Heart Attack on a Plate
The name for this dish was coined by my uncle-in-law here in the US, after he first tried this potato casserole on a Thanksgiving. While here I only make this dish (“layered potatoes”, rakott krumpli in Hungarian) for the holidays – both Thanksgiving and Christmas -, back home, it’s more of an everyday dish. Potatoes, eggs, bacon, sausage and sour cream: simple ingredients in a hearty, tasty casserole. An aspirin on the side may be recommended to counteract any clogged arteries.
I usually prepare this dish in a regular, 9-by-13-inch Pyrex casserole dish. As an accompaniment to all the other food on the Thanksgiving table, this easily serves a party of 15; as a singular main dish, it’s probably still enough for 5-7 people at the very least. I still prefer to make this much, as afterwards it can easily be portioned and frozen in plastic boxes, making a great post-Christmas go-to dinner.
In order to save time, I usually hard-boil the eggs the night before. Put 12-15 eggs in cold water in a large pot, bring it to a boil, and cook the eggs for about 15 minutes. Drain them, then run cold water over them immediately until they are completely cooled: this cold shock will make them easier to peel. You can peel the eggs now or when assembling the casserole; either way, keep them refrigerated until ready to add, and cover them with plastic wrap if peeled.
In a large pot or a pressure cooker, boil about 3-4 pounds of potatoes: regular russet potatoes work just fine, but yellow (Yukon gold) potatoes are great, too. Don’t peel them just yet; cooking them in the skin will not only enhance the taste, but will make peeling a breeze, and the potatoes are less likely to fall apart while cooking.
While the potatoes are cooking, start the meat. Cut a pound and a half of bacon – yes, you read it correctly, that’s one and a half pounds, or a package and a half of sliced bacon – to bite-size pieces, and put them in a large skillet.
Start frying the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, and in the meantime, slice a whole rope of smoked sausage or Polish Kielbasa to thin rings or half-circles. As the bacon starts to render and becomes transparent, add the sausage as well, and keep frying until everything looks tasty, cooked, and maybe slightly charred. Spice the whole mixture with garlic salt, pepper and lots of paprika – you know it’s enough paprika if the grease underneath is a bright orange-red color.
Now to the assembly. Peel the potatoes, and slice them thin; about 1/8″. Spray the casserole dish with cooking spray, then put down a layer of potatoes. Top that with the meat filling – I usually get 2 or 3 layers in, so use half or one-third of the mixture, then the sliced hard-boiled eggs (use an egg slicer for easy, convenient and uniform slices). Don’t be afraid of adding some of the grease from the meats, either – it just makes everything juicier and tastier.
Drizzle generously with sour cream before the next layer of potatoes. If you have access to Mexican-style sour cream, I recommend using that: it has a creamier, more spreadable texture that makes this drizzling a lot easier. Repeat the same layers once again, then finish the casserole with a top layer of potatoes. Coat this layer completely in sour cream, and sprinkle it with breadcrumbs for a little crunch to the top. Place the dish in a 325 degree oven for about 60-75 minutes, or until the top is crispy and browned.
It’s best to wait a few minutes before serving, but even then, this casserole won’t give proper slices. Just enjoy the meaty, tasty bites that pile onto your plate – and don’t admit this dish to your cardiologist.
Enjoy your meal!