Dec 1, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Hash Brown Casserole

I loved Cracker Barrel the first time I stepped foot in one, on the morning of November 27, 1982. It was a memorable breakfast preceding my first-ever UT football game. Unfortunately, it was one of only five games the Vols have ever lost to their in-state rival, the Vanderbilt Commodores (it's only happened once since, in 2005.)  I still love Cracker Barrel, despite our rocky start.

One of my favorite dishes is their hash brown casserole.  I've been known to order a double-portion as part of a "vegetable plate" (I know, potatoes shouldn't count as a vegetable, let alone TWO vegetables, but it's worth the occasional splurge.)

I've tried many recipes that claimed to taste "just like Cracker Barrel's" casserole, and I always came up short, until someone clued me into this simple and wonderful version. It is a perfect dish for a leisurely weekend breakfast or brunch, especially at the holidays.

Hash Brown Casserole Just Like Cracker Barrel's

1 32-ounce bag frozen shredded hash browns
1 onion, diced
3 tablespoons butter
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 1/2-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375.  Spray or grease a deep-sided 9x13 baking dish (I like my big deep Pyrex "French White" casserole dish, but you can use any dish deep enough to hold the potatoes.)
Saute onion in butter.  Place frozen hashbrowns in dish, toss in softened onions.  Use a spoon and scoop the undiluted soup over the casserole; toss well (it won't seem evenly distributed but do the best you can.)  Sprinkle on cheese and toss once more to mix thoroughly.  Sprinkle with pepper (you can also season with salt, but I don't think it needs it.)

Cover with foil and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes or until edges are crisp and center potatoes are cooked through.  Remove foil and allow to bake another 5-10 minutes to brown on top.  Serve warm.  Makes 6-8 generous servings.

Note:  I have made this casserole the day before and refrigerated it overnight.  The baking time is approximately the same, since the potatoes will have completely thawed.

Happy breakfasting!