Escalloped Cheese and Rice

I wanted to use up a dab of cheddar cheese and some longhorn cheese; and I had just baked a pound of bacon, so I had some bacon fat on hand.  I always have chopped garden peppers in the freezer and onions on hand.  This recipe, from New Recipes from Quilt Country would use it up – perfect.    What we didn’t know was that it was so good I had to put it in our kitchen recipe ring binder so we could have it again!
I used all whole milk instead of the water-evaporated milk combo; I didn’t have any evaporated milk on hand.  I processed the slices of bread in my food processor, and then chopped up the cheese…saved some cleanup and grated knuckles.  At first, I couldn’t understand why they mixed only part of the rice with the sauce, after making it, I see why…the rice on the bottom was cheesy too, but the baking dish was easier to clean.                  
                        Escalloped Cheese and Rice
     ¼    cup  Bacon Fat -- or butter
  2        tablespoons  Onion -- finely chopped
  2        tablespoons  Green Bell Pepper -- finely chopped
  3        tablespoons  Flour
  ½- ¾  cup  Evaporated Milk
½- ¾    cup  Water
     ½     teaspoon  Salt
  1         teaspoon  Black Pepper
  1 ½     cups  Cheddar Cheese -- extra sharp, shredded
  3         cups  Cooked Rice
  4         slices  Whole Grain Bread -- processed into crumbs
             Additional Butter
Preheat oven to 375°.  Grease a 2 quart flat baking  dish.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Add the onion and green pepper and sauté until the onions begin to color, 5 minutes.
Add the flour and cook stirring, about 5 minutes.  Slowly pour in the evaporated milk and water, whisking until smooth.  Add the salt, pepper, cheese and parsley, continuing to whisk until the cheese is melted.
Stir one cup of the cooked rice into the cheese sauce.  Pour the remaining plain rice into the baking dish and top with the sauce-rice mixture. 
Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and dot with butter.  Dust with paprika.
Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly and the top is slightly brown.
6 Servings
 Adapted from "New recipes from Quilt Country "

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