Friday, December 21, 2012

Cajun Cocotte: The Dish, not the "woman"

After searching high and low to find something new to bring to the kitchen table, I located several recipes that were interesting. My exploration into the worldwide web began with casseroles, which took me into a groundmeat collation, which took me to tomato based territory, which took me to goulash, where I ended with tacos. While all of the recipes sounded delicious, each of them were missing something. So much time had passed. I didn't even realize I was 2 hours into my pursuit for revamping our menu for the evening! It was at that time, I decided that I had spent too much time on the computer and was now limited on time to prepare any dish. Does that ever happen to you?

So I did what any chef would do. I headed to the pantry to see what ingredients I had on hand, threw them in a pot, and voila'! In an hour, I had created heaven! Okay, so maybe 'Professional Chefs' really don't do that. Maybe they have a plan from the start. Maybe they prepare a little better than I did. Maybe they go to the grocers and gather specific ingredients to form the perfect flavors. And maybe, just maybe, they precisely measure all ingredients. Well, this I did. Only to share with you if this dish actually came out good. And it did! In fact, it came out better than good. It was heaven! Just check out the remarkable glare at the bottom of the dish. This is by no way thanks to me. Honestly, I don't even know how to accentuate photos. There is no better explanation than that this dish is truly heaven sent!

2 ½- 2 ¾ lbs. lean ground beef
10-12 ounces cooked elbow macaroni noodles
2 cups shredded cheese (I used an assorted Mexican blend that included Monterey Jack, Cheddar, etc.)
2- 10oz. cans of Rotel
1- 10oz. can nacho cheese
1- 10oz. can cheddar cheese soup
1 ½ cups milk
1 medium/large onion, diced
2 tbsp. garlic, minced
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. taco seasoning
2 tbsp. Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning
salt to taste
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup crushed tortilla chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Begin cooking the macaroni noodles per package directions in salted, boiling water. Drain and set aside. In a large pot on medium/high setting, add the olive oil, onions, and 1 tbsp. of Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning. Cook until onions are translucent.

Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Add your garlic, lemon juice, taco seasoning, and remaining tbsp. of Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning to the pot. Stir and let cook for 3 minutes on high. Add the Rotel and milk and stir. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed.

Add the nacho cheese and cheddar cheese soup to the pot, and stir until the cheeses have melted into the groundmeat mixture. Remove from heat.

As I created this dish, I began wondering what I would tell my family they were eating. What do I call this? And then the questions began to emerge. "Mom, what's for dinner?" "Mom, whatcha cookin'?" "Mom, that smells good. What we're having?" All the while, I led them to believe I actually had an answer; but they'd have to wait to find out. I responded to them, "You'll just have to wait and see." "This will be your new favorite." "We are having an extra special dinner tonight."

Add in the cooked macaroni noodles and 1 cup of shredded cheese to your groundmeat mixture. Mix well. Pour mixture into a non-stick baking dish.

Top with crushed tortilla chips and the remaining cheese.

Bake in preheated oven 35-40 minutes or until bubbly.

Even after I placed the dish in the oven, I was contemplating what to call it. Should I call this a casserole? Should I call this a goulash? Should I call this heaven?

It was finally time to sit down as a family and eat. As the family looked down at their plates, they were quick to grab a fork and dig in. I don't think they were truly worried about what it was called anymore. They knew it smelled and looked delicious! However, at each bite, I would consider different titles for this dish and none seemed to fit.

It wasn't until the next day, as I was writing up this blog post that it came to me. This is definitely my spin on a casserole. A casserole that I, of course, Cajunified with Mr. Pete's Cajun Seasoning. And Cajun to me is French. Therefore, I will create a French name for this dish. I recalled back when I was growing up, my grandmother would call all casseroles by the same name, cocottes (kô-kôt). That is a French term for a fireproof dish, or a casserole dish. So I began researching the spelling and history of the word before prematurely introducing y'all to something I wasn't knowledgeable on. After much tedious research, I discovered some new things about this particular term. Not only does the word mean 'casserole dish', it means 'prostitute'. You heard right! How can one word have two entirely different meanings? I mean, did they ever really refer to a lady of the night as a cocotte? Never in a million years would I have expected that this would be the case. As you can imagine, I was a bit apprehensive to "set this title in stone". However, I had finally found the perfect name for my newfound recipe, and this little contention wasn't going to deter me from sharing this fabulous recipe with you all. So we hope you all will enjoy our Cajun Cocotte: The Dish, not the "woman"!

~Mrs. Pete

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