When I was a kid, my mom would make a delicious casserole which she called American Chop Suey. It was warm, filling, salty and the vegetables were well hidden in a creamy base with rice and nuggets of ground beef. I’ve since read that there are many different variations on a theme, with the basis of ground beef in a casserole dish. When I’ve Googled this particular dish, it bears no resemblance to my mom’s dish, what-so-ever. Be that as it may, we will continue calling it what it is.
My mom’s original recipe is thus:
- 1 pound of ground beef
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 can of condensed cream of mushroom soup
- 1 can of water (from aforementioned can of soup)
- 1 small can of mushroom bits
- 1 cup of rice
- soy sauce to taste, about 1/4 cup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover rice in a bowl with boiling water and let sit. Brown ground beef, then add onions and celery to pan and saute for 5 minutes, then turn off heat. Add soup, water, mushrooms and drain rice and add. Mix in soy sauce, then put in greased casserole. Cover and bake for 90 minutes.
After my own kids left home, I wasn’t as concerned about hiding veggies (if ever!) but I was concerned about my intake of things like white rice and corn syrups. So, I started experimenting. At first, I added wild rice to the white rice. Granted, it was Basmati rice, but still as white as the Oscars, so the addition added a nice contrast as well as a decidedly nutty flavor and a satisfying chewiness. Later, when we finished the Basmati rice, I went to organic brown rice. Even later still, I substituted quinoa for half the brown rice.
As for vegetables, I also started slicing fresh criminy mushrooms instead of canned. Canned mushrooms seem to have a tinny flavor and more mush than even mushrooms aught. Tonight I added a handful of fresh spinach to the mix and instead of using soy sauce, I used Bragg’s Aminos. It’s amazing!
It’s fun to experiment with dishes that can be so versatile, and this is one of my family’s favorites.