Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole

I believe, and I only say ‘believe’ because I am somewhat uncertain, that casserole is or has neared the end in our beautiful state of Wisconsin. Just like the seasons, it is one of the things I think we all love. You know when you start new recipes based entirely on the weather. As it was cold and rainy a few weeks back, I decided to once again review the contents of the freezer, cupboards, and pantry, and come up with something for dinner. I’m so glad I did, and as surprised as I was (and probably should not have been) this entire casserole was devoured by just three of us. Please don’t judge us on a rainy, cold day. 

This casserole is definitely not pretty, but my oh my is it ever comforting and delicious.

Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole Recipe
Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole Recipe

Told you it’s not pretty.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 cups of Ore-Ida frozen hash browns
  • 3 cups of cooked, diced ham
  • 2 cups of Gouda cheese, shredded
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup of fine bread crumbs, optional

Start by heating a large skillet on medium heat. Add in the canola oil, and once heated through, add in the hashbrowns, and gently push down, as well as push in the edges a bit to form a nice potato patty.

Let these cook somewhat low and slow. The goal is to get them nice and crispy on the outside while keeping them nice and tender on the inside. Granted these will be mixed and baked but the texture is nice at the end.

During this time, let’s make the cheese sauce, or mornay sauce if you will. It’s your standard bechamel in a way but with cheese added.

To a sauce pan, melt the butter. Once melted, stir in the flour, and cook out the flour on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Stir until it forms a bit of a paste, yet doesn’t turn color on you.

Slowly pour in the milk, continuing to stir and breaking up the flour to create your sauce. Once all of the milk is added, season with a bit of salt and pepper.

Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole Recipe
Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole Recipe

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

You’ve been keeping an eye on those hash browns, right? Good. Now give them a flip, reform them into a patty, and continue to lightly crisp on the other side.

Once the sauce begins to thicken a bit, reduce the heat, and slowly add in about 3/4 of the cheese, reserving a bit to finish during baking.

Get a large bowl out to mix everything.

Add in the crisp hash browns, top with the ham, then pour over the cheese sauce. Give this a good mix, breaking up the hash browns to your desire, then pour into a casserole dish.

Top with remaining shredded cheese, and lightly shower on the bread crumbs. Place into the preheated oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until the top is nice and golden brown.

Remove from the heat, let cool for about 5-10 minutes, then scoop into a bowl and dig in.

Talk about comfort food. Two of my kids were out for the evening so I thought it would be just my wife and I in front of the television watching LaLa Land (sigh), but then one of my picky eaters (doesn’t like melted cheese on most if not all foods) comes in with a bowl (and then helped himself to thirds) and we all could not stop eating this stuff. We finished the casserole. Yep, this one is that good.

If you are looking for an easy casserole to make, and have a few things lying around in your freezer and pantry, give this one a shot. Until the fall season starts, this one will have to wait. Sorry, ham, cheese, and potato casserole, but you will be missed!

 

Enfrijoladas

Enfrijoladas. What the heck are enfrijoladas? I know this is something you probably never see on a menu, but these are essentially enchiladas, that have the corn tortillas dipped in a black bean puree, stuffed, rolled, and baked and are they ever so good. This is comfort food at its finest, and is not only easy to put together but super delicious. I’m always on a mission to get my wife and kids to not only try something new, but to also affirm that they really do like an ingredient whether they refuse to or not, and in this case, black beans. The picture is not the prettiest, but the flavor makes up for it. I stuffed mine with cheese and chicken, but you can roll them anyway you so desire.

Enfrijoladas Recipe
Enfrijoladas Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo (use 1-2 more if you like it spicy)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 2 chicken breasts, poached, and shredded
  • 1 whole onion, diced
  • 1 whole jalapeno, seeds removed, diced
  • 3 cups of monterray jack cheese
  • 12 corn tortillas, warmed and covered
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Mexican crema, optional
  • Cilantro, choppped, optional
  • 1 lime, quartered, optional

Start by making your black  bean puree. This is the real deal for this particular enfrijoladas recipe. To a blender, or food processor, add the beans, chicken stock, chipotle peppers, garlic, and salt. Blend until you have a smooth mixture that is not too thick, and not too thin. You want it to be almost like a thicker soup like a pea soup.

