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A couple of family recipes

February 13, 2010

I was just talking to my sister and she made Rotel earlier today, which got me totally homesick for it (and all my favorite southern cooking). So I thought I’d share two simple recipes – Rotel, which is really popular in the area I grew up, and one for Chocolate Eclairs which I got from my Aunt Kim. Both recipes lend themselves well to substitution and are pretty quick and easy to make.

Rotel

This is a sort of dip which is named after a brand of canned tomatoes (Ro*tel). There are a lot of ways of making it, but this is how we do it: You brown a pound of ground beef or sausage in one pan (you can add taco seasoning to the ground beef if you prefer it to be spicier). In another pan, you combine various types of cheese; it’s usually made by melting a brick of Velveeta cheese, but it’s also really good with half a brick of Velveeta and a package (~80z.) of cream cheese. Cook the cheese on medium heat until melted, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Drain the ground beef and combine with the cheese, then mix in 2 cans of Ro*tel tomatoes or a jar of salsa. Serve with tortilla chips, over rice, or as a taco filling with lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream.

Chocolate Eclair

This recipe makes one 8×9 inch pan, with a few graham crackers left over. It’s a really simple recipe but it’s absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever tasted (and it’s very addicting!).

5.9 oz. package vanilla pudding mix
4 cups milk
8 oz. tub Cool Whip (refrigerated but not frozen)
1 box honey graham crackers
16 oz. container chocolate frosting/icing (or you can use other kinds of chocolate topping, ganache, etc.)

In a medium bowl, blend pudding mix and milk according to package instructions, then put in refrigerator to set. Once it cools to pudding consistency, fold in Cool Whip until fully blended. Layer graham crackers in the bottom of a rectangular pan (8×9 inch works best), and pour Cool Whip and pudding mixture over the graham crackers, being sure to spread evenly. Put another single layer of graham crackers on top. Heat icing in microwave for 30-45 seconds, then spread melted icing evenly over the top layer of crackers and refrigerate until the icing hardens. Keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 13, 2010 12:59 pm

    since i’m a total salsaholic, your recipe almost makes me want to eat beef. almost. it sounds so good! and eclairs? good lord, why am i allergic to gluten in a world where i don’t ever see gluten-free graham crackers! gah!
    okay, my new mission: find GF graham crackers.

  2. February 13, 2010 4:40 pm

    If there are other gluten-free cookies you like, you can probably substitute! And for the rotel, you could use beans or veggie crumbles, although I’m not sure how it’d turn out.

  3. February 13, 2010 10:27 pm

    Are you vegetarian, Maryam?

    Here is a problem I have with American recipes: they all seem to use a million different things I have never heard of. And I tend to think of cooking as making things from scratch, so the idea of using packet mixes causes a crisis of cognitive dissonance in my mind as it struggles to cope with the strange not-sense-making sense of it 😄

    Also, isn’t an eclair, um, this:

    So what I mean is, I like food. Nom nom.

  4. February 13, 2010 11:04 pm

    Well, Saya, you can definitely make things from scratch…the only item on the list of either of those recipes that can’t be made from scratch is Cool Whip (and someone sufficiently capable enough probably could do that, or you could sub whipped cream, but Cool Whip is just infinitely superior). Instead of Velveeta, just use whatever fresh cheeses you like and melt them…make your own salsa…for the pudding, mix flour, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract…use your fave icing recipe…etc. I draw the line at making graham crackers from scratch but I’m sure someone somewhere has done it!

    And yes, those are also called eclairs (and are probably what most people think of when they think of eclairs). But the recipe I posted seems to be pretty popular in the south, especially for home cooking/church events (I’ve only ever seen “real” eclairs in restaurants or premade at the grocery store, and then only rarely). For better or for worse, this recipe is known as eclair as well. Although we are rather fond of calling it Declare, on account of how it makes you want to Declare how awesome it tastes.

  5. February 14, 2010 4:00 pm

    …I am not sure I even know what a graham cracker is. This is still rather confusing, so I will do as I always do and simply nod and pretend I understand, and then go to the kitchen where the world still makes sense 😄

  6. February 14, 2010 6:13 pm

    You guys don’t have GRAHAM CRACKERS?!

    This oceanic divide thing is worse than I thought. O.o

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_cracker

    ” Though called a cracker, it is sweet rather than salty and so bears some resemblance to a cookie — digestive biscuits are the closest approximation. The true graham cracker is made with graham flour, a combination of fine-ground white flour and coarse-ground wheat bran and germ. Graham crackers are often used for making s’mores and pie crusts.”

    You could probably sub digestive biscuits for it.

  7. February 14, 2010 10:38 pm

    Ah, it does look like a weird-shaped digestive. American food is weird. Our food is better. 😀

    Okay, now that I’ve looked at that recipe again with the mental substitution of digestives, it’s beginning to look a) doable, but b) weird. So it is like a milk pudding sandwiched with digestives and topped with icing? That does not compute in my mind for how a dessert…ah, now I have googled it, and it actually looks rather good, and also rather like a variation on cheesecake. The milk dessert mix is not something whose existence/availability I am aware of…we tend to make (Indian) milk desserts from scratch, and their consistency doesn’t look like the right kind for this. Should it be runny, or should it congeal to be a bit more solid? Is Cool Whip like, whipping/whipped cream? I hate the canned cream, it tastes blah and fake 😄

    I bought a huge packet of digestives to make a chocolate fudge no-bake fridge cake. Nom nom.

    PS – Making ‘real’ eclairs is pretty straightforward. Choux pastry (simple to make but easy to get wrong, too), + whipped cream or mascarpone/cream cheese/icing sugar blend, + chocolate or chocolate ganache for the top. Nom nom.

  8. February 15, 2010 1:58 am

    I’m going to make the eclair recipe probably sometime this week, so I’ll be sure to take pics of the process and post them so you can see. Maybe next time I make it I’ll try it with McVities digestives (this time I’m craving the regular recipe though so I’m going to use graham crackers).

    Indian milk desserts, like kheer, are somewhat more milky than the pudding that this dessert calls for. This pudding is a bit like the consistency of yogurt or sour cream (more towards the solid side, sort of like firnee). When you mix the pudding mix (http://brands.kraftfoods.com/jello/products/pudding/instant-pudding-and-pie-filling/ – which is basically, afaik, flour, sugar, and vanilla) with milk, it’s really really liquid, but once it sets in the fridge for 10 minutes or so it’s about the consistency of yogurt/sour cream. When you add the Cool Whip that thins it out a bit. Cool Whip is a whipped topping like whipped cream, but with a slightly different flavor than the stuff out of the can – it’s what we usually put on top of pumpkin or sweet potato pie (which according to my British roommate, you guys don’t have either – how sad!). Cool Whip is actually mostly air and water and only a little bit cream, and I’m not sure how it’s made – you can buy it in small tubs here. But you can sub homemade whipped cream or (as a last resort) the stuff out of the can for Cool Whip in this recipe. It’s mostly included to make the pudding sweeter and creamier. This recipe would probably taste good with your ‘real’ eclair mascarpone/cream cheese/icing sugar blend, too.

  9. February 15, 2010 12:32 pm

    I love kheer. I go to weddings to eat kheer. Nom nom.

    I can see how that works, though, for the more jellyish consistency, like the Arab-style mahalabiya, when you use flour or cornflour or something. I shall have to try it!

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