We have a fairly serious issue regarding casseroles on Forest Street. Some are greeted with wild enthusiasm rivaling a Baptist church on Easter morning. These include lasagna, macaroni and cheese, cassoulet and pastitsio. Others, the boys would eat, but I will not. This group includes tuna noodle casserole, and anything involving Campbell’s Cream of Anything and/or Velveeta. In the gray area, is anything bland, mushy and anonymous. Many casseroles turn out to be in this category, although a quick read through the recipe might lead you to believe that there would be texture, flavor or identifiable protein. The problem is that casseroles, by definition, require at least one liquid as a binder, and that makes it difficult to maintain the texture of any ingredients that start life with a little crunch. There are ways to infuse a little crunch into a casserole, but Mr. Annie dislikes water chestnuts, and don’t talk to me about crumbled potato chips, fried onions, or those Chinese noodles that come in a can.
The casserole I am about to present to you was, originally, dangerously close to the mushy and bland category, but was redeemed by the miracle that is Rooster Sauce. In it’s original form, the recipe called for taco sauce, a substance I have always found to be sort of bitter and strange. I have also never seen it in a real Mexican restaurant, although I probably just ignore it in my search for real hot sauce. I made this recipe ages ago and my audience was less than dazzled. This time, I replaced the taco sauce with Rooster Sauce, which is really not Mexican at all…but then neither is this casserole, by any stretch of the imagination. With this substitution, I can recommend this as a meal that is (while not particularly high-toned or authentic) spicy, tasty, thrifty and easy. The recipe is going in the Permitted Casserole Hall of Fame, having risen from the depths of Mushy and Bland.
(Adapted from allrecipes.com)
Serves 8 moderately hungry people, or 4 hungry people.
* 1 pound lean ground beef (or Chorizo, if you like)
* 1/2 onion, chopped
* 1 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1 (2 ounce) can sliced black olives, drained
* 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chili peppers, drained
* 1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chile peppers
* 1/2 cup Rooster Sauce (Note: if you don’t like really hot food, you can use half Rooster Sauce and half water)
* 1 (16 ounce) can refried beans (I use the vegetarian kind)
* 6 (8 inch) flour tortillas (or more, if needed)
* 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the ground beef for 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, and saute for 5 more minutes. Drain any excess fat, if desired. Mix in the olives, green chile peppers, tomatoes with green chile peppers, Rooster Sauce and refried beans. Stir mixture thoroughly, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Spread a thin layer of the meat mixture in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Cover with a layer of tortillas followed by more meat mixture, then a layer of cheese. Repeat tortilla, meat, cheese pattern until all the tortillas are used, topping off with a layer of meat mixture and cheese.
4. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is slightly brown and bubbly.