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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cook with Me: Nana's Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Filling

Are you cooking today for Thanksgiving? Do you cook and eat to remember? I am guilty of that, for sure.

Is your kitchen divided between making forgotten and yet traditional family dishes along with more modern dishes, made in the style that you cook in the rest of the year?

I've pulled out this menu to remember these dishes and my heritage. Come and Get It or as they say in Berks County, Kuum unn Grick Dess!

The day is marked by the potato. On most fall days, I don't make potatoes of any kind. Living in the south, my Mrs Potato Head comes out more in June and is a summery dish made in our Julia Child Kid-Chefs week.

But at Thanksgiving, I can't think of the day without the garlic mashed potatoes that my son Erick makes, or the sweet potato pie that my son Jaryd makes.

And if you said potato filling, well, all bets are off. It sounds like a mighty strange dish when described. Bread cubes browned in butter and tossed with sauteed celery and onions into mashed potatoes? Yup, that's pretty much it. And my mouth would water for shopping and cooking with Nana.

In my childhood years, our Thanksgiving table heaved under the influence of the Pennsylvania Dutch fall harvest. Nana and I would religiously go to the Ninth Street Farmer’s Market at the crack of dawn on Wednesdays, and the day before Thanksgiving always had a special fervor that I love. The indoor market was filled with farmers selling ducks and turkeys and chickens, and my nose twinged with the sharpness of freshly ground horseradish. Nana was sure to wait till our bags were heaped full till she wound her way around to the one farmer who, she said, sold the whitest celery. I can still picture the cut glass celery dish that she filled and placed on our dining room table on Fourth Street.

Cut Glass Celery Dish with Tarragon

Coconut Custard Pies

The Kissinger Market in Reading, Pa. 

                                      Outside the Kissinger Market House in Reading, Pa. 

The Penn Square Meat Market

Today we're especially thankful when we can share Thanksgiving with our two sons and their ladies, Erick and Kayla, and Jaryd and Ana, and/or with Snover cousins and with our friends.

As they say in Pennsylvania you can take the girl out of Pennsylvania Dutch country but you can’t take the Pennsylvania Dutch out of the girl.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to all! Cook and eat and as you do, you're making more memories!

A collage of dishes as seen on a tee towel from Pennsylvania Dutch Country plus Nana's recipe for Pumpkin Bread. 

Old-Fashioned Pennsylvania Dutch Thanksgiving Menu

Pennsylvania Dutch Pickled Red Beet Eggs

Mrs. Hilbert’s Chow Chow

Apple Butter With Cup Cheese

Saffron’d Oyster And Celery Stew

Fall Endive With Hot Bacon Dressing

Berks County Lima Beans In Cream

Nana’s Roast Muscovy Duck, Chestnut Stuffing

Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Filling

Mamie’s Dried Corn Pudding

Esther’s Waldorf Salad

Aunt Cora’s Mincemeat Pie With Rum

Effie’s Wet Bottom Shoofly Pie

Agnes’ Green Tomato Pie

Apple Schnitz Pie

Nana's Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Filling

Truth be told, Nana always used dried parsley – but I would use fresh today. And I might also substitute turnips or rutabagas for half of the potatoes.

5 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 cup diced celery

1-1/2 cup diced onion

3/4 cup fresh parsley

4 eggs

2 sticks (1 cup) butter

3 cups stale bread, cubed

1-2 cups milk or enough to moisten bread cubes

salt, pepper and celery salt

Butter an 11 by 14 Corning Ware  or Pyrex baking dish and set aside.

Cook potatoes in salted water till tender.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons butter, when sizzling sauté celery, onions, and parsley with a sprinkling of salt and pepper til tender and slightly browned.

Remove from pan and add melt 1/2 stick of butter. when hot add the bread cubes and brown till nice and crispy. Reduce heat to medium low if necessary to keep from burning!

Drain potatoes; return to cooking pot and add in the remaining 6 tablespoons butter. mix with wooden spoon vigorously. Add eggs and milk and mix thoroughly. add celery and onion mixture. Add butter fried bread cubes. more milk if necessary. celery salt, salt and pepper to taste.

Scoop into prepared baking dish and bake at 350° for 1 hour until golden brown.

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