A while back I was in the mood for taco salad, but went for something a little different that round. We usually make up personal bowls layered with our chosen ingredients and eat. This time, I decided to make it all into one casserole, yes, even the lettuce, and baked it. It was fantastic! If you ever had fair tacos, they usually have lettuce in them, and riced potatoes. I did not add riced potatoes for this casserole, though.
All of my ingredients are organic/gmo-free. Use what you wish, of course.
Layered Taco Casserole
1 bag white corn tortilla chips
4 cups pinto beans, cooked and mashed*
(2 cups dry makes 4 cups)
1 lb. ground extra-lean hamburger
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb or so jack or colby cheese (or favorite), shredded
1 or 2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 small head lettuce, chopped
(2 cups or so after chopping)
1 to 3 tbsp chili powder
1-1/2 cups salsa, divided
1/4 cup butter
cayenne pepper, optional
salt & pepper to taste
Optional Toppings for Serving
*Soak 2 cups of washed pinto beans overnight, or for 8 hours. Rinse. Put in a large sauce pan and cover with water at least 2″ above the beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender. It takes anywhere from 2 hours to 4 hours, depending on sunspots, frogs croaking, elevation…
When done, drain beans. Mash well. Put back into the saucepan. Add the butter, 1/2 cup of salsa, 1 tbsp or to taste of chili powder. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a pinch or so of cayenne pepper, if wanted. Stir all together and gently warm until the flavors are melded and the beans are no longer the consistency of paste.
Crumble and cook hamburger halfway, then add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Then add 1 or 2 tbsp of chili powder, to taste. Same for the cayenne pepper if wished. Mix in well. Add 1 cup of salsa and mix in well. Let simmer on med-low heat for 10 minutes or so to blend flavors well.
While assembling, heat oven to 350°F. Butter or oil a large 4 quart (10.50″ x 14.75″) baking dish. I don’t screw around when I cook. I live for leftovers…
Crush somewhat the chips that are still left whole after the kid-bagger crushed them with a 2 lb block of cheese. You may not need the whole bag if it is a large one. Spread around evenly on the bottom of the dish. You want enough to not see the glass bottom. Spread mashed beans over them. If the beans are hot, this will go smoother. If cold, dollops smooshed flat works. Sprinkle a thin layer of cheese.
Then spread the meat mixture over the cheese. Sprinkle the lettuce over the meat. Follow with the tomatoes. Finish off with the remaining cheese.
Get a forklift or muscle that puppy into the oven. Bake until the cheese is melted enough to remove the top layer of skin on the roof of your mouth, but do not brown the cheese. 20 minutes to half of an hour. Maybe. I don’t time casseroles, I peek at them every so often until I am too hungry to wait any longer.
Get the casserole out of the oven and onto heavy-duty hot pads. Scoop into bowls. Eat with spoons so you don’t miss a bit. You can add more salsa, avocado, and/or sour cream on top, or whatever else you prefer.
Enjoy! or not.
We eat on this for 4 days, 2 people. Your mileage may vary. I reheat our servings the following days by buttering two ceramic baking dishes, filling them with the salad, and warming at 300°F or so to take the chill off and warm, not too hot, or try to not get too hot. It is fine cold, not my preference, though.