Family Recipe: Creamed Potatoes

November 23, 2009

Some of you may have noticed that I talk a lot about my maternal grandmother, Gramma Rhetta but fail to mention my other grandmother, Helen. There are some good reasons for this.

~ Grandma Helen died when I was fairly young, so my memories of her are limited.
~ Grandma Helen was a fairly good cook, but whenever she visited, she never set foot in the kitchen, which is where I hung out most of the time.
~ Grandma Helen did not approve of Donny Osmond, which, in my childhood opinion, made her dubious of character.
~ Grandma Helen did things that, in my mind, were boring, like playing cards. And sitting.
~ Grandma Helen didn’t much like me. And it was sorta obvious.

It’s rather painful, not to be liked by your own grandma. And it wasn’t even my fault. I didn’t do anything beastly like kick her in the shins or pull down her girdle or put soap in the glass she soaked her teeth in (I did do this last one, however, to my paternal grandfather. I ain’t no angel).

What did I do then, to deserve such a cold fate? I had the unfortunate luck to look exactly like my mother. Who Grandma Helen happened to vigorously dislike.

Now really, inheriting big blue eyes and blonde hair and skinny little legs isn’t a horrible thing. I quite like those things about me, in truth. But I looked far too much like Mama for Grandma Helen’s liking.

She much preferred my sister, who resembled my father’s side of the family, with her brown hair and her hazel eyes and her short legs. Plus, my sister liked to do boring things like play cards and sit.

Don’t feel too sorry for me though, the feeling was sort of mutual.

Not many of Grandma Helen’s recipes made it to my Mama’s recipe box. Not that she didn’t turn out some tasty things–it’s just that most of her recipes were incredibly time consuming. Like the vegetable beef soup that had to simmer all day long before deemed good enough to serve.

In fact, Mama tells a story about requesting (and subsequently receiving) the recipe for Grandma Helen’s legendary Angel Food Cake. Mama opened the envelope, scanned the recipe card, saw the instructions sift the flour ten times and promptly ripped the recipe in half and tossed it in the garbage can.

Who’s got the time to sift flour ten freaking times?

However, one recipe Mama did serve was grandma Helen’s Creamed Potatoes. It was one of the few recipes that everyone in our entire family liked, so I ate them a lot growing up. And, like a lot of old family recipes, it doesn’t even exist. At least in real recipe form. Grandma Helen taught Mama to make that recipe by feel, and I never learned, so I don’t make them.

At least I didn’t used to.

I had the pleasure of having my parents for Sunday dinner the other day, and Mama generously showed me how to make Creamed Potatoes.

Which may not be a good thing, because Creamed Potatoes are so delicious and so rich that I probably should skip the eating step and apply them directly to my backside.

But boy, they’re good. So whip them up for a special occasion, or when you need comfort in a bowl. And then go run 4 freaking miles or something.

Creamed Potatoes
serves 6-ish

5 yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons gravy flour, such as Wondra
2/3 to 1 cup whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste
chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Cover the cubed potatoes with cold water, adding about 1/2 inch extra water above the potatoes. Add a generous tablespoon of salt. Bring the water to a rolling boil; turn down to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are just done (a fork can pierce them) about 5-8 minutes.

Pour off all but about 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid. Put potatoes and water back on the heat, add the butter and stir until melted. Gradually add in flour, stirring to incorporate lumps. Add the milk in two batches, increasing the amount of milk if the mixture seems too thick. Add a generous grinding of pepper and taste for salt, adding if necessary. Top with parsley, if desired.

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