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!

 

Char Siu Pork Ribs

I am a huge fan of Chinese char siu pork. If you have never had it, it is basically a reddish colored pork (primarily from red food coloring which is optional), and perfectly seasoned from things like Chinese five spice and other wonderful ingredients. So this past week, pork ribs were on sale and I knew my kids would love for me to go out into the cold, and smoke some ribs, but that was not about to happen, especially with a lot of people kidding bad colds around these parts. So instead I came up with two batches of ribs, one Chinese char siu style and the other using a rub from Dizzy Pig.

Char Siu Pork Ribs Recipe
Char Siu Pork Ribs Recipe

These almost fall apart Chinese char siu pork ribs will have you smacking your lips and licking those fingers.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 rack of pork ribs, membrane removed from the backside
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup of Chinese Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 1/2 tsp Chinese Five Spice (a little goes a long way)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp dark Sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1/4 cup of ketchup
  • 1/4 water
  • 1 tbsp red food coloring, optional
  • Cooked Jasmine rice, optional

I know this sounds like a bunch of stuff, but most should be stocked in your household for standard Asian style cooking.

I like to cut my ribs into 4 rib segments so that they fit nicely into a sealable bag.

Start by making the marinade. To a mixing bowl add everything but the honey, ketchup, water, and food coloring.

Give a good mix, then add your ribs to a sealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade into the bag, seal, and gently toss the marinade around so it penetrates all of the ribs. Place into your refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

Char Siu Pork Ribs Ingredients
Char Siu Pork Ribs Ingredients

Preheat your oven to 275 degrees. We are going to cook these ribs low and slow, then increase the heat over time.

During this time, take the ribs out and set the bag onto the counter for about 20 minutes or so to take off the chill.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and using tongs, remove the ribs from the bag and let any excess marinade fall into the bag. Reserve the marinade as this is going to cook down with the sauce.

Place the ribs in the oven and cook for about 2 hours. About 1 1/2 hours in, crank the heat to 350 degrees.

Take the reserved marinade and add it to a pot on the stove. Add the water, ketchup, red food coloring, and honey and give a good stir. Cook this on medium-low heat until it has reduced by half, and adjust the heat to low if necessary. This is going to be our glazing mixture to finish the ribs.

Take a look at the ribs. Once they begin to slightly caramelize (you know how you like your ribs), slide the oven rack out so you have access to the baking sheet, and begin brushing on the glaze, all over the ribs. Return back into the oven, cook for a few more minutes, then repeat with the glaze. Keep an eye on them as you do not want the glaze to burn. Repeat this a few times, then once you are satisfied, remove them from the oven, finish with another brushing of the cooked glaze mixture, and plate and serve.

Serve alongside cooked rice, and you have yourself one heck of a meal. If you are looking to jazz up some ribs, and want to go to a great Chinese route, give these a try, I’m almost certain you are going to love them. Hope you enjoy!

Pork Ribs Adobo

I have a really great feeling about Filipino food trending this year. As my father-in-law, as well as plenty of extended family are Filipino, I have been blessed to hear stories of their great cuisine, or been around it to try it. I’ve tried enough of the main staples, and have posted them on this site, and hands down (besides lumpia and pancit) on of my favorite dishes is Filipino adobo. Whether that adobo be chicken or pork, it does not really matter. There is something about the aroma, the simplicity, and when eaten with a bit of rice, well, you have yourself a really awesome meal.

My wife will always tell stories about her road trips when growing up as a kid, and her dad busting out a pan of adobo when traveling across country, and that aroma perfuming the car. I’m not too certain if she was a fan of that aroma at that age, but it is one she loves, and my entire family has loved since I’ve been making it. This is pork ribs adobo. It has the bone, plenty of fall apart pork off of that bone, and one that is truly freaking delicious.

Filipino Pork Ribs Adobo Recipe
Filipino Pork Ribs Adobo Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 6 lbs of pork ribs, silver skin removed, cut into 2 rib portions
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1 cup of vinegar
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 3 whole bay leaves
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, minced
  • garlic fried rice, optional (but you know you want it)

Start by adding all of those pork ribs to a large sealable bag or bowl. Next, take the soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, peppercorns, onion, bay leaves, and salt, and mix that into a bowl.

Pour this mixture into the sealable bag, and let this marinate 24 hours, preferably, but you can probably get away with 4 hours. Your call.

Filipino Pork Ribs Adobo Ingredients
Filipino Pork Ribs Adobo Ingredients

At some point in time, massage that marinade into the ribs.

