While doing some food research, I learned that March 31 is National Tater Day and October is National Potato Month. I can’t think of a more worthy vegetable to receive this honor.
When I was growing up in the South, potatoes of some kind usually found their place at every meal. Although potatoes are now served at breakfast, we usually replaced them with gravy at our house. I have noted that most Southern restaurants now offer potato casseroles or hash browns for breakfast, and I have found myself ordering them more often for a morning meal.
Sweet potatoes are most often served as dessert, and my favorites are sweet potato cobbler, sweet potato custard and sweet potato casserole. My mother and I made sweet potato custard for dessert for many years, and when my cookbook “A Treasury of Southern Baking” was being written, I was instructed to call this a pie rather than a custard because custard is not baked in a crust.
While writing this potato column, I realized that St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, so do you think the fact that our family always called white potatoes “Irish” might combine the potatoes and that holiday?
Another idea is to make your favorite mashed potatoes and top them with something green. Or how about the following Potato Broccoli Bake? For dessert, you can enjoy Sweet Potato Pie. There is not a touch of Irish, but certainly a touch of wonderful flavor.
POTATO BROCCOLI BAKE
4 cups Southern style hash browns (cubed)
1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked and crumbled bacon
1 (1o 1/2 oz.) can cream of broccoli soup
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar/Monterey Jack cheese
8 oz. French onion dip (sour cream base)
1 1/2 cups round butter type cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter 13x2x9 inch baking pan. Pour hash browns in pan and sprinkle bacon over them. In a bowl, combine soup, cheese and onion dip. Mix well and drop onto top of potatoes. Carefully spread to cover top. Combine crumbs and butter. Mix well and sprinkle over top. Bake for about 30 minutes.
SWEET POTATO PIE
3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1 stick butter, softened at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine first seven ingredients and mix well. Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake 10 minutes. Immediately reduce temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 25 minutes, or until a thin-blade knife comes out clean when inserted into center of pie. Cool completely before slicing.
Prudence Hilburn of Piedmont has won more than 30 national cooking awards and written several cookbooks, including, “Simply Southern and More.” Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.prudencehilburn.com.