Monday, March 22, 2021

South Mississippi-Style John Wayne Casserole

A Tex-Mex style casserole with seasoned ground beef, layered between a biscuit crust, with tomatoes, topped with a sour cream and cheese sauce and finished with a cornbread topping, perfect for potlucks, church suppers, or just dinner at home!
A Tex-Mex style casserole with seasoned ground beef, layered between a biscuit crust, with tomatoes, topped with a sour cream and cheese sauce and finished with a cornbread topping, perfect for potlucks, church suppers, or just dinner at home!

Mississippi-Style John Wayne Casserole


So, it seems lots of folks around the country and in my own home state of Mississippi seem to love this casserole, and I went all my life without knowing that!

How it came by the name John Wayne Casserole is uncertain, though some say it appeared as a contribution in a 1979 cookbook of celebrity recipes, as a favorite recipe of Wayne's. I can see why. It's super tasty!

Perfect as an appetizer for entertaining, these fluffy, gooey, cheesy, Green Chile Cheese Squares also fit well for a brunch or buffet, and they're good at room temperature or served warm.

Once a basic casserole made with two pounds of shredded cheese and four eggs, with green chilies or sometimes, jalapenos, and somewhat similar to a common party appetizer (pictured above) we like here called Chile Cheese Squares, made popular because it's equally good warm, chilled, or at room temperature.

Then sometime around 2011, Mississippi Magazine published a new version, known as Mississippi-Style John Wayne Casserole, that included a biscuit crust and a layer of seasoned ground beef and the one that you'll see mostly all over the interweb.

In fact, at some point, the biscuit crust version became a popular addition to the cafeteria at University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, was nicknamed "The Duke," and drew quite a cult following on the every other Thursday it was served. I'm not certain if it's still being served there.

Typically topped with shredded cheese, one of our local buffets at Broome's here in south Mississippi, in sort of a riff on tamale pie, had the clever idea to also include a cornbread topping. They usually only serve it on one day, so I've not had the pleasure of testing their version out yet, but I liked the idea, so this is my interpretation of that idea with the University cafeteria version. 

The sour cream adds just the right touch of tangy richness, which should make you happy with just a square. You'll get 8 nice squares out of an 11 by 17 inch casserole dish, which is right about 2-1/2 quarts, meaning if you want to make this in a 9 by 13, you will have slightly thinner layers. I haven't tested it in a square 8 or 9 inch pan.

Now. Understand this is not diet food and yes, this is a carb lovers dream y'all... biscuit crust, cornbread topper and sandwiched in between, ground beef and tomatoes with a cheesy sour cream and mayo layer.

Before y'all get all up in arms about that, here's my advice. If you've got an upcoming church supper or other event, make it. Enjoy a square because it is so delicious! Just don't plan to eat it every other day of your life and don't plan to eat it all yourself and you'll be fine!

I'm not generally hugely big on convenience and box mixes, but there are times where those shortcuts sure come in handy. This is one of them, and I wanted to be true to the base recipe, although yes, you can make everything - from the taco seasoning, to the baking mix, to the cornbread mix - from scratch, and I've included those substitutes in the notes here.

Personally, I almost always have a box or three of Jiffy corn muffin mix in the pantry, and I ran across Jiffy buttermilk biscuit mix and wanted to give it a try too, so I already had that handy. There are plenty of other brands available too these days.


For the record, the Jiffy biscuit mix made some pretty decent biscuits too and just with a box of mix and 1/2 cup water - not buttermilk, not milk (I tried both) -  but just plain ol water y'all!

I guess that's kinda handy when you're in a hurry for some biscuits, but you don't even feel up to measuring. When I drop them in my Lodge pan, I get 6 using a scoop.


Anyway, let's get to the casserole!

As always, full recipe text with measurements and instructions, as well as a printable document, are a little bit further down the page. Just swipe or scroll past the step-by-step pictures below.

Here's how to make my South Mississippi-Style John Wayne Casserole!