Add some of the black bean mixture to the bottom of a casserole dish, much like you would if you were making a lasagna. Pour the remaining puree into a bowl and dunk a corn tortilla into the black beans. Lay the tortilla in the casserole dish, add some chicken, onion, jalapeno, and cheese, and roll, keep the seal side down. Repeat, and compact those tortillas to fit as many as you can. I have to feed five, so I always think 2-3 per person.

Ingredients for Mexican Enfrijoladas
Ingredients for Mexican Enfrijoladas

Top with any remaining sauce (there should be plenty left over), and top with any remaining cheese.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Scoop out, the best you can, the enfrijoladas, shower with some lime juice, crema, avocado cubes, and some fresh cilantro and dig in. It looks like a black bean puree mystery but once you dig in you will find out what all of this mystery is about. It’s good, real good, and for those in my family that said they did not like black beans, well, they were shoveling this into their mouths. Hope you enjoy!

Enfrijoladas Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo (use 1-2 more if you like it spicy)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 2 chicken breasts, poached, and shredded
  • 1 whole onion, diced
  • 1 whole jalapeno, seeds removed, diced
  • 3 cups of monterray jack cheese
  • 12 corn tortillas, warmed and covered
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Mexican crema, optional
  • Cilantro, choppped, optional
  • 1 lime, quartered, optional
Instructions
  1. Start by making your black bean puree. This is the real deal for this particular enfrijoladas recipe. To a blender, or food processor, add the beans, chicken stock, chipotle peppers, garlic, and salt. Blend until you have a smooth mixture that is not too thick, and not too thin. You want it to be almost like a thicker soup like a pea soup.
  2. Add some of the black bean mixture to the bottom of a casserole dish, much like you would if you were making a lasagna. Pour the remaining puree into a bowl and dunk a corn tortilla into the black beans. Lay the tortilla in the casserole dish, add some chicken, onion, jalapeno, and cheese, and roll, keep the seal side down. Repeat, and compact those tortillas to fit as many as you can. I have to feed five, so I always think 2-3 per person.
  3. Top with any remaining sauce (there should be plenty left over), and top with any remaining cheese.
  4. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
  5. Scoop out, the best you can, the enfrijoladas, shower with some lime juice, crema, avocado cubes, and some fresh cilantro and dig in.

 

Crawfish Etouffee

If there is one thing my oldest loves, it has got to be crawfish. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but he’s my pickiest of eaters, 16 now, and when he tore into eating crawfish years ago I was flabbergasted. So on his most recent birthday I decided we would do a crawfish boil. I ordered 10 pounds of live crawfish from the Louisiana Crawfish Company figuring the ‘party’ would devour the boil. As much as my kids and I ate, the others simply ate a small handful, meaning I would plenty leftover. My kids and I probably spent a good 45 minutes, post party, peeling (and sucking the head juices) the tails to be used for a later dish. That dish being crawfish etouffe.

Crawfish Etoufee Recipe
Crawfish Etoufee Recipe

If you have never heard, nor tried crawfish etoufee, it is a standard dish found in the creole or cajun area of our nation. It’s almost a staple. Etouffee is translated to ‘smother’ in French terms, and I make mine with a darker roux only to deepen the flavor and making this a super comforting recipe.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (8 tbsp)
  • 4 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 whole onion, diced
  • 2 cups of celery, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup of green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp creole spice mix
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt, to your taste
  • 2 lbs crawfish tails (if frozen, make sure they are thawed)
  • Cooked jasmine rice, per serving
  • Flat leaf parsley, for garnishing

Sounds like a bunch of stuff, but it’s really pretty basic, and trust me it’s full of comfort.

