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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Had a bit of a fail...

I forgot a rather important ingredient in my last post. Salsa. SALSA.

Lord. Have. Mercy. I don't know where my head was, but please, if you try to make my version of Mexican hotdish, add some salsa. About half a cup, or really however much you like.

I will try to never fail you all again. Apologies, apologies, apologies...

Mexican Hotdish Hybrid. Olé!

Gather round my little Mexican jumping beans, in this installment of Hotdish in a Hallway we are heading southward!

Specifically, Kansas.

Now before you bust out your sombreros and prepare to let bartenders mix margaritas in your mouth, I need to address some pressing blog related issues.

I have received a few bits of constructive criticism/grievances regarding my online hotdish journal.
1. General lack of photos
Alright, I will meet you halfway or even a bit further on this one. The blog needs some more hotdish photos. In my defense however, the 'ol iBook G4 has grown testy in its old age and doesn't much care for me doing things like having 'two tabs open while online' or 'uploading photos,' the latter of which takes a looooong stinkin' time. For you though, I will be patient and try to step it up with the piccies.
2. My lax definition of a hotdish
This particular item was brought to my attention thanks to my most recent posting that apparently was 'a bit of a stretch.' I have to apologize. Apparently in my introductory blog post I didn't mention that Hotdish in a Hallway is not a democracy. This is a one-woman village of which I am both subject and ruler. Consider this your own online Cuba and I'm Fidel Castro before his brother took over the country. So if I say it's hotdish, it is a hotdish. If I decide to slap a little frosting on a nilla wafer, put it in a pyrex pan and call it a hotdish, so be it. I am not here to be judged. I am here to bake and eat hotdish. The End.
(Wow, I apologize for that. I didn't mean to be so stern my dear friends, I just felt like I needed to show a little tough love. I don't want you all to grow up and become menaces society because I didn't instill a little discipline early on in your development. That is all. I love you and I'm sorry.)

Ok, back on track. Last week I had the pleasure of joining Mom & Dad Klaassen for a good old fashioned family road trip to visit the extended family down in Kansas. To make it feel authentic and true to our car trips of my early teen years, I spent 90% of the time with headphones on in the backseat handing my parents Twizzlers or their Crossword puzzle books whenever they needed them. Unlike my early teen years, I was pleasant.

The time in Kansas was just lovely. Lots of quality time with Grandparents (note cute pic, and no - I'm not sitting on my Grandma), Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, 2nd Cousins and a really nice old lady who worked at a clothing shop in downtown Newton. The trip also served as a great reminder that I come from good cooking stock and as such, I decided to break out the original family cook book It All Started with Susie, title inspired by my Great-Grandma Suzanne Regier. This cook book is so old it is written in 'typewriter' and with zero intention of irony.

I was craving some Mexican hotdish. Not of the authentic variety (if such a thing exists), but of the classic midwest meets Chi-Chi's variety.  Lo and behold, the book had not one but TWO recipes that fit the bill—one from my Aunt Linda and another from my Dad's Cousin Barb. Both looked good and each had elements to which I was drawn. Barb's involved a Pillsbury crescent roll crust and Ellen's a nice variety of tasty fillings. I took it upon myself to steal parts of both and make my own using a wing-it strategy. Here's what I came up with:

Mexican Hotdish Hybrid
1 lb. hamburger
1 medium chopped onion
1 can mushroom soup
1/2 can milk
1 small can chopped green chilies
1 small jar taco sauce
1 can of crescent rolls
1 can of black beans*
LOTS of shredded cheese

*the actual recipe called for one can of ranch style beans. I have no idea what these are. I scoured the grocery store shelves for them to no avail. As I'm typing this now it's dawning on me that I could have either called my Aunt or just googled ranch style beans. At the time though, I opted to go with black beans, and you know what? I'm satisfied with this game-time decision.

SO, sauté your beef and onions together until browned (the meat that is). I actually used ground turkey, and I have to say, I should have gone beef. "Ground turkey tastes the same as ground beef" is a real doozy of a myth. Ground turkey is generally flavorless and beef is tasty. Live and learn.

Roll the crescent rolls out into a greased 9x13 pan. Mix all the other ingredients together including half the cheese (sorry for the lack of measurement, just eyeball it.) and pour it on top of the crescent roll crust. Bake at 325 degrees for approx. 45 minutes. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and broil for a few minutes until it reaches the pretty stage.

