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February 23, 2012 / beatricebunny

Home Cooking

Tonight, my ballroom dance studio is hosting a potluck.  It’s a “getting to know” you thing where we are supposed to bring a dish that describes where we are from.  My instructor made pralines, to celebrate Louisiana.  The owner is bringing hot browns, for Kentucky, which were also my first choice.

This ended up being a trickier task than I had anticipated.  I need a dish that: 1) Represents where I come from, 2) Travels well, 3) I can make after work on a week night, and 4) tastes good and I am willing to share with others.  I admit to being briefly tempted by a quick stop by KFC for a chicken bucket.  Easy-peasy.  I hated the idea of not cooking though- when I was a little girl, I always loved the thought and care the ladies in my church put into their potluck dishes.  I never wanted to be one of the people slinking in with cookies in a plastic container or, yes, the bucket of chicken.  Not that I would ever do it, but I totally get why some people put their store-bought goods on a pretty plate and pass them off as homemade.

So, tonight…

I debated about a few items of Kentucky cuisine (or that I think of a Kentucky cuisine – burgoo, fried catfish, Derby pie, bourbon balls…), but I didn’t want to make dessert, Anthony had already called dibs on a hot brown, and burgoo was a little time consuming for my needs.  My next thought was Cincinnati chili.  Technically, Cincinnati is in Ohio, but even their airport is on the Kentucky side of the river.  I debated about Southern cuisine more broadly, after all, I was born farther South.  I just couldn’t work up my enthusiasm for any of these dishes.  None of them really said “home” to me.  I think that possibly, we become more attached to the traditional foods of home when we move away from them, and here I am, in the heart of Tennessee.  Yeah, there is no burgoo or hot browns here, but Southern food is more than plentiful.

Instead, I started thinking about what recipes really mean “home” to me, things my mom made (and continues to make) that I associate with dinner at her house.  My mom makes a bad ass chicken cacciatore.  I love her recipe and replicate it myself when possible.  It’s definitely a crowd pleaser, but it is not a throw together at the end of the day meal.

I finally settled on one of her casseroles.  It is easy, distinctly American, travels well, and I haven’t made or eaten it in years.  And as an “American” dish, I can claim that it represents both me and my Yankee husband.  The dish is Pizza Casserole.  It is super basic.  You layer macaroni and cheese, browned hamburger meat, and pasta sauce in a casserole dish.  Top with grated mozzarella cheese and whatever pizza toppings you like.   Pop it in the oven until the mac and cheese and meat is re-heated and the cheese on top is melted like a pizza topping.  Serve hot.

For tonight, I went the store bought route with most of the ingredients, but I told my husband that I am already scheming to make a fancy farmers market version of this recipe with Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, homemade pizza sauce, local pasta, and ground beef from our CSA.  I think it will be amazing.   That’s for the future, though.  Tonight, I tried to stay true to my mom’s original recipe.  I hope it will be a hit.

pizza casserole




Leave a Comment
  1. Jill / Feb 24 2012 12:16 am

    What a fabulous idea for a potluck! I also might have to make that casserole, it sounds so yummy.

    • beatricebunny / Feb 24 2012 12:42 am

      It looks good (I’m adding a picture shortly). Hopefully, it will live up to the hype.

  2. Jim / Feb 24 2012 5:03 pm

    It was yummy!

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