Start by getting a large pot onto the stove on medium heat. Add in your butter, and melt it down. Once you begin seeing the butter foam, tilt the pot, and use a spoon to skim off just the top of the foam. Discard the foam. Return the pot back to the heat, and toss in the flour.

Stir the flour into the butter, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring along the way. The flour will become blonde, then begin to darken a bit. Just be careful not to burn the flour.

Add in your onion, celery, bay leaf, garlic, carrot, and tomatoes, and cook for about 10-15 minutes in the roux, stirring along the way. Cook until the onions become translucent.

Ingredients for making Crawfish Etoufee Recipe
Ingredients for making Crawfish Etoufee Recipe

Once the onions turn translucent, add in the black pepper, salt, and cajun seasoning. Give a good stir, then add in your chicken stock. Stir well, and continue cooking on medium heat until the sauce thickens. I love this part and always have.

Once the sauce thickens, add in the crawfish tails. Stir again, and once the crawfish are warmed through, roughly 5 minutes or so, you are then ready to plate and serve.

Some like to serve rice on top, but my preference is to let the crawfish etouffee shine and serve on top of cooked rice.

So get a serving bowl ready, add in some cooked jasmine rice, and ladle on a nice pile of crawfish etouffee. Garnish with chopped parsley and dig in!

As much as my kids loved tearing through boiled crawfish, I cannot say they were much fans of this particular dish. Most likely due to the stew like texture. My wife and I on the other hand? Well, we imagined ourselves being back in New Orleans, walking the streets all day, and ending up in a great restaurant eating one of their famous dishes; crawfish etouffee.  I hope you enjoy!

Crawfish Etouffee
Author: 
Cuisine: Cajun or Creole
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
 
Ingredients
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (8 tbsp)
  • 4 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 whole onion, diced
  • 2 cups of celery, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup of green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1½ cups diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp creole spice mix
  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt, to your taste
  • 2 lbs crawfish tails (if frozen, make sure they are thawed)
  • Cooked jasmine rice, per serving
  • Flat leaf parsley, for garnishing
Instructions
  1. Start by getting a large pot onto the stove on medium heat. Add in your butter, and melt it down. Once you begin seeing the butter foam, tilt the pot, and use a spoon to skim off just the top of the foam. Discard the foam. Return the pot back to the heat, and toss in the flour.
  2. Stir the flour into the butter, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring along the way. The flour will become blonde, then begin to darken a bit. Just be careful not to burn the flour.
  3. Add in your onion, celery, bay leaf, garlic, carrot, and tomatoes, and cook for about 10-15 minutes in the roux, stirring along the way. Cook until the onions become translucent.
  4. Once the onions turn translucent, add in the black pepper, salt, and cajun seasoning. Give a good stir, then add in your chicken stock. Stir well, and continue cooking on medium heat until the sauce thickens. I love this part and always have.
  5. Once the sauce thickens, add in the crawfish tails. Stir again, and once the crawfish are warmed through, roughly 5 minutes or so, you are then ready to plate and serve.
  6. Some like to serve rice on top, but my preference is to let the crawfish etouffee shine and serve on top of cooked rice.
  7. So get a serving bowl ready, add in some cooked jasmine rice, and ladle on a nice pile of crawfish etouffee. Garnish with chopped parsley and dig in!

 

Lasagna with Quark Cheese

This quark cheese could not have come at a better time. My colleague had sent me a text stating he was bringing in 12 ounces of quark cheese and it was all mine. He had recently worked at a farm to table dinner and a lot of food was leftover for the taking, and one of them being quark cheese. It was awesome quark cheese at that and from Clock Shadow Creamery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They make awesome cheese curds, so I was excited to try their quark cheese.

When I took the cheese home, I gave it a taste, and it was confirmed how awesome it was. The quark cheese was soft, a bit tangy, and reminded me a bit of ricotta cheese in texture. That’s when I knew what I was going to do with it, and what a better way to use up a lot of my tomato sauce that I have been freezing from an abundance of tomatoes from my garden. What’s better is my kids did not know I was putting in this cheese, so it was a new experience to a meal they already love, lasagna.

