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~ Creamy & Cheesy Hash Brown Potato Casserole ~

IMG_1660Real-deal, properly-prepared hash brown potatoes are a favorite of mine.  Golden brown and crispy on the outside, creamy-textured (but never mushy) on the inside, they are the Holy Grail of breakfast potatoes.  I make really good ones, but, I must admit to being too lazy to make them unless it is a really special occasion.  I'd rather be on the treadmill than hand-grating and drying a boat load of Russet potatoes early in the morning (and I hate being on the treadmill).

IMG_6213 IMG_6100My ~ Baked Eggs in Birds Nests (Hash Brown Potatoes) ~ are living proof that I know what I am doing when it comes to hash brown making.  It's also one of my favorite fancy-schmancy ways to serve an impressive breakfast to overnight guests.  Just click on the Related Article link below to get my recipe plus helpful hash brown tips!

Why I set out to develop a really good hash brown potato casserole:

IMG_1622I needed one.  Back in the '80's and '90's there were many times I found myself cooking breakfast for 8-10 people in my kitchen, or, 40-50 at a Penn State Football or Tennis tailgate.  I was President of PSU's Tennis Boosters back then and we tailgated for all home matches and early AM tournaments.  Too many times I felt, "a really good potato casserole would go great with what I'm serving for breakfast today." Lots of recipes were available, all of them easy, but not one that I loved.

What I don't like about most hash brown potato casserole recipes: 

IMG_1525Simmer down.  I didn't say that recipes that aren't mine are inedible, I just said I don't care for most of them.  If you are guessing it has something to do with using bagged, frozen hash brown potatoes you'd be wrong -- sort of.  

I have no ax to grind with using frozen hash browns to make an easy casserole, but, I am going to tell you that the frozen, diced hash browns deliver a lot more texture than the frozen, shredded ones. Trust me on this one.  I substitued the shredded type one day and they're decidedly a compromise.

Complaint #1.  Cream of crap soup.  No, that is not a typo (although, my homemade cream of crab soup might taste really good stirred into this recipe).  I'm well aware of when the "cream of" soups were invented, I know why they were invented, and, although they have served generations of Americans very well, the "cream of" soups have outlived their purpose.  It's time to move on.  Stop pouting.  Pure, unadulterated cream and dairy sour cream is what I use.

Complaint #2.  Cheddar cheese, bell peppers and Tex-Mex "stuff".  They're tasty -- once in a while, but seriously, how many times does your breakfast revolve around a Texas cowboy theme?  In my kitchen, not very often at all.  Besides that, when hash brown potato casserole is made using cheddar, peppers and "stuff", you can barely taste the potatoes.  I wanted something more versatile.  Creamy Gruyere cheese and a few subtle herbs and spices is what I use.

IMG_1656What I love about my hash brown potato casserole recipe:

IMG_15341  2-pound bag frozen, cubed (not shredded) hash brown potatoes

3  tablespoons Wondra flour

1  cup cream

2  cups sour cream

1 1/2  teaspoons Herbes de Provence

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

3/4  teaspoon white pepper

3  cups shredded Gruyere cheese, or your favorite Swiss cheese

IMG_15891  sleeve Ritz crackers, hand crushed (32 crackers)

4  tablespoons salted butter, melted

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole

IMG_1549~ Step 1.  In a large bowl, using a large spoon, toss together the frozen potatoes and the flour.  Set aside to partially thaw the potatoes, about 10-15 minutes.  While the potatoes are partially-thawing:

IMG_1538~ Step 2.  In a small bowl, whisk the cream, sour cream, IMG_1568herbes de provence, nutmeg, salt and white pepper until smooth.  Set aside.  

IMG_1544~ Step 3. Grate the cheese.  Stir 1 cup of the cheese into the cream mixture and set the rest aside.

~ Step 4.  Using a large rubber spatula, transfer the creamy cheese mixture into the partially-thawed potatoes and stir to combine.  

IMG_1574 IMG_1581~ Step 5.  Transfer potato mixture to a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole sprayed with no-stick spray.  Top with remaining 2 cups of grated Gruyere cheese. 

IMG_1597 IMG_1593~ Step 6. Place the crackers in a small bowl.   Using your hands, crush them to small pieces and crumbs. In a 1-cup measuring container, melt the butter in the microwave.  Add the butter to the crumbs, and using an ordinary tablespoon, stir until a loose crumb topping forms.

IMG_1619~ Step 7.  Sprinkle the buttery crumb topping evenly over the grated cheese layer.

~ Step 8.  Bake casserole on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 55-60 minutes, stopping to place a sheet of aluminum foil loosely (do not make any attempt to seal it) over IMG_1630the top after the first 30 minutes. Top will be golden, cheese will be melted, and, there will be some gentle bubbling going on around the sides and across the top.

~ Step 9.  Remove from oven and allow to rest 15-30 minutes prior to slicing and serving hot or warm.

IMG_1665Creamy & Cheesy Hash Brown Potato Casserole:  Recipe yields 12-16 servings.

Special Equipment List:  large spoon; cheese grater; whisk; large rubber spatula; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 1-cup measuring container; ordinary tablespoon 

6a0120a8551282970b017eeae68410970dCook's Note:  If you haven't already guessed, I'm almost always looking for the "easy way out" of cooking breakfast -- I sure do love eating it after the work is done though.  

For another of my AM timesavers, check out ~ The Benefits of Baking Eggs in Bacon fo Breakfast ~ in Categories 9 & 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)


Sylvie -- thank you for the nice comment. Several of my Facebook followers have made this one and they all love it. I am so happy it will find a place in your recipe box too!

Love this amazing crackers crumble! Hash is a dish I enjoy much and next time I cook one, I'll cook the same as yours. At the moment I would die to have this dish ready made in my kitchen:)

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