Western Casserole

Western Casserole, one of my childhood favorites

     This is no fancy pants recipe, no hoighty toighty cuisine. Just a simple dish, but to me it speaks of childhood. Of days long since passed, but not forgotten. I remember coming home from soccer practice in the fall, after it was dark outside and there was a chill in the air from the cold front that had just blown through (yes, Corpus does get cold fronts and it does get cold due to the high winds). Cold fingers and cold noses. Coming in the door and feeling the warmth wash over my face and the aroma of this dish in the air. We didn’t get it a lot, as Doc G wasn’t a fan and wouldn’t eat it. Maybe that made it even more special when we did get it.

     It was also one of the first dishes I learned how to cook reliably after moving away to college and was feeling a little homesick and needed some comfort food. It was easy to make, didn’t cost a lot and even I couldn’t screw it up. This was way back 100 years ago when I didn’t even know the difference between a pot and a pan, let alone anything else about cooking. I even went out and bought the same brown glass dish that my mother would bake hers in just to add that sense of home (which I still have and use to this day. In fact, I think that’s the only thing I use that dish for) In later years, when my brother and I lived in different cities, we would visit each other and make it for one another.

     Now, its once again been kinda put back on the back shelf. You see, Mrs. G just isn’t a big fan of kidney beans (or most beans for that matter). And while I’ve tried to make it without the beans, to me it kinda loses something. Mrs. G even played with the recipe for awhile adding in mushroom and elbow macaroni, but it just wasn’t the same.  But with her out of town, yet again last night, I decided to make it once again.

I forgot to get any pictures of whipping it up, but here it is with some of the spices ready to bake for 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1.5 lbs of hamburger meat
  • Campbell’s tomato soup
  • 15 oz can kidney beans (dark red), drained
  • 15 oz can corn, drained
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 4 to 8 oz of Cracker Barrel extra sharp cheddar cheese, depending on how cheesey you want it (and yes, use Cracker Barrel, it makes all the difference)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (use Gebhardt’s if you can find it)
  • salt and pepper to taste

     That was my Mom’s original recipe. I know cuz I called her last night to make sure. But along the way, it got some tweaking so if you like a bit more heat or want to liven it up some keep reading.

  • 1 tsp garlic powder (cuz everything is better with garlic, even if it just powder)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne and/or
  • 1/8 tsp ancho chili powder

     I know that doesn’t sound like a lot (and you can adjust it to fit your palette), but after baking in the oven for 30 minutes, it intensifies the flavors a bit and I find it to be enough. We aren’t creating some burn a hole in your stomach chili here after all, just a nice lil bit of heat.

Another tweak last night was baking it on the Egg with some Pecan wood to add some smokey flavor to it

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F (or set up your Egg or smoker to 400 indirect)
  2. Brown meat in a large skillet and drain off excess fat
  3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, taste and adjust spices to taste.
  4. Transfer mixture to an oven proof dish and bake uncovered for 30 minutes
  5. Serve with biscuits to mop up the juices

 

Off the Egg after 30 minutes

     While cooking it on the Egg is not necessary (this was a first for me last night, an oven will work just as well), I was pleasantly surprised by what the addition of some smoke from the pecan wood added to it. It gave it kind of a nutty flavor and made me imagine sitting around a campfire enjoying the outdoors while eating this. After making this for almost 20 plus years, I think that I finally have it down (although I might have gone a little heavy handed on the heat last night, don’t think Mom would have appreciated that). I no longer measure anything out, just dumping in what I think it needs. That’s one reason I called my Mom last night. To get the original recipe to share with you guys. I hope you try it and like it. Feel free to play with it and make it your own.

Sometimes the simple meals that bring back childhood memories are the best

***Note – if cooking on a smoker, go light on the wood as ground meat (and this dish) absorb smoke easily. Do not use a heavy wood like mesquite or hickory. Pecan might even be a bit much for some people. A fruit wood like apple or cherry would go nicely with dish****

 

 

 

***Useless fact #1 – after having this blog for over a year, I’ve noticed that my most misspelled word is “minute”. I don’t know why, but it seem like I spell it wrong every time. I mean I know how to spell it, but for some reason my fingers just don’t do what my brain tells them to when that word comes up. And it comes up quite a bit when talking about cooking. Thank God for spell check. I don’t know why, I just felt like sharing that with you. You may now go about your normal routine. That is all. Carry on.

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15 thoughts on “Western Casserole

  1. “cuz everything is better with garlic, even if it’s just powder”

    Amen brother, amen. This looks like true comfort food to me. And definitely the kind of dish I’d make to enjoy when my spouse doesn’t like it and is out of town! Good for you.

  2. Comfort food is … comfortable. And that looks like something I might just serve the family. What’s up with comfort food lately? I’m blogging with my own (childhood) simple comfort food recipes for the next two weeks. Is the heat making us long for the days when we were tossed outside for the day and told to drink from the hose?

  3. Loved the narrative. Took me back in time and put a smile on my face. Can still see my little Cotton tops bouncing up and down the streets of the neighborhood in jeans and white shirts with little blue St. James emblems. Only darkness and hunger would bring you guys indoors. CC Mom

  4. Comfort is just that, comfortable, full of memories of home, dinner with the family, childhood, and just a plain old blanket wrapped around you.

    At least your comfort food is an entree and pretty healthy. One of mine is chocolate chip cookies!! 🙂

  5. Mmmmm, Mexican goulash. At least that’s what we called it when my dad made it. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  6. had to check it out when i saw the name. looks great. look me up on twitter to stay connected @FeedYourSoul2

  7. I love recipes that bring me back to good times, feel-good times. Homey recipes are always a delight to prepare. What I love about your recipe too is the easy preparation and the less complex procedures, but will still give me a real tasty treat. A real must try…

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