This Mexican casserole came about because I accidentally bought corn orzo pasta instead of the regular variety. The corn would change the flavor of a pilaf recipe. So what to do? Ah ha! Casserole inventing time! I went for layers and I wanted the base to be a “firm” one that would take in some liquid, yet be a base. You could stir the orzo into the meat mixture if you wish. It is up to you. Of course, everything I use is organic/gmo-free.
You could change the base to regular orzo pasta or another pasta for the Mexican Casserole. You could even do that layer with rice, a small recipe of cornbread mixed up and spread on the bottom or even mashed potatoes. Potatoes go very well with Mexican flavors. Growing up where I did, potatoes are put into many of their dishes, though you rarely find them in the restaurant versions.
Something you like that gives a firm base would be great! The changes may alter the flavors, yet it may even enhance them. That is the beauty of casseroles. You can easily change them to suit your tastes, moods, cravings or what you have on stock in your pantry.
During the holiday season, I tend to make casseroles for dinner more often than not. With just the 2 of us, they last us about 4 dinners, sometimes 3. I was surprised when my Mom told me the reason we never had leftovers, she did not like them! My husband, with a smile on his face, replied to her, “Then it must not of been very good in the first place.” laughing… He can be such an ornery fart at times.
I reheat our leftovers in the oven or on the stovetop. I got rid of our “nuker” years ago after a long bit of research. I did not like reheating food in it at all. It made foods rubbery, over-heated and downright unpleasant. Yes, I followed directions for heating. It ruined food, especially its texture. It destroyed meat. Hockey pucks would be less rubbery. ugh!
I bought two ceramic baking dishes sized on how much we put on our plates, butter them and add our leftovers. I heat the oven to 300°F, add our baking bowls and heat for 10 to 15 minutes. If it can be reheated on the stovetop, I use a stainless-steel pot over medium-low heat. It works for us.
1 (12 oz) pkg corn orzo
1 lb ground round
1 lg onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 medium-heat chilies, cleaned & halved
1 to 2 tbsp chili powder
salt & pepper to taste
1 pint each of:
chopped tomatoes, undrained
pinto beans, rinsed
2 cans sliced olives, drained
1 lb jack cheese, shredded
Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. In a large skillet, put onion, garlic and beef. Cook at medium heat, breaking up the meat well.
Add some salt to the water when it starts boiling and add the orzo. Stir the orzo to keep it from clumping. While the orzo cooks, tend the meat mixture.
When the meat mixture is almost done, add the chilies, turn the heat down to medium-low and put a lid on the skillet. Allow the chilies to flavor the meat for 15 to 20 minutes.
Drain the orzo once cooked. Do NOT rinse. Melt 2 tbsp of butter and stir the butter into the orzo to coat it well. Set aside.
Stir the remaining vegetables and the seasonings into the meat mixture. Let simmer until hot. Yes, the photo looks like those ones from the 1950s cookbooks. It is lovely in person. Really.
Butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Press the orzo evenly onto the bottom of the dish. Top with the meat mixture after removing the chilies*. Spread the meat mixture evenly over the orzo. Top with the shredded cheese.
Bake the casserole at 325°F until the cheese is just melted. It may get slightly toasted on the edges. I know, no photo of it cooked or cut into a serving. What can I say? I was hungry…
*If you have no problems digesting chilies, mince them before adding to the meat mixture. If you do love the flavor of the chilies, but they do not “love you” and your digestion, removing them leaves the flavor without causing distress. I should say, it does not do this to my husband when I remove them. He has troubles digesting chiles, sadly. He loves the flavors, not the results later after eating them.
We found that if I oven-roast the chilies he has trouble digesting them. On a piece of parchment paper or in an oiled dish, I place halved and seeded chilies. I roast them at 350° to 375° for about 30 to 45 minutes, or until the skins start to blister. Remove from the oven and put them in a vegetable strainer/grinder or put them in a mesh strainer over a bowl. Mash them with a stiff rubber spatula, removing the skins. It is the skins that carries the oils that can cause issues, we found. You may be different.
Have a lovely day! I hope you enjoy the recipe! Loves and hugs…