Cowboy casserole

On Pinterest this morning, this Crock Pot Cowboy Casserole:

(#1) Two stages in preparation and the final product

Ah, the N + N compound cowboy casserole. Clearly not an Ingredient compound (‘casserole made from cowboys’), but instead a Use compound, roughly ‘casserole for cowboys (to use)’, or — most likely — an Object compound, roughly ‘casserole of the sort that cowboys (like to) eat’.

A parallel to cowboy casserole. From my 8/25/14 posting “Cowboy Rub”, a survey of possible semantic relationships between the two Ns in the compound cowboy rub:

Object of the rubbing. The supermarket shot shows Chicken Rub and Pork Rub, and (1) has Steak Rub as well — all N+N compounds in which the first element refers to the food on which the spices are rubbed. This is a canonical sort of N + N compound, parallel (except for the semantic complexity of rub) to compounds like linguistics book ‘book on linguistics’.

Ingredient in the rub. Another canonical sort of N + N compound, seen in examples like cherry pie. In (1) we see it, in a very complex form, in Applewood Rub[with applewood smoke flavor as an ingredient]

… commenters on Facebook entertained the ingredient interpretation for Cowboy Rub, with amusement…

Characteristic location/source of the rub. Roughly paraphrasable as ‘a rub in the manner / fashion of this location / source’. This analysis applies to some of the act nouns, notably Princeton rub, but also to complex cases … alluding to [hand jobs performed in the manner of] Memphis, Texas, and Tennessee. You need to supply some considerable cultural knowledge to make full sense of these cases.

Cowboy Rub is somewhat similar to these, with its (intended) interpretation as something like ‘a rub of the sort that cowboys use on meat’ [I would now classify this as a Use compound]

… Of course, cowboy rub could also be a (sexual) act noun, referring to masturbation or frottage the way cowboys do it, or the way it’s done on cowboys.

All sorts of cowboy casseroles. As it turns out, ideas about cowboys and their tastes in casseroles vary quite a bit, in part because the cowboys in question are not actual human beings but mythic characters embodying legends of the American West (on the range) and also cultural ideals of working-class masculinity. Some contributions from these sources: meat (especially beef) as manfood and also range food; beans and corn as characteristic range food; chili (in one manifestation, a stew of chili peppers, ground beef, tomatoes, and beans) as the quintessential manfood; and potatoes and bread as manfood accompaniments to main dishes. “I’m a meat-and-potatoes man”, as they say.

Then there’s the casserole as culinary type. From Wikipedia, with the central ingredients boldfaced:

A casserole (French: diminutive of casse, from Provençal cassa “pan”) is a large, deep pan used both in the oven and as a serving vessel. The word is also used for the food cooked and served in such a vessel, with the cookware itself called a casserole dish or casserole pan.

… In the United States and continental Europe casseroles usually consist of pieces of meat (such as chicken) or fish (such as tuna), various chopped vegetables, a starchy binder such as flour, rice, potato or pasta, and often a crunchy or cheesy topping. Liquids are released from the meat and vegetables during cooking, and further liquid in the form of stock, wine, beer (for example lapin à la Gueuze), gin, cider, or vegetable juice may be added when the dish is assembled. Casseroles are usually cooked slowly in the oven, often uncovered. They may be served as a main course or a side dish, and may be served in the vessel in which they were cooked.

Putting the schema for cowboy food together with the schema for casseroles allows for a wide spectrum of things that might count as a cowboy casserole, and actual recipes seem to come from all over this spectrum. Three examples here, starting with the one from Pinterest.

Crock Pot Cowboy Casserole. #1 above. From the Chasing Saturdays website (“sharing food, family, & farm life”) on 12/11/16:

Crock Pot Cowboy Casserole is a hearty meal and combines all of our favorite ingredients into one dish. I knew this snowy weekend would be a perfect time to create a Crock Pot meal the whole family would love.

Ingredients: 1 onion, chopped; 1 clove garlic, minced; 2 pounds ground pork [pork sausage]; 6 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes; 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed; 1 can diced tomatoes w. green chilis (or homemade stewed tomatoes); ¼ cup water; salt and pepper to taste; 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese

Crock pot instructions:
1. Chop onion and mince garlic.
2. Brown sausage, add salt and pepper to taste, and drain
3. Layer potatoes on bottom of 6 quart crock pot, add chopped onion and garlic
4. Add sausage, beans, and tomatoes
5. Pour water in crock
6. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours
7. Sprinkle shredded cheese in last 15 minutes, cover crock, and serve after cheese [is] melted

Taste of Home Cowboy Casserole. From the Taste of Home site:


Ingredients: 1/2 pound lean ground beef (90% lean); 1 can (8-3/4 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained; 2/3 cup condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted; 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided; 1/3 cup 2% milk; 2 tablespoons sour cream; 3/4 teaspoon onion powder; 1/4 teaspoon pepper; 2 cups frozen Tater Tots

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink. Stir in the corn, soup, 1/4 cup cheese, milk, sour cream, onion powder and pepper.
Place 1 cup Tater Tots in a greased 3-cup baking dish. Layer with beef mixture and remaining Tater Tots; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

Allrecipes Cowboy Casserole. From the Allrecipes site:


This combination of hamburger, beans, and bacon over biscuits will bring out the cowboy in anyone. It has become a family favorite. It is so easy to make, and we love to make it when we’re camping.

Ingredients: 1/2 pound bacon; 1 pound ground beef; 1 small onion, chopped; white onion, large; 2 (15 ounce) cans baked beans with pork; 1/3 cup barbeque sauce; 1 (7.5 ounce) package refrigerated biscuit dough

Cook bacon in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat until evenly browned. Drain, and cut into bite size pieces. Set aside. Add hamburger and onion to the skillet, and cook until no longer pink, and the onion is tender. Drain.
Stir bacon, baked beans and barbeque sauce into the ground beef, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, and place biscuits in a single layer over the top of the mixture. Cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the biscuits are done. Place two biscuits on each plate, and spoon beans over.

It’s unclear to me how the family manages to bring refrigerated biscuit dough on their camping trips.

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