Mains · Recipies

Mexican Pantry Casserole

Another yummy fall casserole. There are many, many days when dinner seems like more of a chore than it should be. The fridge is empty… you aren’t so pressed for time that you reach for the Kraft Mac, but you don’t have enough energy to pack up the kids and go to the store for anything fancy.  I call those nights Mexican Casserole Nights!

There are a few things I always have handy, and when combined with some thought and sauce, they make a wonderful, belly-warming meal.  Here’s the list:

  • stale corn tortilla (about 12)
  • onions
  • cheese
  • sour cream
  • can of roasted tomatoes
  • can of corn kernels (or frozen ones)
  • can of beans (doesn’t matter which kind)
  • rice (white, brown, red, doesn’t matter)
  • Valentina sauce
  • tomatillo salsa

Today I also included sliced black olives and roasted bell peppers.  You can add whatever you like/have – including ground beef, grilled chicken, and/or bbq pork.  The point is, you’ll use what you have in your pantry and it will be delicious.  All you have to do is prepare everything ahead of time and layer it into a “lasagna-style” configuration.  After about 30 mins in the oven, you’ll have a wonderful, easy meal for your family.

Today I had some green onions (aka: scallions) that needed using, so I substituted them for half a yellow onion.  Chop the white part for sauteing, set the green tops aside for adding to the layers.  Also above is an orange pepper from my mom’s garden – top, seeds, and white pith removed… then chopped small.
What have you got in YOUR cupboard??  Tomatoes, corn and some kind of beans make this “Mexican”.
You’ll need a few more liquidy things to keep this a moist meal.  Cheese (I used monterey jack, cheddar is fine, too), sour cream, tomatillo salsa (or green enchilada sauce works great!), Valentina sauce…
First, saute the onion and bell pepper in a large frying pan with olive oil and a little salt over med-high heat.  Try not to stir too much so you get a nice tough of color on everything.
Ingredients mixed together for easy layering.

I like to mix a few things together so it’s easier to assemble the layers.  Here you see the onions (green and white), peppers, beans, and corn make a “salsa” layer.  I had some pink rice already cooked up in the fridge, so I added the can of roasted tomatoes to it along with about 1/4 cup Valentina Sauce.  Valentina isn’t spicy, just flavorful, so don’t be afraid to use it liberally.  If you have fresh tomatoes, use them – or a can of tomato paste will work in a pinch!

Once you have pre-cooked everything, start layering.

If you are using the standard small corn tortilla (I dare you to look for an old package in the back of your fridge!), then it works best to assemble TWO casseroles in TWO tall, straight edged dishes.   Here’s the order I assemble the casseroles:

  1. Drizzle of olive oil in the bottom of the dish (prevents sticking of that first layer)
  2. Tortilla
  3. Tomatillo salsa + rice/tomato
  4. Tortilla
  5. Onion/pepper/bean mix + shredded cheese
  6. Tortilla
  7. Sour cream + olives
  8. Tortilla
  9. Tomatillo salsa + rice/tomato
  10. Tortilla
  11. Onion/pepper/bean mix + shredded cheese
  12. Tortilla
  13. Sour cream + olives + shredded cheese

Bake it at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Once the cheese is all bubbly on top and the edges are a little crispy, it’s done.  Here’s what’s neat.  This casserole looks like it will be dry – and I think that EVERY time I make it, but it is actually moist and perfect.  It’s great fresh out of the oven, but it’s even better the next day for lunch leftovers.  It also lends itself really well to freezing so if you have enough to make an extra one, wrap it up tightly in saran wrap and toss it in the freezer.  I made four freezer versions before each of my babies were born and they were SUCH a welcome delight on a night I wanted to do no cooking.

Note: Please know that all my “ethnic cuisines” are truly bastardized in some (or many) ways.  Send me comments for how I can make them more authentic, okay?

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