Real Gourmet

DSC07902I’m a good, sometimes great cook, and my heart cockles warm when I overhear someone I’ve fed call me that. But please, pretty please, don’t call me a “gourmet cook”. I honestly hate that term. I don’t know if it’s because it brings to mind visions of snooty elites and $100 entrees, or that I just have no idea what a “gourmet cook” is. Either way it’s one of those phrases that just pisses me off.

According to wiki-whatever, the word means “refined, elite, a higher degree of sophistication” and other hoity words you’d suspect. As if a gourmet’s palate has specially adapted taste buds that look down upon the lower, classless buds living on the other side of the tongue. To me, food should be far more democratic than that. I’m a culinary socialist with a palate of the people. Sure I love layered flavors, unique ingredients, creative cooking and top quality tasty things. I just don’t think those things should be elevated over a really good street dog with the works, a perfectly baked potato, or even a late-night plate of stoner nachos. If it tastes great at the time you’re tasting, right on! Who’s to say noshes that would send a self-defined gourmet screaming into the night aren’t gourmet to someone else? After all, one mouth’s trash is another mouth’s treasure, right?

Which brings me to Mormon Funeral Potatoes and a moment of enlightenment. This most tasty and decidedly not (by Wiki standard) gourmet fare falls into the culinary category of hot dish or casserole. You know, one of those wonderful concoctions shared at potlucks and hospitality hours, or brought over to nourish the grieving and guests (hence the name). In its most traditional form, a can of condensed soup, cheese and corn flakes aren’t far from the ingredient list. About a week ago, I tasted a version that can only be described as bar food nirvana.

IMG_2020

The best bar food EVER, courtesy of The Garage on Beck (and Josh).

That Mormon Funeral Potatoes would enter my life had been foretold to me about a month or two earlier. After receiving instructions to “google it”, I had a vision of what might unfold from this potato and cheese prophesy. But it wasn’t until I landed in Salt Lake City a few months later that the full extent of my culinary awakening was clear.

My prophet escorted me into a temple of MFP worship called The Garage on Beck. Our minister Josh handed us prayer menus and we took our place on stools, ready to receive our tater testimony.  Sacramental PBRs were poured, and the reason I was there was placed in front of me. One bite of the revelatory nugget and I knew my life would be forever changed by this bar nosh of trashy greatness. Am I gushing? Perhaps. But if you’d tasted a perfect creamy combination of cheese, bacon and potato wrapped in a perfect deep fry crunch and washed it down with a cold beer, you’d be gushing from steeple-top too. This, my brothers and sisters, this right here, is real gourmet food. AMEN!

IMG_2018 The manager of The Garage on Beck, Josh, is terrific guy. I have a complimentary shot glass to prove it. Unfortunately, Josh was a bit hesitant to ask the cook when when I inquired about the recipe for bar nosh nirvana. I get that. When you’ve perfected something so wonderful, you want to keep it close. Luckily, he was able to give me a  really good visual on what went into the mix, so I figured I could play around a little when I got home. What I found out after some more research is that I wasn’t the first to ask for the recipe. Sunset Magazine had beat me to it, and published it when they featured Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes as one of their Chefs’ Favorite Restaurant Dishes in March 2013. So that’s the recipe I’ll share with you. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t play around a little with it, since that’s kinda what I do.

At The Garage, MFP are served with a ranch dressing dipping sauce. But my mormon funeral potato missionary and I thought there might be a better way. With the original recipe from Sunset, I’ve included two suggestions for dipping sauces. The first, Wasabi Ranch, and the second Horseradish Honey Mustard both gave a really nice bite of heat and sweet, but if you’d like to stick with ranch I can testify that it was really tasty too. And if you come up with another saucy suggestion, please share in the comments. What good is finding wonderful noshes of trashy goodness if you can’t spread the word! 😉

Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes (From Sunset Magazine, February 2013) 

Makes 20

These little nuggets from The Garage restaurant, in Salt Lake City, are based on Mormon funeral potatoes, a crunchy, cheesy, creamy casserole dish that is served at just about any big function in that town. Rolled into balls and deep-fried, they are totally over the top.

  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped, cooked, and drained
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 or 2 jalapeño chiles, minced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups defrosted frozen shredded hash browns
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup finely ground corn flakes, divided
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Chopped parsley (optional)

Whirl bacon, cream cheese, onion, jalapeños, green onion, and sour cream in a food processor, about 1 minute. Place in a large mixing bowl. Stir hash browns, cheddar, flour, cornstarch, salt, eggs, and 3 tbsp. ground corn flakes into bacon mixture. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop up a scant 1/4 cup of potato mixture and roll into a ball. Drop ball into a bowl filled with 3/4 cup corn flakes and roll to coat (mixture will firm up once coated). Place on sheet and repeat with remaining mixture. Chill until ready to cook. Heat 2 in. oil in a medium pot until it registers 350° on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry potato balls, a few at a time, until golden, 5 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels.

Wasabi Ranch Dip/Dressing Makes about 1/2 cup, and can be doubled/tripled easily Whisk together the following ingredients. Chill until ready to use. (This is also pretty awesome on a steak sandwich!)

  • 5 TBSP sour cream
  • 2-3 TBSP buttermilk (depending upon how thin you want dip)
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp prepared wasabi (depending on taste and heat tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Lowry’s Season Salt
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 2 tsp – 1 TBSP mayonnaise
  • Squirt of lemon

Horseradish Honey Mustard Whisk together the following and chill until ready to use.

  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBSP prepared horseradish
  • 2 tsp honey

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

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