Malachi's Promise "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers...." Malachi 4:6

Friday, October 19, 2012

Au Gratin Potatoes a la Bill Knapp - Family Recipe Friday

A number of years ago there was a small restaurant chain called Bill Knapp's.  Our family loved to eat there. They offered plain food deliciously prepared:  perfect for picky eaters. They sometimes offered a coupon special that included soup, salad, an entree with 2 sides, plus a dessert, all for the unbeatable price of about $6.00 (as recently as about 10 years ago).  We usually chose their fried chicken or fish and always a side of au gratin potatoes.  Always!  Dessert favorites were chocolate cake and apple pie.  On birthdays the waiter honored the celebrant with a double layer chocolate cake, often chilled, with a single candle in the middle, no charge.  The perfect ending. 

And then Bill Knapp's restaurants closed.  We searched for just one restaurant that was still open and found none.  We mourned.  We may even have moped a little.  We reminisced.   When discussing where to eat out, invariably one of us would say, "Too bad Bill Knapp's closed."

My younger daughter most mourned the loss of Bill Knapp's au gratin potatoes.  With hope, she searched the internet for imitation recipes and found one that is nearly identical in taste.  We've been enjoying them ever since.  (After my surgery today she blessed us with a pan of these for dinner -- good tonight, good tomorrow.)  If you remember and miss Bill Knapp's au gratin potatoes or if you love potatoes and cheese, here's the recipe.  I hope you enjoy the cheesy potato goodness as much as we do!

Bill Knapp's Au Gratin Potatoes

Cook and dice:  4# potatoes

Grate or cube:  3/4# cheddar cheese.  Set aside 1/2 cup.

Melt:  1/4 c. butter or margarine
Add:  1/4 c. flour  and stir

In large saucepan combine & bring to boil:
1 3/4 c. water
1/2 tsp. salt
Remove from heat and stir in butter/flour.  Mix.  Return to heat and bring to boil. 
Boil 3-5 minutes.  Reduce heat.

Add:  all but 1/2 c. cheddar cheese
Add & mix:  diced potatoes

Pour into 8 greased ramekins or one 9" pan, greased.
Top with remaining 1/2 c. cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
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16 comments:

  1. I love both potatoes AND cheese and these sound delicious. Thanks for the recipe. I'm sorry to read about a surgery - I hope you recover quickly!

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    1. Kathleen, I hope you enjoy the recipe if you try it. It works for leftovers, too. I'm sorry about the surgery, too. I'll be happy when I can walk on two feet again! Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

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  2. I loved Bill Knapp's. It's commissary was right here in Battle Creek, Michigan. We use to go there for many family birthdays. In addition to a free cake, you got your age percentage off on the celebrants dinner. Their downfall was when they put TV's in the restaurant and changed the menu, in my opinion. They lost their faithful clients. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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    1. I had forgotten how Bill Knapp's changed at the very end, with the TVs and menus. I remember being disappointed the last few times we went. I think you're right, Brenda, that the changes were their downfall. And thanks for the reminder about the percentage off the birthday celebrant's dinner. We laughed at the idea of turning 100 and having a free dinner. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and memories.

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    2. They ( Bill Knapps ) tried to go back to there original menu the last 3 months and here in Saginaw they had a 70% increase. in my opinion if they had stayed the course another quarter they would still be around today. I just copied the recipe cant wait to try it. Thanks

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  3. It was interesting to read about Bill Knapp's - sounds like they ran great restaurants. Hope your surgery went well. Thanks for the recipe - cheese and potatoes - two of my favourite things! :-) Jo

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  4. Surgery, Nancy? Hope everything went well and you're feeling better in no time. Sounds like your thoughtful daughter brought you some great comfort food! I remember Bill Knapps, too.

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    1. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, Shelley. I'll be laid up for 6 weeks after foot surgery. Not only did my daughter bring comfort food, she's staying for a few days and making more!

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  5. My daughter and I loved the Bill Knapp's restaurant, too. The husbands, not so much! That's where our birthdays were celebrated until they closed.

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    1. I wonder why the guys don't like it as much as we females. My husband liked it but my daughters and I loved it. Thanks for leaving a comment, PalmsRV.

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  6. Thank you, all, for your kind wishes for my surgery. The surgery was on my foot. I'll be laid up and mostly immobile with my foot elevated for about 6 weeks. Ugh!

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  7. Nancy...... Can you tell me what size the ramekins were that the au gratin potatoes were served in at Bill Knapp's? I remember them being green on the outside but can not remember the size. 4 inch by 4 inch? 4, 6, or 8 oz.? If anyone can help me out, I would really appreciate it. Thanks...... PS: I found a Bill Knapp's website still out there - it's limited and mostly bakery items, but I was excited to see that it still exists. Thanks again.

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    1. I'm sorry for taking so long to answer your question, Rick. I wanted to check and see if anyone in my family remembered the size. (Who knew, when Bill Knapp's was still in business, that a photograph would have been a wonderful memory?!) We all have foggy memories. I think they were tallish cups, with probably about an 8 oz. serving. How I wish Bill Knapp's was still open. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

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  8. I can not wait to try these. I use to work at Bill Knapp's. When I was pregnant with my first child I would eat these often (more than one, daily :)) Everyone would always say "Your son's going to come out saying 'aug'." Thanks for the recipe....I really am excited to have found this!!!

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  9. I worked for the Bill Knapp's commissary for a number of years. The commissary produced and shipped almost everything for the restaurants, from hand cut fresh tenderloin steaks (never frozen), soups, dressings, bakery items, to their china. The difference between Bill Knapp's and other restaurants was quality. Most of the Bill Knapp's restaurants receive shipments of high quality fresh food 7 days a week with the smaller restaurants received a minimum shipment of 5 shipment a week. The shelf life on the food once prepared was 2 days, bakery 1 day. They never used preservatives, and very few items were ever frozen (unlike most restaurants). I have ate at numerous restaurants over the years, and rarely do I get a meal that had the quality of Bill Knapp's. I agree with the comments that they should have never changed the menu's, the restaurants format, or begin the out-sourcing of their product to other companies To me after speaking with many co-workers, and dedicated customers during and after the Bill Knapp's era it was all about family. It was like a family tradition to take your kids or grandkid's to Bill Knapp's and that seem to be handed down from generation to generation. My co workers were like family, and I still try to stay in contact with many of them. Sorry that I have rambled on but I know that myself and many people have very fond memories of Bill Knapp's. As far as the Au Gratin potato's recipe goes all I know is that they DID NOT use velvetta cheese it was cheddar, and the potato's were peeled, cut, and soaked in cold water before prepared and sent to the rests. A big thanks to everyone if you have read this especially my Bill Knapp's family.

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    1. Thank you so much for visiting and leaving a comment about your experiences working at Bill Knapp's. I'm pleased to learn that what I already thought about the restaurant was true - fresh food, freshly prepared, without preservatives. It was always so delicious and I still miss being able to eat there.

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I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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