I have asked daughter Shelley to make the mashed potato casserole for Thanksgiving.
Her response was: “You want me to make your mashed potato casserole?”
Um…yeah. My hip hurts, and I dread the thought of standing at the sink peeling ten pounds of potatoes and then standing at the counter mashing them. And for those of you thinking, “Hey, just sit on a stool”–really, that is harder on the back than standing is on the hip. Yes, I know I’m announcing geezerdom, but that’s just how it is this year and your turn is coming, so zip your lip.
But here’s my real point. At some point, someone (nephews Andrew and Brendan) designated my mashed potato casserole as Aunt Kathy’s special, classic, traditional, gotta-have-it-on-Thanksgiving dish. Shelley feels entrusted with the honor of making it this year, like I’m passing it along to the next generation.
It’s just mashed potatoes. It’s a recipe I found in Cooking Light a few years ago and tried because it was a way to have mashed potatoes prepared in advance of Turkey Day. They also happen to be low-fat and absolutely yummy. I quadrupled or quintupled the recipe to feed a crowd of forty and, ta-da, it’s now a family heirloom recipe.
Heirloom recipes are passed from one generation to the next… Oh.
You get heirloom recipes from people who are grandmothers… Oh.
But, heirloom recipes are really old and came over with the Pilgrims on the Mayflower or, according to an international student at our school, the Titanic. Well, maybe not so much. My mother’s heirloom recipe for Vienna Cake was one she started making from her Fanny Farmer’s Cookbook. My grandmother’s famous raisin bread recipe was clipped from the newspaper.
Heirloom recipes are also enshrouded with the mystique that no one can make them like the originator or the designated heir to the recipe. Furthermore, no one has permission to make them except the originator or the designated heir to the recipe. Some people protect their recipes because they want to be needed. Others like the honor of being recognized for excellence. For whatever reason, heirloom recipes are supposedly closely guarded family secrets.
Secret or not, eventually heirloom recipes get passed along, even if one has to steal the deceased cook’s recipe file. But I propose to you that the Number One reason for passing down an heirloom recipe is this: The cook is too daggone tired to do it!
Here’s Aunt Kathy’s Famous Mashed Potato Casserole recipe:
- 10 lbs. russet baking pototoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
- 5 8 oz. packages of fat-free cream cheese
- 40 oz. fat free plain yogurt (in 8 oz. containers, that’s 5!)
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 stick of butter
Cook the potatoes, covered in water, in a stockpot until very soft (about 20 minutes). Drain. Return the potatoes to the nice warm cooking pot and add the cream cheese, yogurt, garlic powder, and salt. Mash well and then beat well with a mixer. (This is too much to fit into a stand mixer, so it’s best to use the cooking pot and a hand mixer.)
Spray 2 extra-large (14 x 10) baking dishes with cooking spray. Spoon the potato mixture into each. Melt the butter and drizzle over both casseroles. Sprinkle paprika on top.
(Note: I do not recommend trying aluminum disposable pans for this. The potatoes are runny when they come out of the oven, and a disposable pan may not be sturdy enough.)
Cover the casseroles with plastic wrap and store in fridge.
The next day, remove the casseroles from the fridge early enough (30 minutes) that they are not cold when they go into the oven. (Pyrex does indeed crack!). Cook in preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Do not expect leftovers.