Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mom's Potato Cheddar Casserole- 50th post!

I find that everyone has some special dish from childhood that holds a special place in their heart.  Usually something simple, warm, and comforting.  I was lucky, my mother was and still is a wonderful cook, so I have quite a few childhood favorites.

One of these is my mom's hamburger and potato casserole.  A quintessentially American dish that my grandmother used to make for my mom.  The tangy tomato sauce loaded with lean ground beef is a perfect match with the tender yet firm potatoes.  The cheddar makes the dish feel extra homey, and the extra crisp bits of cheese on the sides are quite possibly the best part.

I'm sad to say that while I've always been interested in eating, the cooking part of the whole process was quite foreign to me until a few years ago.  While my mother was performing magic in the kitchen, I was elsewhere.  So when I have a craving for an old favorite, I call my mother and try to squeeze the recipe out of her.

Don't get me wrong, she loves it when I call to ask for a recipe, but she is one of those skilled and experienced cooks that hardly ever follows a particular recipe.

Fortunately for me, I was able to recreate this dish (with a few small changes) that was almost as good as the real deal.

I replaced the classic orange cheddar with some extra sharp white, and I traded in a mix of red and green lentils for the lean hamburger (don't tell mom!).  The casserole tastes almost exactly the same, but the texture was a little off.  Lentils just can't compete for the delightful chew of ground beef.  At any rate this recipe is delicious, and makes a wonderfully hearty vegetarian meal.

Lentil and Potato Casserole

4 large yellow potatoes, sliced into 1/3in. circles
2 tbsp salt
3/4 cup green lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked over
3 cups water, vegetable stock, or chicken stock
1 tbsp oil (olive, canola, bacon grease, etc.)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup water
1/2-3/4 cup ketchup (one made with sugar is preferred)
4 ounces extra sharp white cheddar, grated
salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a large bowl place sliced potatoes, 2 tbsp salt, and cover with cold water until all slices are submerged.  Set aside.  In a large non-stick pot place all of the lentils and 3 cups of your liquid of choice.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until the lentils are cooked, about 20 minutes.  By this point the red lentils will have lost their shape, and the green will still have a slight bite.
2.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  In a large sauce pan heat 1 tbsp of oil and add the chopped onions.  Saute until softened, and then add the minced garlic.  Continue cooking until garlic is fragrant.  Add the lentils, tomato paste, water and 1/2 cup ketchup.  Stir until combined and taste for seasoning. Add salt, pepper, and ketchup to taste.
3.  In a large baking dish (I used 9x13x4) place 1/3 of the lentil mixture.  Top with half of the potato slices in a uniform and single layer and cover with half of the remaining lentil mixture.  Repeat with the remaining potatoes and lentils for a total of two layers of potatoes.  Cover the entire casserole with the cheese and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender.  Let cool slightly before serving.

As my title suggests, this is my fiftieth blog post!!  I have to say that I'm a little surprised to have continued with my blog so long.  Thank you to everyone who has ever left me a comment, or visited my blog!

Check out this fun blog party!


  1. Mr. greenhorngourmandeMarch 19, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    Congratulations on your 50th post! I love you!

  2. congrats on your 50th post! i just adore comfort food recipes like this...looks fabulous!

  3. That looks like comfort on a plate and such a welcome dish when cold outside! :)

    1. Thank you! It really is great for the cold weather, or when I'm feeling homesick. :)

  4. That looks totally comforting and delicious!


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