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Recipe of the Week: Sustenance for the soul


I attended a funeral recently, which got me thinking about funeral food.

The funeral was to celebrate the life of a woman who had lived a long and fulfilling 98 years. And although her family will miss her, they were able to rejoice in her extraordinary life.

Held in her church, the food was presented by the bereavement committee, with some contributions from family and church members.

Funeral food is whatever and wherever the family wants it to be. It can be served in a church, a home or a restaurant; it can be potluck or planned. In their book, “Food No Matter What,” Sybil Books, Bucks County co-authors Laura Szabo-Cohen and Karin Kasdin include a chapter called, “Breaking Hearts and Breaking Bread” with their thoughts on funeral food.

The chapter is the longest in the book, which also covers foods for other notable life events. The pair say it is the longest because it was the one that needed the most attention. “At no other time is food so important,” they said. Grief is a time that stresses the immune system and increases nutritional needs, they write, when the term “comfort food” takes on new meaning.

Fussy or fancy food is not called for; rather, it’s more important to be thoughtful. Think about what foods the bereaved enjoys. Whether it’s sandwiches and salads, finger foods or a full meal, it’s sustenance for the soul as well as the body.

The Midwest is known for its casseroles, including this one from for cheesy, chip-topped potatoes. It definitely qualifies as comfort food.

Funeral Potatoes

8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter

One 28- to 32-ounce bag frozen shredded hash brown potatoes

1 medium onion, finely diced

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

1 cup sour cream

½ cup grated sharp cheddar

2 cups kettle-cooked potato chips

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Take the potatoes out of the freezer while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients.

2. Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, then melt 6 tablespoons of the butter in it. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir to incorporate. Cook for a minute or 2 to cook out the raw flour, but do not let it color. Whisk in the milk, making sure to get out all the lumps. Add the broth and whisk again if there are still lumps. Bring the mixture to a simmer and allow it to thicken, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and stir in the Monterey Jack, sour cream and cheddar. Add the hash brown potatoes and mix everything together. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.

3. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small pan. Put the potato chips and Parmesan in a bowl and crush the potato chips. Pour in the melted butter and toss to coat. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the potatoes.

4. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking until golden brown on top and bubbling around the edges, about 15 minutes more. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

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