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I have a long history of stuffing my feelings, right into a casserole dish if you're lucky. Some of my best work happens when I'm hiding in the kitchen, puttering around to avoid a difficult conversation (which can be any conversation at all, if you're me). A couple months ago, I was having one of those nights and in a valiant attempt to look busy came up with a new family favorite.
I keep my mouth full to stop myself from sharing, because sometimes? You just need to keep that garbage inside. On family vacations—arguably the hardest time to stifle big feelings—everybody wins! The worse you behave and the harder I have to work to keep my mouth shut, the more decadent the reward. My shrimp and grits breakfast casserole happened on a beach trip when I was itching to give about three and a half people a piece of my mind, which wasn't going to help the situation one little bit. I've grown wiser (but not by much) in my old age. Is it fair to reward bad behavior with good casserole? Discuss. Anyhow, the shrimp and grits casserole is another recipe for another day, but here's a fun fact. I'm allergic to shrimp now, so I make it with whatever fresh fish is leftover from supper the night before and it's still really good.
Is it fair to reward bad behavior with good casserole? Discuss.
Today's casserole came about during a late-night bout of homework. I managed to remain calm, the homework eventually got finished, and this casserole went into the refrigerator for the next day. For the curious, the biggest achievement there was my calm demeanor. Now this casserole is a weekly feature on our menu.
I had a little help from Hot Steve, La Victoria, some leftover pork loin, and frozen white beans. (If you like to cook but hate the details, make a huge pot of beans and freeze them in individual portions. It'll make things easier on a busy night.) Hot Steve is one of my favorite Beautiful Briny Sea salts because it tastes good and my middle son does an awesome imitation of Ryan Lochte every time we use it. Jeah.
The best thing you can do to prep for this casserole (which needs a good name, so please help? I stole tex-mex from the 70s and added Cackilack for good measure) is make your beans ahead of time (or buy canned—no judgement) and set aside two cups of whatever meat you ate this week. Also, make a triple recipe of Kanned Cream of Mushroom Soup for Dummies and freeze it in can-sized portions. So...the bottom layer of hashbrowns isn't technically required (I mean, nothing is, 'cause you do you), but I recommend it for pretty much every casserole, because it soaks up extra liquid if you accidentally add too much. Also? Who doesn't love a fried potato surprise?
Serves about 8. Serves 10 if there are no teenagers and you add a side salad.
4-6 Trader Joe's Hashbrown Patties (enough to form a single layer) or a single layer of tater tots
2 cups cooked white beans (navy or great northern)
2 cups cooked, chopped meat (pork, chicken, steak, whatever you have)
1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
1 can Rotel tomatoes (or diced tomatoes with green chilies), drained
1 red pepper, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup or 1 1/2 cups homemade
1/4 cup mayonnaise (Duke's, please)
1/4 cup green taco sauce or tomatillo sauce
1 heaping teaspoon chili powder
2 heaping teaspoons cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheese (jack, cheddar, mozzarella, whatever; pepper jack is great if you like it spicy)
1 onion, caramelized
Preheat your oven to 375ºF and grease a casserole dish. Layer the hash-browns or tots on the bottom of the dish.
In a bowl, mix the beans, meat, corn, tomatoes, and red pepper. Layer the mixture on top of the potatoes.
In the same bowl (don't bother rinsing), mix the soup, mayo, green sauce, chili powder, cumin, 1/2 cup cheese (reserve the rest for the top of the casserole), and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the casserole.
Rinse the bowl (or use a new one) and mix the rest of the cheese and caramelized onion. Spread mixture over the top.
Cook at 375ºF for 30 minutes and serve.
Add a few dashes of hot sauce or chili flakes if you like it spicy. Using pepper jack cheese also works.
I haven't tried it with leftover fish yet, but I think it would be good with any white fish.
Caramelized onions are great to make in large quantities and keep in the fridge. And they're easy to make, on the stove or in the slow cooker.
Serve cilantro and hot sauce on the side if people want it (I do).
The busier I get and the more I cook, the more casserole seems to win. It's economical too, since you can make just about anything into a casserole. And this one is light enough for warmer weather. (Do I mean "light" like low-calorie or low-fat? Nah. And you knew I just meant the taste.) So, what's your favorite casserole? And would you like to come over and help me eat my feelings? We don't have to talk.