Lasagna with Quark Cheese Recipe
Lasagna with Quark Cheese Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 lb ground chuck, cooked, and fat drained
  • 5 cups of your favorite tomato sauce (I made my own)
  • 12 pasta sheets, I tried the ‘Oven Ready’ type
  • 1/3 cup shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup bell pepper, diced
  • 12 oz Quark cheese
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/2 tbsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup of fresh mozzarella, torn
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • aluminum foil

Start by cooking your ground chuck. Once cooked and drained, return back to the stove on medium-low heat, and add in your tomato sauce, garlic, shallots, and bell pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetable soften, and the sauce is cooked through. Once cooked through, set aside.

To a mixing bowl, add the quark cheese, eggs, black pepper, and parmesan cheese. Mix until everything is blended through.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

To a baking dish, lightly spray with cooking spray.

Lasagna with Quark Cheese Ingredients
Lasagna with Quark Cheese Ingredients

Now time for assembly. Ladle about a cup of meat sauce on the bottom of the baking dish, and evenly spread out.

Top with 3 sheets of the lasagna shells. Add dollops of the quark cheese mixture on top of the pasta. Ladle a bit more sauce, top with pasta, cheese mixture, pasta, cheese mixture, meat sauce, pasta, and finish with covering entirely with the meat sauce. Add the fresh mozzarella on top of the meat sauce, then cover with aluminum foil, and place into the preheated oven for 35 minutes.

After 35 minutes, remove, take off the foil, and return back to the oven to get the cheese nice and bubbly. Remove, and let it cool for about 5-10 minutes (I know that is the hardest part).

Now you are ready to serve. Slice into squares, shower with more parmesan cheese if desired, or shower with some chili flakes.

Lasagna with Quark Cheese Recipe
Lasagna with Quark Cheese Recipe

The end result, and I don’t say this because I made this recipe with quark cheese, was spectacular. It had everything you love about a great lasagna, but there was something about the quark that really made it special.  So if you have never tried quark cheese, do so, and if you have plenty to spare give this recipe a shot. I hope you enjoy!

Lasagna with Quark Cheese
Author: 
Recipe type: Lasagna
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 1¾ lb ground chuck, cooked, and fat drained
  • 5 cups of your favorite tomato sauce (I made my own)
  • 12 pasta sheets, I tried the ‘Oven Ready’ type
  • ⅓ cup shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup bell pepper, diced
  • 12 oz Quark cheese
  • 2 whole eggs
  • ½ tbsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup of fresh mozzarella, torn
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • aluminum foil
Instructions
  1. Start by cooking your ground chuck. Once cooked and drained, return back to the stove on medium-low heat, and add in your tomato sauce, garlic, shallots, and bell pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetable soften, and the sauce is cooked through. Once cooked through, set aside.
  2. To a mixing bowl, add the quark cheese, eggs, black pepper, and parmesan cheese. Mix until everything is blended through.
  3. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  4. To a baking dish, lightly spray with cooking spray.
  5. Now time for assembly. Ladle about a cup of meat sauce on the bottom of the baking dish, and evenly spread out.
  6. Top with 3 sheets of the lasagna shells. Add dollops of the quark cheese mixture on top of the pasta. Ladle a bit more sauce, top with pasta, cheese mixture, pasta, cheese mixture, meat sauce, pasta, and finish with covering entirely with the meat sauce. Add the fresh mozzarella on top of the meat sauce, then cover with aluminum foil, and place into the preheated oven for 35 minutes.
  7. After 35 minutes, remove, take off the foil, and return back to the oven to get the cheese nice and bubbly. Remove, and let it cool for about 5-10 minutes (I know that is the hardest part).
  8. Now you are ready to serve. Slice into squares, shower with more parmesan cheese if desired, or shower with some chili flakes.