Thursday, November 5, 2009

Crrrazy for Casseroles!

So, I'm sort of back... [My brother] Omar has a computer now, so I'm now bumming off of his computer, which makes for generally shitty times all around, really. But, I have a little quiet time around here and a special request from a cooking competition and Twitter buddy. Another awesome Emily asked me if a recipe of mine was available online. So here I am.

What of casseroles, say you? Well, in mid-October, right before my lovely computer went kaput, I cooked for two different competitions, the Food Obstructions and the Casserole Crazy Party. Both were equally fun and interesting, with different vibes at both. [I do plan on posting my FO creation, but I think one recipe for tonight.] But, they ended up being three days apart from each other! Casseroles are a stretch for me, actually, but I signed up on a whim. So, after I recovered from Food Obstructions, it was time to put on my casserole thinking cap.

Casseroles are a tricky animal... I'm not really a cream of blahblahblah soup person, but I felt like going a bit trashy, unhealthy, and fun are necessary for this kind of shindig. So, my brain came up with this hybrid frito pie-chili cornbread casserole thing. Because it was a cheesy, fun, heart and stomach warming guilty pleasure type of casserole, I deemed it The Full House. Also known as 1990s' cheesiest sitcom.

The Full House
***So this casserole was a creation in progress, and after getting feedback from a judge I ended up hanging out with afterwards (and trying it myself), I have put my original ingredients in italics after what I think is the proper, yummiest amounts.***

Chili - 1 large (crock)pot full, or I guess 4-6 cans canned chili
2 bags Frito chips left whole 1 bag Frito chips crumbled
2 bags shredded cheddar cheese 1 bag shredded cheddar cheese
1.5-2 batches cornbread 1 batch cornbread

***This chili was a work in progress... I went with vegetarian chili for the sake of feeding more mouths, but I love a good meaty, beany chili. Your classic slow cooker (or fast cooking) chili recipes will work just fine for this casserole.***

1 large onion, diced fine
1-2 red bell peppers, diced fine
4-6 cloves garlic (really, the more the better), minced
Tomato paste - 1-2 tbsp?
1 can vegetarian chili
1 can refried beans
Spices to taste - salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, cumin
Water or broth
1 can petite diced tomatoes
3 cans of beans - I used black, pinto and kidney

In a large dutch oven or generally solid pot, saute the onions for 1-2 minutes on medium heat. Add in the red peppers, and saute until softened. Throw in the garlic for 30 seconds to a minute. At this time, add in a hearty pinch of salt, some fresh cracked pepper, a pinch of red pepper flakes, some cumin, and the tomato paste. Let this combine and then either transfer this to a crockpot or keep in current pot. Add the chili, refried beans, and 1-2 cans full of water or broth. Let this slow cook for, well, as long as you'd like, or just cook in the pot on very low heat for, same thing, as long as you can. Preferably an hour at least

Ok, so mine cooked in the slow cooker for 12 hours, and at this point I was shocked. Somehow I expected a thick chili (yeah, way too much water, not enough ingredients). BUT, it was a tasty sauce, so that's when I ran out and got the beans and tomatoes. Throw those in (all drained) and let cook at least another 15 minutes to combine. (Taste when you first add the beans to judge spices, salt, etc.)

I realize that's a lot of words for chili. Trust me, it's easy. Or, buy your favorite canned crap chili and use it.

Green Chili-Cheddar Cornbread:
***Pretty much stolen directly from Cooks Illustrated. Simple recipe kicked up with the cheese and peppers and just delicious. Original casserole had one batch on top for a thin crispy layer, but feel free to double this recipe for more carby goodness.***

1.5 cups all-purpose flour (7.5 oz)
1 cup yellow cornmeal (5.5 oz)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2-3 tbsp chopped green chiles (or 1 seeded, fine chopped jalapeno)
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese (1 1/3 cups)
3 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh - mine happened to be fresh. Also, don't be afraid to use more corn)
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + lemon juice to get buttermilk)
2 eggs
8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled (at least not piping hot)

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, cayenne, green chiles, salt, and half of shredded cheddar in medium bowl until combined; set aside. In another bowl, combine sugar, corn and milk; then add beaten eggs. Fold wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just barely. Add melted butter and continue folding it together until everything is just moistened.

Casserole directions:
Preheat oven to 350 (maybe, I think?). Grease a traditional Pyrex pan, or possibly a deeper dish if you have one (especially if you double the cornbread amount). Throw a healthy handful of Fritos to cover the bottom of the dish. Spoon 1/3 of chili on top of the fritos. Add a healthy handful of cheese (don't be shy). Continue layering fritos, chili, cheese, until the chili is gone. The top layer, I put a little bit of cheese, and then dolloped on the cornbread batter until it was fully covering the casserole. Top with a bit more cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes. Right before it's done, feel free (actually, please do!) throw on more cheese. Once out of the oven, you can put more Fritos on top.

Serve with classic chili sides: sour cream, chopped red (or green) onions, cheese, Fritos, hot sauce, etc. I particularly recommend serving Fritos on the side because the ones in the casserole actually sort of dissipate with the moisture of the chili while baking.

So, lots of words for really a simple casserole. Trust me on this - it's a simple creation.

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