I’ve been thinking recently about holiday traditions. Thanksgiving will be here in a few weeks and Christmas is right around the corner; which got me to thinking about all the food staples and ‘stuff’ that I need to have on hand to put together what has become some of our holiday food traditions.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my family – okay, the maternal side of my family – is Pennsylvania German. And, one of the traditional side dishes that has made an appearance at every holiday meal for as long as I can remember has been Mashed Potato Stuffing. My Grandmother made it for her family and when my mom and her siblings married they each made it for their families and as their children grew up and married the tradition continued. And, now my eldest son, when he isn’t celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas in our home is making the traditional side dish for his in-laws.
While I don’t know the historical origins of the dish, I have always surmised that it was both a Pennsylvania German / Amish dish and/or that it was a dish created by necessity – to ‘extend’ a meal or dish – for budgetary reasons. What I know with 100% certainty is that it a b s o l u t e l y delicious and it would not be the holidays without it. And, I think I’d be in divorce court and be disowned as a mother and mother-in-law IF it weren’t on the Thanksgiving table and served with Christmas dinner each year. Yeah, like that would ever happen.
The original recipe is below. It is great culinary canvas to add your own touches. For instance, my Grandmother served the traditional recipe; Aunt Barb added oysters or clams – either would work* – and they both used whole milk and white sandwich bread. My additions to the recipe are chopped carrots, chunks of button mushrooms and cubed Italian or French Bread. And, instead of whole milk, I use half and half; as if the dish wasn’t rich enough. My son’s addition? Crispy Bacon lardons.
*Much to Aunt Barb’s disappointment I don’t like either oysters or clams; bleh, and I still don’t. So I don’t really remember which my aunt used. I was always grateful that my Grandmother or Mom had the original dish on hand too. Sorry, Aunt Barb.
Mashed Potato Stuffing
4 – 5 large potatoes; peeled and cubed
1 Large Onion; chopped
2-3 Stalks of Celery; sliced
1 table spoon of Poultry Seasoning
1/2 – 1 stick of butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 – 2 eggs (room temp)
4 slices white sandwich bread; cubed
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Several days before remove crust from bread and cube. You can either dry them out naturally – my Mom usually placed the cubed bread on a jelly roll pan and covered with a clean dish towel. She placed the pan on top of the refrigerator and allowed the bread to dry out. An alternative drying method would be to heat your oven to 200 degrees and place the cubed bread in the oven and bake until they are dried croutons (this method could be done as late as the day of your holiday meal).
Place peeled and diced potatoes in a pan and cover with water; bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and cook until potatoes are tender. Remove the heat, drain (being sure to reserve some of the water) and allow to cool.
In the mean time, melt butter in frying pan and add the diced onion, celery, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Cook until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Place cooled potatoes and reserved potato water in a large bowl and mash the potatoes. Stir in whole milk; use enough to make a thick potato soup. Stir in the cooled vegetables, the cubed bread and the eggs. Pour into a buttered 2-quart casserole dish.
Bake 30 – 40 minutes uncovered or until lightly browned.
Yield: Approximately 6 – 8 servings. Enjoy!
What traditional dish, if missing from your holiday table, would render you persona non grata?