When you are ready to cook, add the ribs and marinade into a dutch oven, or something that can hold all of those ribs, and cook on the stove on low heat for about 4 hours.

The ribs should be close to fall apart tender. Once you hit that stage, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Place however many ribs you want onto a baking sheet, and into the heated oven, and cook for about 10 minutes or until you get an nice crisp on the outside.

Take some of the cooked marinade and cook on medium-high heat on the stove. Bring to a boil, then add to a fat strainer if you have one. The ribs do give off a bunch of fat so you will want to remove as much as possible. Keep in mind you can make this a day ahead, store the ribs separately from the cooked marinade, then on the next day, when the fat has solidified from being in the refrigerator, scoop off and discard, keeping just the non-fat marinade.

Once the ribs have gotten nice and crisp on the outside, remove and pour over that cooked marinade.

Plate and serve. You not only get fall apart pork, but the aroma is to die for. It’s that vinegar, mixed with the garlic that just perfumes that pork that it is super hard not to love. So much that I heard my boys moaning a bit, and my wife and daughter who just kept their heads down not saying a word but just scooping forks and spoons of this stuff into their mouths. Yep, it’s that good.

Get your Filipino food on this year. Trust me, it’s hard not to love. Hope you enjoy!

Squash Lasagna

At the season’s end of our last farmer’s market, I decided to load up on a variety of squash. I’ll admit that I am not too big of a squash lover, but I did it for my wife, as she is the one that likes them. But as I stared at the delicata and butternut squash, I decided I would roast both of them. That’s when the idea came into play, probably because I was searching for ideas for dinner and something everyone would love and agree on, and that’s when I thought of lasagna. Lasagna with a twist that is. Who doesn’t love a great dish of lasagna? What no one knew is that I had a good couple of cups of that delish, roasted squash, and ever better I did not tell them until after they devoured a couple of slices. Yep, that’s where my kids are now, two slices, and eating me out of the house.

Squash Lasagna Recipe
Squash Lasagna Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 delicata squash, sliced in half, seeds removed
  • 1 small butternut squash, sliced in half, seeds removed
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, rubbed onto sliced squashes
  • 9 sheets of lasagna, oven ready, or par boiled
  • 1 lb ground chuck, cooked and fat removed
  • 2 mild Italian sausage links, casing removed, cooked and fat removed
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/12 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 pinch of red chili flakes
  • 15 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups of your favorite tomato sauce

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Add the squashes to a baking sheet, and cook flesh side up for about 45 minutes, or until fork tender. Once the squash is cooked, scrape out, and mix into a bowl. You will only need about two cups, but feel free to use more or less based on your preference.

Start by cooking both of your meats. Feel free to combine these in a large skillet. Break apart the meat as it is cooking to prevent large clumps. Strain the meat mixture, removing the fat, then return the meat back on the stove on medium heat. Add a pinch of salt, some cracked black pepper, the red chili flakes, and the garlic powder. Give a good stir, cooking for a minute or two, then add in your sauce. Stir, and let this reduce down a bit, cooking for about 10 minutes.

To another mixing bowl, add the egg, ricotta cheese, the squash, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and half of the parmesan cheese. Give that a good mix so that the squash is fully incorporated into the cheeses.

Now let’s get to this lasagna. Take a good ladle of your meat sauce, and add to the bottom of your lasagna dish. Add the lasagna sheets. Mine fit three to the pan.

Squash Lasagna Ingredients
Squash Lasagna Ingredients

Next, be generous and add enough of the ricotta and squash mixture to cover the pasta sheets. Lightly sprinkle on mozzarella cheese, then more meat mixture, pasta cheese, more ricotta mixture, more cheese, more sauce, then remaining pasta sheets. Cover with meat sauce, the cover with cheese. Shower with the remaining parmesan cheese.

Spray the back of some aluminum foil with some cooking spray. I’ve found this to prevent all of that wonderful cheese from sticking onto the foil when removing from the oven.

Cover the baking dish, and place into a 375 degree oven, cooking for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil, and continue to cook for about 20 more minutes or until the cheese is nice and golden.

Let cool for about 10 minutes before slicing into squares.

The end result was everything that is wonderful about a great lasagna, but there was that bit of hidden sweetness from the blended squash that made this one even better. After the kids were finished eating (as well as my wife), I said “So how did everyone like the squash?”. They had confused looks on their face, but all replied that they had no clue it was in there, and loved every bite. What’s not to love about that? Gotta get the good stuff in there somehow, I was successful on that front. Hope you enjoy!