(This is the continuation of a series on When Sue Began to Cook.) Saturday December 30 brought Sue and Ruth Ann to the slow week between holidays. Christmas was over, and New Year stood several days away. Not much to do for a couple twelve year olds, so today’s recipe focuses on comfort food. Sue makes cheese potatoes (or Creamed Cheesed Potatoes)
Sometimes these potatoes are served from the stove, like you’ll find in the recipe below. Most often, though, the finished recipe goes into a casserole dish to be topped with cracker crumbs and then baked in the oven. That version appears in Sue’s notes.
Sue’s notes on cheese potatoes
Holiday week is a queer time for a cooking lesson, I suppose, and a queerer time to be learning to cook potatoes. But Ruth Ann and I were tired of Christmas candy, so we asked Mother today if we couldn’t make something plain and simple. Because, after all, we ought to learn to be plain cooks first.
‘How would you like to try creamed potatoes then?” Mother said. “It will be a good time to teach you to boil potatoes, and also to make good cream sauce. Every woman ought to know how to make good cream sauce. Just thick enough, and without any lumps in it.”
I asked Mother if we couldn’t try some Cheesed Creamed Potatoes because Father is so fond of them, and she said we might. “And Ruth Ann may take hers home and warm them up for dinner. It is time she showed her grandmother just what we’re learning in the cooking lessons.
Another way to finish the potatoes
And after all, I thought Ruth Ann had the best of it. When the potatoes were all done and it was time for her to go, Mother had her put hers in a little brown casserole. Then she showed Ruth Ann how to roll out some crackers with the rolling pin to make cracker crumbs, just about two thirds of a cupful. Then she had Ruth Ann sprinkle the cracker crumbs on top of the potatoes and spread them out nice and even. And then they dotted the top with little chunks of butter.
“Now, Ruth Ann,” Mother said, “when you warm up your potatoes, put them in the oven in this casserole (without the cover), and let the crumbs get a beautiful brown color.”
“A hungry brown?” I said, because that’s what Robin and I always call it.
“Yes, a hungry brown. By that time the potatoes will be good and hot. All ready to eat!”
I didn’t tell Mother so, but Ruth Ann’s potatoes in the casserole really looked much more companified than mine. Still, I can’t complain, because Father ate two helpings of the ones I made, and paid me for them with three kisses and a big hug.
Note: Warm the potatoes at 350º F for 20 – 25 minutes until the potatoes are hot and the crumbs golden brown.
Sue’s recipe for Cheesed Creamed Potatoes
Here’s the recipe that Sue made, without the cracker crumb topping.
Cheesed Creamed Potatoes
- 2 cups cooked potatoes diced That means to cut in little cubes.
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ⅓ cup cheese cut in small pieces
- 1 tbsp pimientos, cut fine Mother says the pimientos aren't necessary. We put them in because we happened to have some.
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
- Mother had us scrub the potatoes with a little brush till they were very clean. Then she showed us how to run a sharp knife around the equator of each potato, cutting through the skin to keep the potato from bursting when it is cooked. Then she had us each fill a little kettle with water and put it over the fire. As soon as the water was boiling, we added the potatoes. We covered them with a lid, and kept the potatoes dancing in the boiling water until they were done. We knew when they were done because Mother had us try piercing them with a fork every once in a while. When the fork would go right through them very easily we knew they had cooked long enough.
- We drained off the water and let the potatoes get cool. Then we peeled them with a sharp little vegetable knife and cut them up in tiny half-inch cubes. (Mother says that a good cook always has her kitchen knives sharp). Mother showed us how to make nice neat little cubes all the same size. Then our potatoes were ready.
- *Note: The vegetable peeler wasn't invented until 1928, and the Jonas peeler, with a swivel blade that follows the contour of the vegetable as you cut, wasn't invented until 1953. In 1924, a short vegetable knife was the only option in peeling a potato.
- Next we took a clean little saucepan and put the butter in it. We let the butter melt over the fire and then we stirred in the flour and mixed them well. When they were all mixed, we added the milk and cooked it slowly, stirring all the time, until it was creamy. (We let it bubble for a few minutes to cook the flour thoroughly.) Then we stirred in the salt, paprika, cheese, (I forgot to say we had cut the cheese fine first of all), pimientoes and parsley. We cooked this all together for about a minute, still stirring all the time so it wouldn't burn. Then we added the potatoes and mixed them around well in the sauce. We let it cook for about two minutes more, and then Mother said it was ready.
- Most people make their cheesed potatoes out of leftover boiled or baked potatoes, Mother says, but she didn't have us use any leftovers because she thought this would be a good time to teach us exactly how to boil potatoes.