There’s something special about secret family recipes. I’d be willing to bet that every family has got at least one. They are the recipes which are passed on from one generation to the next, the recipes which are prepared on special occasions, the recipes which make you think of home. Perhaps it’s a certain cookie recipe which is baked every Christmas; the one all of your friends and neighbors look forward to. Maybe it’s a special blend of spices which makes your chili stand out. Or it might be a Strawberry-Rhubard Pie which won your Great Aunt Ethel the grand prize at a state fair back in 1920. Whatever it is, these family recipes hold a special worth. They evoke memories and a family pride, which contribute an immeasurable level of value to an otherwise ordinary recipe.
Some families guard their secret recipes with their lives, much like Colonel Sanders guards his secret blend of herbs and spices or Spongebob protects the secret crabby-patty ingredient. Try asking for the recipe and they evade your request, changing topics or vaguely agreeing to send it to you at some unspecified future time. Or perhaps they agree to share the recipe, but it’s done in a whisper, as if Great-Great-Grandma Jones is going to rise from her grave at any moment. Secret family recipes are a special sort of recipe.
As you may expect, my family has its own share of secret recipes. The one which I most strongly associate with home is my dad’s recipe for Connecticut Supper. It’s been my dad’s signature recipe for as long as I can remember. Even now, when we go home for a visit, my dad eagerly prepares Connecticut Supper or he retrieves a tin from the freezer, saved for that very occasion. Either way, it’s almost always waiting for us. It feels like home.
My dad can’t recall the exact origin of the recipe, though he’s pretty sure it was originally found in an old Betty Crocker cookbook circa 1970’s, or something of the like. As far as the name, there is no explanation for that either. It is what it is; Connecticut Supper. And Connecticut Supper is a beefy, cheesy, potato-laden casserole which is pure cold-weather comfort food. This is a Sunday dinner type of meal; a one-dish meal, bubbly hot out of the oven and perfect for a crowd.
Now, we’re all friends here, so I’m going to trust you with my family secret. This is just between us. Shhhh…
- 2 large Onions, chopped
- 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 2 pounds Stew Beef, cut into 1″ cubes
- 1 cup Water
- 2 cups Mushrooms, sliced*
- 2-3 Potatoes, peeled and sliced
- 1 cup Sour Cream
- 1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
- 3/4 cup Milk
- Salt and Pepper
- 10 ounce bar of Sharp Cheddar, grated
- 1 – 1 1/2 cup Wheaties, crushed
*My dad recommends finding your mushrooms at the grocery store, not from your lawn.
Heat oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5-7 minutes until the onions are tender and lightly browned. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Add the beef to the onions. Cook for a few minutes, until the beef is lightly browned. Pour the water over the mixture. Cover and gently simmer for about 50 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the beef, onions, and cooking liquid into a large (13×9) baking dish. Arrange the mushroom slices in an even layer over the beef. Arrange the potatoes in an even layer over the mushrooms. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, cream of mushroom soup, and milk. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spread the mixture over the potatoes. Top with cheddar cheese, then crushed Wheaties. Bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
This blog post will self-destruct upon reading.
What’s your family’s secret recipe? Will you share it with me?