In retrospect, in addition to using actual beef, I'd skip the milk. The hotdish was a bit runny, which ended up working well since we basically ate it like a dip, but if you want a true thick hotdish, I'd leave it out. (Ooof. True thick hotdish is a terrible, gross-sounding descriptor. But I'm leaving it AS IS.)

Really, the only tricky part about this dish, was then transporting it over to my friends Kathryn & Amanda's house. Luckily I had Ana, the trusty roommate to hold it on the way over. Once we made it over and the hotdish was safe, we busted open a bottle of wine that was shaped like a woman. (As a general note, if you are looking for a good red to accompany this dish, you may want to choose one with a standard bottle shape.) As it was, the wine was just fine and the company, superb! OOH—and we added lettuce and guacamole on top which really amped up the dish.

Now go toss on your your woven poncho and bake up some Mexican mayhem!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Egg Hotdish? Oh gosh yes, you bet.

With the first hotdish under my belt, I've been feeling pretty confident. My cooking skills are sharpened, plus I seemed to have mastered the typing skills necessary to continue this 'blog', so really the next hurdle is gathering hotdish recipes. I went to what I knew would likely be an excellent source, my trusty 'Fix-It and Forget It: Five Ingredients or Less' cookbook. The foodie in me is ashamed that I use this cookbook as much as I do, but the Lazy in me thinks it's just great. Lo and behold, the book didn't disappoint. Hotdish Abundanza!

I stumbled upon 'Baked Eggs', an egg bake recipe that called for a can of cream of chicken soup. Since I'm applying no real structure to what I qualify as a hotdish, I figured this would be good enough, starch be damned.

In another exciting turn of events, I happened to have the perfect event for whipping up such a dish—the impending arrival of my three of my favorite woman friends: (And yes, I'm calling them this because it sounds ridiculous and makes me laugh, and also because it reminds of Kathryn's mom.) Larissa, hailing from the darling village of Osage, IA: Home of Kent's Flaming clothing store
Megan, joining us from the always convenient Story City, IA: Home of that one outlet mall with all the stores I never want to buy things from
Heather, trekking down from mighty Upper Peninsula of Michigan: Home of...wilderness(?)

Now, the last time the four of us gathered for a weekend 'o fun, I found myself in a bit of a scuffle with the historic Meredith Wilson Footbridge in Mason City, Iowa. I won't bore you all with the details of the debacle, but I will enthrall with you this photo of me post-scuffle. Needless to say, the four of us typically have an excellent time together.

I must confess that when it comes to 'Baked Eggs' and this particular blog entry, I've had a bit of a 'fail.' I didn't take any photos. I'm blaming this on the same laziness that prompted me to make a hotdish from a five-ingredients-or-less cookbook in the first place. Please forgive the lack of visual stimulation in this blog, although come on, that photo of my mug is nothing if not stimulating.

'Baked Eggs' is a pretty easy hotdish to make. Surprising, right? It has four ingredients. HOWEVER...and note the all caps for emphasis, it allows me to touch on two of the dozen or so principles I strictly abide by when cooking.
1. When using cheddar, always go with sharp. Not like that weird Cracker Barrel brick of sharp cheddar that will suck all the moisture out of your mouth, just a nice amped up version of your standard mild breed of cheddar.
2. When using bacon, always go for the applewood smoked variety. This is just something you should do. Just trust me on this one and don't question.

These two tips are almost guaranteed to ensure your end product receives a ranking of 'tasty' and if they don't and you feel I have steered you wrong, you may openly comment about it on this blog and feel vindicated that my Mom and the three other readers of this blog now know how you feel.

Unlike my last hotdish snafu, I didn't have any glitches in actually making this dish. I did however, have a hallway kitchen that smelled like bacon for three days. If you are willing to let your home smell like a small-town Perkin's to reap the rewards of this belly-warming fare, then I suggest you take note of this recipe.

Baked Eggs, or 'Andrea's Easy Eggy Hotdish Supreme Made With Love'
1/2 lb. bacon (applewood smoked)

12 eggs (that would one dozen for you grade-school flunkies...)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (sharp, SHARP!)
1 can of cream of chicken soup

Saute the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Meanwhile, break eggs into a large bowl and beat until mixed. Remove cooked bacon and drain on paper towels, but reserve two tablespoons in skillet. Pour eggs into the skillet and scramble until just cooked. While eggs are cooking, mix shredded cheese and soup until well blended. Once the eggs are slightly cooled, add to cheese/soup mixture. Gently fold bacon. Put eggs into a greased 7x11 (or whatever size you fancy and/or own) and back at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Andrea tip: save some of the bacon and cheese to sprinkle on top. Adds to the curb appeal factor.

