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The Secret Pocket – Revealed!

October 28, 2010

Recently, I have been flipping through one of the most entertaining works of non-fiction known to Shelly.  I have determined after much deliberation that I will allow myself to create a total of three items from this book, A is for Apron.  Already owning (and never using three), I feel that it would be wasteful to create any more than three new aprons.  I have always realized their usefulness (and cuteness!) but never really bother to don one, probably mostly out of laziness. . . that and I don’t mind making a colossal mess if I am going to cook.  That being said, as I was perusing the A book and enlarging patterns, I was very close to deciding that my aprons don’t need pockets.  I can understand why an individual would want a pocket on, say, a gardening apron. . . but in the kitchen?  It’s not like I’m going to stick an egg in the pocket and gallivant around whilst stirring up other ingredients.  But then, last night, I put on an apron to start cooking (a recipe which I promise to share in a moment), and I realized WHY aprons have pockets!

This is so you have somewhere to place your camera while you’re cooking.  That way, it’s much easier to snap photos, every step of the way.  Isn’t that exciting?  So, of course, all of my new aprons – which I swear that I AM going to make will have pockets. . . nice deep pockets, so my camera doesn’t tumble out. 

Now, let’s get to cooking, shall we?  I have to say, this is the first recipe that I’ve “made up” ever in my life – unless you count some neon yellow rice thing that I made in the dorm once. . . which I’d really rather you all forget about.  I often cook things without recipes, but it’s always something that I’m quite familiar with and have made many times before.  Well, yesterday, I had a hankering for something new, and an idea in my head of what I was looking for.  I wanted it to

A)  be a casserole
B) have ground meat in it and
C) have potatoes – sort of like a Spanish Tortilla but without all of the frying

After a little deliberation and a lot of unsuccessful searches on the internet, I came up with a game plan.  I would slice the potatoes and boil them for a tad, only to start their cooking.  Then, I would make a chili-like mixture.  And I would create a cheese sauce. . . and then layer everything together and bake it.  Voilà!  So easy, right?  Of course, that’s the theory. . . It wasn’t until everything was said and done that I realized I had simply created a less greasy / more yummy version of chili cheese fries.  I have no idea why it didn’t occur to me that this casserole would taste like that. . . so it’s not that original, but it was really freaking good.  Now, here’s the recipe, so you can make some too! 

Casserole de Shelly

4 baking potatoes
1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 packet taco seasoning mix
1 can Mexican Rotel
1 bunch of cilantro
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 c. milk
3 c. cheese – I used a mixture of Chedder, Colby, and Pepper Jack

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Put a large pot of water on to boil.  Peel the potatoes and slice them into 1/4 inch slices.  Dump them all into a pot and let them cook for a while.  I cooked mine too long. . . so your guess is as good as mine.  In a skillet, cook the ground meat and drain the grease.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for about ten minutes, until wilted.  While all of this is going on, because you’re super organized, you can start the cheese sauce.  I began by making a light roux.  Of course, I really was making this up as you can see here.  It didn’t even occur to me at the time that I was supposed to melt the butter in the pot before I dumped the flour in.  I thought for a second that I was going to have to chunk this and start over, but it actually worked out okay.  So, right, to make the cheese sauce. . . Melt 2 T. butter in a medium saucepan and add 2 T. flour.  Continue stirring, carefully, as the roux begins to cook.  Because it’s a cheese sauce, I wanted to keep it a light colored roux.  Once it’s done, add 1 cup of milk and stir until thickened.  After the milk/roux mixture has thickened, you can turn off the heat, and add the cheese, stirring until all of the cheese is melted.  This mixture was a little thicker than I cared for, so I opened the can of Rotel, and drained the liquid from the tomatoes into the cheese sauce.  After this is made, you can set it aside until it’s time to layer the casserole. 

Okay now, where are we?  The potatoes are cooking; the meat is cooking with onions and garlic; the cheese sauce is made, and the oven is warm.  All we have left is to finish up the meat sauce, layer everything and bake.  So, to finish up the meat, all you need to do is add the taco seasoning, add the Rotel, stir it all around and dump in a ton of chopped cilantro.  The cilantro really makes a difference in the casserole as a whole. . . it adds such a fresh flavor.  I don’t think I’d ever make this without it.  And look how pretty it looks!  Okay, okay.  I’m rambling.  It looks like everything is now ready to be assembled.  Yay!  That might mean that dinner will be done sometime before it’s time to go to bed. . .

I really took the easy route with assembly.  I didn’t at all feeling like it would matter one way or the other, so I drained the potatoes (which were by now cooked completely through) and dumped them into the bottom of the casserole dish – in this case, a 9 x 13 pan.  Then I poured the meat mixture on. . . and then I topped everything with the cheese sauce, so it looked something like this.  Then, I tossed it into the oven, set the timer for a thirty minutes, washed what appeared to be a mountain of dirty dishes, and took the quickest shower in the world, being sure to wash all of the important parts (and all of the not so important parts. . . what exactly is not important really, when it comes to showering?) and was done just in time to pull dinner out of the oven.  I was clean; the kitchen was clean; and I had a ton of casserole to eat.  And it was only 8:00.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  And, in the process, I learned what apron pockets are for. . . it was an amazing night, really, when you think about it.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2010 8:22 pm

    Oh yum, comfort food at its best! I am totally making this soon, we have all of the ingredients already. 🙂

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