Family Recipe: Creamed Potatoes

May 5, 2016

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.

A few years ago, I declared that I wanted to serve them when my parents came for Sunday lunch. Mama was a little surprised, but generously showed me how to make them on a snowy afternoon.

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 10-15 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.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha November 22, 2011 at 5:01 pm

My dad has been talking about his family’s creamed potatoes so I thought I would try this recipe for Thanksgiving. Two questions

a) can they be made ahead or does reheating do something diabolical to them and
b) do you really stir in the flour and milk with the potatoes still in the pot? Doesn’t that break them up as you try to get out the lumps?


Ruby June 16, 2012 at 10:12 am

My late ex-MIL (God rest her), a country lady through and through, made these at every meal and I learned how to make them from her, though they never quite tasted as good as hers (ain’t that the way?), but they were good enough. Gave up making them for years after her son and I split up (though we were all on good terms). Just tried to make them recently, like a couple of months ago, and couldn’t remember exactly how she did it…naturally I didn’t write any of it down…and I might as well have mashed them. The potatoes totally fell apart and blended with the sauce as I stirred the flour mixture in, yet I know she stirred her flour mixture into her potatoes and they came out perfect everytime. I was so bummed I haven’t tried to make them since, but now willing to try again and will probably make my sauce separate from the potatoes and combine it to the potatoes and potato water afterward.


TKW June 17, 2012 at 8:51 am


Food made for you by other people ALWAYS tastes better! And of course, our grandmothers never write down recipes, either, so we’re lost in the woods once they are gone. I hope your potatoes turn out and you can enjoy them again–thanks for stopping in!


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Rose LaSage October 22, 2013 at 10:19 am

I have been looking for this recipe for ever. I used to be in the kitchen and watch my Granny make them when I was little, and have tried making them. I never poured out part of the water so by the time I get them thick enough they taste like flour. I’m going to try then tonite. She used to make fresh off the cob dream corn the same way, you should try them just as good as the potatoes. Thanks again!


Deniseann Taylor January 10, 2015 at 7:38 pm

I love ur story & can relate, except my paternal Grandmother didn’t leave me, teach me, show me anything. I look like my mom’s side w/ the Irish red hair, freckles & blue eyes, my older sister is the spitting image of our father, so u know how that goes. My Grandma Helene taught me how to cook, I made my first dinner the Christmas I was 10, & I made the family’s favorite pie, raisin, I’ve never seen a recipe for it anywhere. Thank you so much for the memories u provided me tonite, God Bless, Deniseann


Annie May 5, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Gravy flour is a freaking modern miracle. My mom always had it in the house and I, for unknown reason, never do. My kids are so weird in that both of them will not touch mashed potatoes. This needs to be fixed.

I absolutely love that picture of your mama. She looks so serene and elegant. Xoxo


elizabeth May 6, 2016 at 6:23 am

It’s not snowy here today, but it is really grey and cold and rainy and I think my stomach just growled reading over the ingredient list. (And I don’t even like potatoes all that much!)


Sherri June 1, 2016 at 3:36 am

Funny – I had a Grandma Helen too :)


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