Growing up, I can remember teachers having us write down our favorites–”favorite color”, “favorite activity”, “favorite food”, etc. My answers always went something like this: blue, art/drawing, and potato filling. What in the world was “potato filling”? Most of my peers were writing “pizza” and I stood out, leaving others to question. The best answer I could provide was that potato filling was a cross between mashed potatoes and stuffing, mixed together with additional yumminess and baked in the oven to golden brown perfection. It is native to Pennsylvania Dutch cooking and is just about the best thing one could taste accompanying a turkey.
Year after year, potato filling is truly the end all, be all of my Thanksgiving. I’m pretty sure I can say the same for my sister, who in years past would pile mountains of filling onto her plate. Every year we would beg our mom to make a double batch to freeze so we’d have tons of leftovers. Our husbands have now been indoctrinated with filling “fever” and we’ve been passing on the love to others over the years. Even my mother-in-law, who often hosts our Virginia Thanksgiving gathering, knows, without question, this is the one non-negotiable on my list. If you head most anywhere in Pennsylvania around the holidays, you can even be guaranteed to find this delicacy on restaurant menus. If it tastes like my grandma’s, though, you’ll be lucky enough to try it. Whether its too dry, too lumpy, too bland, or just right, to me it’s Thanksgiving and family and tradition all wrapped up into one.
Today I will don my apron and prepare our family’s treasured filling while the rest of my family drives hundreds of miles to be here in Virginia for the feast. As my onions and celery brown and my home is filled with amazing aromas, my sister and her family will be trekking from Ohio and my parents, from their parents’ in Pennsylvania. They will all arrive tomorrow afternoon to a home filled with family smells that mean only one thing–Thanksgiving is almost here and we are all joyfully together for another year. Thanks be to God.
What foods are part of your family tradition? Curious to try something new? Get out your potato peeler! Pennsylvania Dutch potato filling is calling your name.
Mother’s Potato Filling
3 qt. pan almost full of peeled white potatoes, salted (placed in a larger pot to cook) (B notes: 5 large potatoes is enough)
5 slices of bread, lightly toasted and chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped finely
2 C. (liquid measure) top full of chopped onions
butter and canola/veg. oil
On low to medium heat, brown onions and celery in a lot of butter and oil. Start out with 1/2 stick butter and some oil and keep adding so it doesn’t get dry. While this mixture is browning, cook potatoes in salted water. When onion mixture is very golden, add chopped bread and continue to sauté. Keep adding a little oil and butter to keep moist. Smash up potatoes when cooked. Add eggs and mix. Now alternate adding a little warm milk and some of the onion mixture ’til all is used. Keep adding milk, if needed, to make mixture a little moister than for mashed potatoes. Put into casseroles. When ready to bake, put dots of butter on surface to help it brown. Bake at 350F uncovered until slightly browned and warmed through. Enjoy the deliciousness!!