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter an 11 x 17 or 9 x 13-inch casserole dish; set aside. Cream together the sour cream, mayonnaise and half of the shredded cheese; set aside. Drain tomatoes; set aside.


Add butter to large skillet and sauté onion, bell pepper and jalapeno until tender, about 4 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside. In same skillet, brown ground beef, drain off excess fat and return beef to skillet, add seasonings and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in half of the onion mixture and set aside.


Meanwhile, mix biscuit mix with water to form soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead 3 or 4 times. Roll out to a rectangle, then lift by wrapping around rolling pin and transfer to prepared baking dish.


 Press dough evenly into bottom and half way up the sides of dish. 


Distribute beef mixture on top of crust, top with tomatoes.


Top with remaining onion mixture and spread sour cream mixture on top. Top with remaining shredded cheese. 


Mix corn muffin mix with egg and milk, dollop all over the top and carefully spread. Bake uncovered about 45 minutes or until top is lightly browned.  Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.


Yum!



South Mississippi-Style John Wayne Casserole

South Mississippi-Style John Wayne Casserole

Yield: About 6 to 8 Servings
Author: Deep South Dish
Prep time: 15 MinCook time: 45 MinTotal time: 1 Hour
A Tex-Mex style casserole with seasoned ground beef, layered between a biscuit crust, with tomatoes, topped with a sour cream and cheese sauce and finished with a cornbread topping, perfect for potlucks, church suppers, or just dinner at home!

Ingredients

For the Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup full fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup real mayonnaise
  • 8 ounce block cheese, shredded and divided (I used Monterey Jack)
For the Meat Filling:
  • 1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilies (like Rotel), well-drained
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1-1/2 cups diced sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeno
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 (1 ounce) packet taco seasoning mix or equivalent homemade
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or Creole/Cajun seasoning
  • 2/3 cup water
For the Crust:
  • 1 (8 ounce) package biscuit mix (like Jiffy or Pillsbury)
  • 1/3 cup water
For the Topping:
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cornbread/muffin mix (like Jiffy)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup whole milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Butter a 11 x 17 or 9 x 13-inch casserole dish; set aside. 
  2. Cream together the sour cream, mayonnaise and half of the shredded cheese; set aside, reserving remaining cheese. Drain tomatoes; set aside.
  3. Add butter to large skillet and sauté onion, bell pepper and jalapeno until tender, about 4 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside. 
  4. In same skillet, brown ground beef, drain off excess fat and return to skillet, add seasonings and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in half of the onion mixture and set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, mix biscuit mix with water to form soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead 3 or 4 times. Roll out to a rectangle, then lift by wrapping around rolling pin and transfer to prepared baking dish. Press dough evenly into bottom and half way up the sides of dish. 
  6. Distribute beef mixture evenly on top of crust, top with tomatoes, remaining onion mixture and dollop sour cream mixture on top, spreading out evenly. Top with remaining shredded cheese. 
  7. Mix corn muffin mix with egg and milk, dollop on top and spread carefully.
  8. Bake uncovered about 45 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Notes:

Casserole may also be made omitting the cornbread topping and finishing with additional cheese. For fresh tomatoes, seed and chop and allow to drain. Refrigerator raw biscuits may be substituted and pressed into pan, though it is recommended to lightly brown them in oven before layering. Layer everything else onto casserole quickly and bake until golden brown.

For the Taco Seasoning: Combine 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon each paprika, cumin, coriander and Creole or Cajun seasoning, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar.

For the Biscuit Crust - Mix 2 cups self-rising flour with 1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed and enough milk or buttermilk to form a soft dough. Proceed with recipe.

Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix Substitute: Combine 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal with 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Add egg and milk and proceed with recipe.


Casseroles,Tex Mex,Ground Beef,Southwestern,Potluck,Church Supper
Lunch, Dinner, Casseroles
American, Tex-Mex, Southwestern
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