In The South, casseroles make an appearance at the family dinner table quite often as a way to use up the last of the ham or roast from Sunday dinner. With some rice or noodles, a little cream, cheese and some canned vegetables, itís a relatively easy and inexpensive way to stretch a meal.
I have several casserole recipes from my great-grandmother that I have grown up eating and absolutely love! Interestingly, they are all rice-based recipes and I honestly canít choose a favorite. They are simple, but have very different flavors. It is amazing how swapping out a couple of ingredients and a few seasonings can create a completely different dish. This Ham and Cheese Rice Casserole is one of my favorites.
1 small onion, minced
3 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
Ĺ tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 cups milk
Ĺ lb. sharp cheddar cheese
Ĺ cup cubed, cooked ham
4 cups hot, cooked rice
6 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. fine, dry bread crumbs
Cook rice according to package instructions.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In 4 tbs. of butter on medium-high heat, cook onions 5 minutes. Whisk in flour and seasonings. Add milk and cook, stirring until thickened. Shred half of the cheese and add to the mixture, stirring well until melted and blended.
Add ham to the mixture and stir to coat. Slice remaining cheese. Put half the rice in a shallow 9 inch by 13 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of the sliced cheese and pour half the hot ham mixture over the top. Spread evenly and repeat the process.
Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and dot with remaining 2 Tbs. of butter. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes or until casserole is browned and bubbly.
Experiment with different seasonings in your casseroles to change the flavors. In this ham and cheese rice casserole, Iíve added mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup, a little tarragon and oregano to give it a more earthy flavor and tone down the saltiness of the ham. Iíve also added broccoli and diced carrots (itís best to steam the vegetables beforehand if using fresh).