Sometimes I really miss the cheesy, gooey, meaty, in your face casseroles of my grandmother's generation.
Liz, the wonderful cook at the K-State Kappa house, had one of the best all time casserole creations - Tator Tot Casserole. It included the infamous tator tots as well as cheese, ground beef and corn flakes on top. My mouth still waters at the thought of both it, and her amazing mac 'n cheese.
I like to treat Mr. McCormick and I to these sorts of ridiculous combinations now and then. They remind me of potlucks, eating at the sorority house and my grandparents.
I love how they make me feel like I have a big house to feed, like lots of people are coming over. Because no one makes a casserole for just one.
When I realized I had everything I needed to make the 'Tamale Pie' on the back of the Albers corn meal box, it was game on.
For the filling
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups enchilada sauce*
1 cup whole kernel corn
1 can (2 1/4 ounces) sliced black olives, drained*
Salt and pepper to taste
*We subbed in salsa verde and skipped the olives
For the crust
2 1/4 cups yellow corn meal
2 cups water
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 can diced green chiles
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped green onion for topping
Begin by browning the ground beef in a large skillet. When browned, drain all but a couple teaspoons of the fat away. Use the remaining oil to saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes, until softened. Stir in enchilada sauce, corn, olives. Add salt and pepper.
While the beef browns, prepare the crust. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a 12x8 inch baking dish.
Combine corn meal, water, evaporated milk and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened. Stir in chiles.
Reserve 2 cups of the corn meal mixture; cover with foil. Spread remaining mixture on bottom and up sides of the prepared baking dish.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes or until set. Cool dish for 5 minutes, then spoon beef filling into corn meal crust. Spread reserved corn mixture over the beef filling.
Bake for 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese, and then bake for an additional 5 minutes.
Serve hot and garnish with jalapenos or green onion.
This dish was good, exactly the kind of casserole debauchery that I was craving. The best part is that it reminds me of my mom's version, which had Bisquick as the top and bottom.
And don't even ask yourself if this is healthy. Just eat it and then go for a run the next day. It's ok.
This recipe is quite salty though. The added salt to the corn meal wasn't necessary after seasoning the beef. Mental note made.
The crust had more of a polenta cake consistency than that of cornbread, which surprised me. My recommendation would be to make your favorite basic cornbread, throw in a can of diced chiles, then divide it between the top and bottom of the pie. Just an idea!
Bonus Recipe: Ski Day Chicken Casserole
This recipe comes from Julie Killer, a Bunko buddy of my mother's who swears by this casserole on cold snowy days.
8 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 pound flat egg noodles, cooked and drained
4 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 pound sliced, sauteed mushrooms
1 cup soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter, then stir in flour and add broth and sour cream. Stir and heat on medium heat until thickened.
Add seasonings. Remove sauce from heat and stir in sherry.
Arrange noodles in a 13x9-inch baking dish and cover with chicken, mushrooms and then sauce. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and mix with bread crumbs. Top casserole with crumbs and cheese.
Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly. May be made in advance, refrigerated and baked when needed.