So, I have this friend Ellen. We became acquainted over 20 years ago when her husband came to work with my husband at the Hanford Nuclear Site. They were both retired Navy, so they spoke the same language, and once they got settled, we had them over for dinner one night,. From the beginning, I loved Ellen. She is just one of those outgoing, fun people that everyone is attracted to, and after that dinner, she and I became fast friends. You know when you move to a new town and you don’t know who the best butcher is, the good dry cleaners, the nice local restaurants, or who is a good dentist or doctor? Well, I would share my Tri Cities knowledge with Ellen, and we could talk for hours on the phone about anything and everything.
One of the first years they were here, they joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. She said “I’ll bring a Corn Casserole.” Even though Ellen had already proven to be one of the best cooks you will ever meet, I was skeptical of something called a “Corn Casserole.” They had lived in the South for several years, and I had visions of some mixture of corn, pimento, onions, or God forbid, Lima beans. But being the good girl my mother raised me to be, I said “that sounds great!”
When they arrived for dinner, Ellen presented the Corn Casserole. No pimento, no Lima beans, just amazing wonderfulness! It was a mixture of cheese, macaroni, and corn, and when I saw it, I internally breathed a sigh of relief. Why had I ever doubted her? This casserole was like macaroni and cheese with corn in it. My teenage kids, who I am ashamed to say grew up on illegal doses of boxed macaroni and cheese, lapped that casserole up like catnip.
Of course, I needed the recipe, and not only is it delicious, but it couldn’t be easier. If you’ve ever made a dump cake, well, this is a “dump casserole.” (Okay, I just made that up…:)) You will need:
1 can canned corn, including juice (This is very important, because the juice is what helps cook the macaroni)
1 can creamed corn, including juice (Again, this is very important, because the juice is what helps cook the macaroni)
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup dry elbow macaroni noodles
1 Tbsp, minced onion (I used dehydrated)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Dump all ingredients in a greased 2 quart casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes until bubbly and slightly brown. This time, I topped the casserole with some panko breadcrumbs and parsley, just for fun, but that is purely optional.
You may have noticed that my photo of ingredients doesn’t quite match the recipe. That is because, although I typically keep a can of creamed corn in my pantry just for this dish, this time I didn’t have one. During this quarantine I am not shopping very often, so I improvised with a little trick I had used once before. Just place a can of regular corn with juice in a food processor with 1/4 cup of milk. Puree for about 30 seconds, and voila, creamed corn. Who knew?
Corn Casserole makes a wonderful side dish with almost any meal, including that leftover Easter ham! This recipe became such a family favorite that each of my three grown children still make it for their families, as do I, and it is also a great thing to take to potlucks. In other words, it’s a real crowd pleaser. As for Ellen, even though we only live about 10 miles apart, we don’t see or talk as often as we once did. When Jim and I left for Hawaii in 2001, Ellen found wonderful groups of friends and became involved in many activities. But anytime we talk or get together, we pick up right where we left off, without skipping a beat. She’s the friend that remembers the date your dad died, sends cards for all occasions, and reaches out to your mother who lives alone. As if that wasn’t enough, every year at Thanksgiving, her husband delivers us one of her fantastic homemade Sweet Potato Pies. Ellen is that winning combination of great cook and good friend; something we could all use more of in our lives. Well, that and more Corn Casserole!