping and bake.
The garlic and Old Bay are my spin on the standard recipe, and they're cheap and quick ways to make your version of cheesy potatoes stand out from others. I used diced frozen potatoes — sometimes called Southern-style on the package — but you can use shredded frozen potatoes if you prefer. Whatever you do, just don't skimp on the cheese.
Cheesy Potato Casserole
- 1 30-ounce bag of frozen cubed hash browns
- 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
- 16 ounces sour cream (light is fine, but don't use fat free)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
- 1 stick butter, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups corn flakes, lightly crushed
- 1 teaspoon chives, optional
- Remove hash browns from the freezer an hour or two before you start cooking, or leave them in the fridge overnight. You don't want them complete thawed, but it's easier to make this if they're not frozen solid.
- When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking pan or casserole dish with cooking spray.
- Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in the microwave, then pour it into a large mixing bowl with the cream soup, sour cream, onion, garlic, salt, Old Bay, and pepper. Whisk until combined.
- Add 8 ounces (one bag or about 2 cups) of shredded cheddar cheese to the bowl along with the hash browns. Mix thoroughly, then spread evenly in the baking pan. Sprinkle the remaining 4 ounces (one cup or half a bag) of cheddar cheese on top.
- Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a bowl, then mix in the corn flakes and chives, if using. Sprinkle it on top of the casserole.
- Cover loosely with aluminum foil, then bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, then bake for another 20-30 minutes until bubbly and browned to your liking.
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