Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Seasonally inappropriate corn casserole

So because I do an incredible lot of baking in summer, because evidently my inner thermostat or common sense sensor is broken, I was making a cake. And it overflowed the pie pan it is prepared in. And even though I thought that this pan was bigger than the one that had previously PERFECTLY held the same recipe, it was smaller and I don't fail like this often. But it overflowed and sent berries and cake and sugar onto the floor of my oven and it burned like blazes. (As an experienced baker, I am embarrassed. Seppuku with a pie wedge will probably follow.) So...

I tried an oven cleaning tip I picked up on the Internet. Now, Sally Homemaker, I am not. But I got tired of setting off the fire alarm every time I bake anything above 350 degrees -- which, as you recall, is often in the summer (partially because I know I can open doors and windows to let the smoke and fumes out in summer, whereas in freezing weather it is less practical) -- so I looked up oven cleaning tips. A year ago. And continued to just unplug the alarm and fling it across the room when it went off every time I baked, until the boil-over.

The fire alarm issue was the result of me setting the oven on fire three Thanksgivings ago when I made candied bacon to top a dish. Candied bacon is delicious, but it's baked atop parchment paper. I unfortunately stuck it in the oven right after turning off the broiler (which cooks above Fahrenheit 451) and boy, does pork fat and brown sugar and paper burn bright! Got to show Pat you can put out kitchen fires with baking soda, so I managed to impress him despite rookie firestarter behavior. Hat trick!

So back to the boilover. It was foul and left a thick burned mass reminiscent of those awful Fourth of July "fireworks" "snakes" that just smell bad and grow and grow. Yuck. It necessitated action.

Here's the thing: put baking soda on it and keep baking. Later, scrape out the majority. Mix baking soda and water, put in a cheap garden mister and mist the oven just before every time you preheat. It'll pull the burnt grunge and ash off the walls and you can just mop it out later with a damp sponge. No elbow grease, baby!

Having accomplished this and still astonished at the efficiency of the operation, I decided to make corn casserole. It's rednecky wonderful and I jazzed it up a bit to pretend it's Mexican because I am pretty sure Pat preferred the quesadilla option for dinner and was just being polite.

Rednecky Pretend It's Mexican Corn Casserole

*1 1/2 sleeves saltines, because you know you bought a box to eat chocolate frosting on, but you don't have any more frosting and, you know, buying more for stale crackers would make you totally hate yourself
*2 cans cream style corn, which you totally have in the cupboard even though you have no idea why the hell you keep buying it
*half a can of evaporated milk, same shopping drill as the corn
*one small can of minced green New Mexico chiles, because you're guilty about the quesadillas after all
*a pitiful looking hunk of cheese, grated, to give a quesadilla feel to the thing (yeah, sure it will!) and because fuck it, the original recipe I learned in the 70s used a lot of butter and cheese won't make this worse for me. Hell, corn was considered a vegetable instead of a starch back then! Cats were dogs! It was madness!
*a heavy pinch of cumin seeds to make it more Mexican-ier
*a heavy shake of black pepper because corn loves pepper
*shortening, because I don't grease pans with anything else

Grease your casserole dish. Poke some small pinholes in your saltine sleeves, and crush saltines beyond recognition. Mix corn, chiles, cumin, pepper, and corn. Layer cracker crumbs with corn mixture several times (first layer will be crackers). Drizzle some evaporated milk over the top. You can dot this with butter if you want. Bake at 400 in your newly cleaned oven until crusty and set; believe it or not, this really will kind of set up without an egg, but you can add one if you want insurance. Enjoy!

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