Sunday, May 23, 2010

All In One Pot

As did many of my peers in the 70s and 80s, I grew up with a morbid fear of the casserole dish.

Looking back, I don't understand it, really. My Mom is a fabulous cook, and I owe a lot to her teaching. But when she left the kitchen with her white casserole dish, the one with a spray of blue daisies painted on each side, I knew we were in for one of THOSE meals.

If it was ham-and-cheese casserole, I was in luck. I could pick the ham out and push it to the side of my plate, and very happily eat the remaining potatoes and cheese. I'd only have to eat enough ham to pass so I could be excused from the table. No sweat.

If it wasn't ham-and-cheese, though, I was in for a challenge. Mom's other casserole was a frightening concoction involving layers of potatoes, rice, ground beef, kidney beans, and tomatoes. No herbs, no spices, no flavors other than the base ingredients - which, since they were cooked in layers, didn't even mingle flavors in any appealing way. The only thing I disliked more was meatloaf. I think every parent has one meal that is guaranteed to keep the kids sitting at the table for hours trying to wish their plate away. This was it. I eventually learned to dowse the offending scoop with ketchup and eat it quickly. The only thing worse than shipwreck was cold shipwreck.

Given my history with casseroles, it came as a surprise to me when, a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking over all of the recipes I have ever concocted on my own, and realized that the only one worth repeating was our casserole from college. It was a chicken and rice combination with canned vegetables, largely because that's what we happened to have available.

Thinking about it made me realize that I didn't even have a casserole dish. So when I found a small oval casserole at Pepperberries, I bought it. It's just about the right size for a small household like ours.

We inaugurated it last night with a tamale casserole. The base recipe comes from, but needed to be adjusted. For one, I'm not wild about shrimp - I'll eat it, but it's not my favorite - and wanted to use chicken instead. For another, the recipe promised to make 9 servings, which is an awful lot for 2 people.

So here it is:

1 c. masa harina
1 1/2 Tbsp. crushed oregano
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. thyme
pinch of sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 1/4 c. water
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 14oz. can of medium enchilada sauce
6-8 oz of shredded chicken

Preheat oven to 375.

Simmer the chicken in the sauce until the consistency is like that of a sloppy joe. While the chicken is simmering, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add a cup of water and stir. Add the remaining 1/4 c. of water in tablespoons - stop when the texture of the batter is similar to pancake batter. Stir in the oil and butter and beat well.

Spray a small casserole (or a baking pan, if you don't have a casserole) with cooking spray. Layer in half of the batter. Pour the chicken on top, and spread out to the sides. Top with the remaining batter. Place the pan with your casserole into a larger baking pan, and add an inch of water (unless, of course, your casserole pan is less than an inch high. Then, use your own judgement.) Cover both pans with a sheet of aluminum foil and place in the oven. Check the casserole after 45 minutes. If the top is still spongy, let it cook for another 15-20 minutes until set. Remove from heat, and let the casserole sit for 10 minutes before eating.

We made a bell pepper, avocado, and onion salad to go with this, but a green salad or some fajita style vegetables would not go amiss on the plate, either.


Lalia said...

I hated meatloaf growing up too. I like my own versions. You may even like meatloaf when you prepare it with your herbs, spices and a lot of other things besides ground beef!

Poppy said...

To be honest, a large part of my objection to meatloaf comes from not liking ground beef. If it's come out of a meat grinder, I really have to close my eyes and pretend it's something else in order to eat it, even now. I've got a good recipe for faux-loaf though.

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