I really struggled with what to call this dish. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about the word “casserole” that conjures up images of mystery potluck dishes, funerals, or nights where mom just doesn’t want to think about feeding people and that’s definitely not the vibe I’m looking for here. Turning to the thesaurus only led to a darker place of goulash and pottage, so I returned to “casserole” and hope that I can somehow convey the sophistication of this simple dish.
The recipe comes from my grandma and was a dish she only made twice a year, at Christmas and Easter. I don’t think I was alone in the anticipation of these potatoes since they were generally the first thing to disappear no matter how many casserole dishes she prepared. The dish itself is not a loud one with bold flavors and it will politely play the role of supporting actor at the dinner table, but only because it knows it’s a creamy, elegant take on comfort food that will call you back for seconds and thirds.
Special Occasion Potato Casserole
- 8 medium potatoes, grated
- 1 small onion, grated
- 3 C or more half and half
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Grate the potatoes into a large bowl of cold water to prevent the potatoes from oxidizing (which makes them turn pink or other colors). Add grated onion. Put in colander, rinse with water to get out starches, and drain.
- Butter a 9″ X 13″ baking dish. Put down a layer of the potato/onion mixture just thick enough that you can’t see the bottom of the dish. Season with salt and pepper. The majority of the flavor comes from this so be slightly generous. Put down another layer of potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Repeat until you run out of potatoes. Try to leave at least an inch of space from the top of the baking dish otherwise you run the risk of the liquid boiling over during baking.
- Pour half and half over the potatoes until the liquid comes up to the bottom of the top layer of potatoes. Cover with foil and bake at 375°F for 2 hours. Remove foil and cook an additional hour.
Note: If you are serving these potatoes with ham, which I highly recommend, you’re obviously looking at a bit of an oven demand problem unless you have a double oven, which I do not. To help with this I cook the potatoes at 375°F for 2 hours and then lower the temperature, add the ham (325°F for the ham I purchased), and cook both until the ham is done (for the size ham I bought ~90 minutes). If you need to pull the potatoes before the ham is done, just recover it with foil to keep it warm.