Recipe: Funeral Potatoes

Recipe: Funeral Potatoes

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

I first learned about "funeral potatoes" while I was working on The Southern Sympathy Cookbook and discovered that it really is a perfect sympathy food — rich and comforting, easy to put together on short notice, and feeds a crowd. This version combines everyone's favorite potato accompaniments — butter, cheese, bacon, and chives — for a really hearty, homestyle dish. In times of sadness or need, people like to turn to the familiar and the comforting, and this dish certainly fits the bill.

What Are Funeral Potatoes?

I've been making versions of this dish for years (decades, if I'm honest) because they are the perfect side dish for a big party. It is easy to assemble two (or three or four) of these ahead of time and just heat them through for a party. I made these for such a party once, and a friend who grew up in Utah told me she always called the dish funeral potatoes. This was years ago and I chuckled, but thought I wouldn't take a dish with funeral in the title to the book club holiday party! I had never heard them referred to that way before, but with the dawn of Pinterest, I certainly see that it is "a thing." Another example is a classic green bean casserole, universally referred to as "funeral beans" in the South.

I serve these all the time. For years, it was a staple of the family Christmas Eve feast, next to gorgeous beef tenderloin. Friends ask me all the time how to make "those party potatoes" when they have a big occasion. Today, I'm sharing the recipe with you.

Tester's Note

If you need a casserole that will appeal to the masses, this one is it. With a buttery cracker topping over a creamy potato base loaded with bacon and cheese, kids and adults will flock to it. I felt that the cracker topping was a bit too thick of a layer, so I would recommend just using 1 cup of cracker crumbs instead.

The steps in this rich, comforting dish can be streamlined a bit so that it gets into the oven faster. While the oven is heating, start cooking the bacon. While the bacon's cooking, make the sauce and keep it warm until you're ready to pour it into the baking dish. Crush the crackers when you have a moment and all the parts are ready for assembly.

- Christine, September 2018

Funeral Potatoes

Serves 12

Prep time: 15 minutes ; cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes

  • 8 strips

    bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces

  • Cooking spray

  • 1 (32-ounce) package

    frozen diced hash brown potatoes (do not thaw)

  • 8 ounces

    shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)

  • 1/4 cup

    finely chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish

  • 6 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, divided

  • 3 tablespoons

    all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups

    whole or 2% milk

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • Dash cayenne pepper

  • 30

    buttery crackers, such as Town House or Club

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Meanwhile, place the bacon in a medium skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Add the frozen potatoes, breaking up any chunks with your hands. Add the bacon, cheese, and chives, and toss with your hands until evenly combined. Arrange into an even layer.

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking frequently, until smooth and starting to turn a light golden-brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, whisking occasionally, until starting to simmer, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne and continue to cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil, about 5 minutes more. Pour into the baking dish, making sure to evenly cover the potatoes.

Place the crackers in a zip-top plastic bag, press out the air, and seal the bag. Crush with a rolling pin or bottom of a small pan into crumbs. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Drizzle into the bag over the cracker crumbs and shake or toss with your hands until evenly combined. Sprinkle evenly over the casserole.

Bake until golden-brown and bubbling around the edges, 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check after 50 minutes and tent loosely with aluminum foil if browning too quickly on top. Sprinkle with more chives before serving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The casserole can be assembled up to 1 day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Let sit out at room temperature while heating the oven. Uncover and bake as directed, although it may need a few minutes additional baking time.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Buy the Book! The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food with a Twist by Perre Coleman Magness

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