Before writing this next post, I went in search of the history of Betty Crocker’s Boxed Potatoes on the internet. Aside from a TV spot on YouTube featuring an ad that first appeared in 1974, I really couldn’t find much. What I did find were a lot of rave reviews for the Boxed Potatoes and various tips (like this one I’m about to share) on how to kick them up a notch. That makes me feel oh so much better, to know I’m not alone in using boxed potatoes as a base for a quick and easy side to some of my favorite home-cooked meals. Now I don’t feel so “guilty” of a little cheating.
I make a darn good Au Gratin Potato – thin slices of Russet potatoes, plenty of cheese, butter and sautéed onions seasoned with salt and pepper, then finished off with a crunchy topping of cheese blended with seasoned bread crumbs. While Hubby likes my cheesy potato dishes, he actually prefers the stuff in the box because they are more soupy. (Kiddo calls them “runny” potatoes and he’s not a big fan. But then, most of Kiddo’s life he’s eaten foods completely cooked from scratch and there’s no mistake, the texture and flavor of honest to goodness scratch recipes are different from their instant counterparts).
Do you remember the first time you made something from a box? I sure do – thought boxed foods were the best thing since sliced bread. Growing up, we learned to do everything by hand. There were no food processors fitted with blades in our kitchen to make quick work of slicing potatoes, no bags of shredded cheese in the fridge. You peeled the potatoes – mounds and mounds of potatoes, using a peeler, then took a knife and sliced away. Cheese was hand grated from massive blocks of cheese (along with finger tips and knuckles). No choppers, onions were chopped by hand as well, while you shed many a tear. Here was a box complete with everything needed to make Au Gratin potatoes. All I had to do was boil some water, add a little butter and milk and dump everything into a baking dish. Poof – cheesy potatoes. It was like magic. Okay, so you sacrificed a little flavor for the convenience – but it was the 70s, and we ( women) were trading in our aprons for briefcases in record numbers. While the submissive wife “Edith” came into our living rooms in 1971, her spin-off outspoken counterpart “Maude” sent us a completely different message in 1972. And Betty Crocker convenience was right there – yeah, we could do it all.
Fast forward – these days I still have a few boxes of Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes in the pantry for those nights when Hubby wants cheesy potatoes while I want to skip all the work of Au Gratin Potatoes from scratch. With a little “doctoring” we both get what we want.
Better Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes
2 Boxes Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes
½ Cup Onion, finely chopped
4 Tablespoons Butter
1 ½ Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 1/3 Cup Milk
4 Cups Boiling Water
Salt & Pepper to taste
Preheat oven according to box (when baking potatoes alone, 450 degrees. Times and temperatures can be adjusted when cooking with other foods – such as meatloaf. That would be 350 degrees for one hour). Empty potatoes into casserole or baking dish. Set cheese packages aside until ready to use.
Chop onions, set aside until ready to use.
In a sauce pan, melt butter. Add onions and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add half a cup of cheese and milk, stir and cook until cheese is melted. Add cheese package from the box, stir to blend well. Pour over potatoes.
Add water, stir to blend. Add remaining cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake in oven according to package.
If desired, sprinkle with breadcrumbs during last 10 minutes of baking.