These aren’t your mama’s funeral potatoes. The winning dish during the Utah’s Own Funeral Potato contest contained real Russets (not frozen) dried soup (not canned) and crushed tortilla chips (not cornflakes).
The Southwest funeral potatoes were created by Laurie Willberg, Salt Lake City, who had never even made Utah’s favorite comfort-food casserole before entering last week’s contest at the Utah State Fair.
“I’ve had them in other places, but when I moved to Utah, that was the first time I had heard them called funeral potatoes, ” said Willberg, who lived in California, Arizona and Texas before moving to Salt Lake City four years ago.
As most native cooks know, funeral potatoes are the name of the baked casserole made with potatoes, canned soup, cheese and a crushed corn-flake topping. It’s a mainstay at many family gatherings, but got its name because Mormon women regularly make large pans as part of the warm meal served to grieving families after a funeral.
Willberg said she entered the contest because cooks were required to use at least one Utah product, but preferably more.
Looking at the list of possible ingredients, the Don Julio brand of corn chips caught her eye and she decided to give her dish a southwestern flair, with jalapeno jack cheese and a black bean and corn salsa for garnish. She also used Meadow Gold buttermilk and sour cream, two kinds of Banquet cheese, Redmond Real Salt, Sawyer’s Premium potato soup mix and Laurie’s Buffalo Gourmet salsa.
She took it to a group event before the contest and knew she had a winner. “Everyone went back for seconds,” said Willberg, who won a $150 gift card to Harmon’s.
Gina Varni, Salt Lake City, won second place with her Not dying today casserole made with potatoes, ham and chives. Third place went to Nancy Judd, Alpine, for her tried-and-true recipe for Mamma’s wonderful funeral potatoes.
A call for comfort food
It’s time to get reacquainted with autumn-time recipes for casseroles, soups, braised meats and other comfort foods. When you find your best one, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in an upcoming story. Include first and last name, daytime telephone number and a few sentences about the dish. Deadline is midnight on Sunday, Sept. 30.
Southwest funeral potatoes (with Utah ingredients)
8 medium Russet potatoes
1/2 teaspoons sea salt (Redmond brand)
1 cup dry potato soup mix (Sawyer’s Premium)
2 cups water, boiling
1 cup low fat buttermilk (Meadow Gold)
1 cup sour cream (Meadow Gold)
2 cups grated jalapeno jack cheese (Banquet brand)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (Redmond brand)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
11/2 cup crushed yellow corn tortilla chips (Don Julio brand)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (Banquet brand)
1 jar black bean and corn salsa (Laurie’s Buffalo Gourmet)
Wash and scrub potatoes under cool water, place in a pot with enough water to generously cover. Add 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil. Cook 30 minutes or until tender, but not soft. Remove potatoes from pot and place in a colander. Run cold water over potatoes to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel and dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a large mixing bowl.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Place potato soup mix in a medium mixing bowl. Cover with boiling water, then whisk until smooth. Add buttermilk, sour cream, jalpeno jack cheese, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour mixture over diced potatoes and stir gently until the potatoes are coated. Pour into prepared baking pan.
Place corn chips in a resealable plastic bag and crush. Combine crushed chips with grated cheddar cheese. Sprinkle chip/cheese mixture over the top of the potatoes in the bake pan. Bake uncovered 45 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is slightly brown.
Remove from oven and cool slightly. Serve with salsa.
Servings • 8 to 10
Source: Laurie Willberg, winner of the Utah’s Own Funeral Potato at the Utah State Fair