 This dish seemed to get a solid 'tasty' ranking from all the ladies. Or once again, I've learned that I have even more friends who are so nice they'll lie about my cooking. Either way I'm pleased. And according to this photo, we all were. Especially Heather...

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Inaugural Hotdish is Made. And Promptly Devoured.

The first step to any hotdish blog worth its weight in Pyrex, is to actually make a hotdish. So I made one. For my inaugural adventure, I decided upon the most popular hotdish of my childhood, a fancy dish known around the Klaassen household as 'Chicken Hotdish.'  (We aren't much for fancy hotdish names.) This is a creation that I believe started with my Grandma Donna, although in the Klaassen Family Cookbook it is attributed to my Aunt Linda, so I could be totally wrong on that one. If so, thank you Linda for giving the world this hotdish, or at least for the recipe so I may share.

This hotdish looks easy on paper. Actually, it looks disgusting on paper. The ingredients of this dish should not go together and it is a culinary mystery and marvel that they do. I asked my Mom for this recipe a few years ago and I believe the conversation went something like this:

Andrea: Hey - you know that chicken hotdish that I looooved when I was little and made you make for all of my birthdays? I need the recipe.
Mom: Oh sure, you know - it is so simple. It's just chicken, celery, cream of mushroom soup, saltine crackers and Velveeta.
Andrea:...................(stunned silence).............ew.

So, I decided to whip up this classic and serve it to my roomie Ana, and my co-dependent life partner/friend, Kathryn.

Now, because I'm still figuring out the logistics of this blog, I haven't decided where to post the recipes within the blog entry, so I'll just put it here right now:

Chicken Hotdish 
3/4 lb. chicken (cooked, cut into small pieces, or shredded)
1 1/2 c. diced celery (cook ahead - a step, I 'chose' to ignore)
1/2 small diced onion
1 1/2 c. cubed Velveeta (hold your breath while doing this step)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 beaten eggs
4 c. crushed saltine crackers, with 1 stick of melted butter poured over them
6 c. chicken broth ( I had to check with Mama Klaassen - 6 cups is NOT a typo. Also, I prefer to cook chicken for a dish like this by poaching it in broth, which can be re-used for this part of the recipe)

Mix all ingredients except 1 c. cracker crumbs. Pour into a 9x13 greased baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Believe it or not, despite the ease of the recipe, I had a few glitches. Also, my hallway kitchen became a war zone. Anyhoo...
• First, I bought chicken thigh meat instead of chicken breasts. (WARNING: chicken thigh meat, when cooked, looks just awful. Just, oh, awful.)
• Second, I forgot to cook the celery before mixing it with all the ingredients. This would later be less of a glitch, and more of a blessing, as it served as the only item in this hotdish with any texture or crunch.
• Third, I used cream of mushroom soup with garlic flavoring. Normally, I would really advocate for garlic, but not in this hotdish. It gave the hotdish an odor that I didn't enjoy at all.
• Lastly, I ignored the instruction about putting half the cracker crumbs IN the casserole and instead put them all on top. Crackers in the dish are really critical for proper texture and as a result of my out-of-order hijinx, the hotdish was a bit soupy.
• also, not a 'glitch' per se, but I halved the recipe and there was hotdish a-plenty for three.

In the end, the hotdish was actually a hit. One bite of it and I was transported back to my days of carefree youth - days when my biggest worries were things like "Will today's Saved By the Bell on WGN after school be the stupid junior high years or the awesome high school years?" "What if I never get to move in to my older sister's awesome basement room?" or "Will tomorrow's Italian Dunkers sauce be made with real meat?" 

I discovered that I have friends with adventurous palates. I also have friends that might be so nice they lie about how much they love the hotdish I just made them. Kathryn, in particular, impressed me by eating roughly half the hotdish. Well done, Franksonator!

I encourage you to boldly consider also making this hotdish. If for no other reason than to have some friends together on a cold winter evening and feed them piping hot grub. And then if they leave and/or upchuck when you tell them the list of ingredients, you can simply move them from the 'friend' category into 'let's maybe get together sometime, but who knows' category. Allow chicken hotdish to be your friendship litmus test.

Happy Hotdishing from my Hallway to Yours!