A casserole…it does have a comforting sound to it. Is it because friends deliver it to you when you need it most or because it reminds you of a favorite family get together or potluck dinner? I think everyone has a casserole that they are known for, a casserole that everyone wipes the dish clean and begs you for the recipe –except for me! Don’t get me wrong I love a good casserole, I just don’t cook too many of them, especially since so many call for canned soup-ah, the sodium levels (although that is why some are indeed so good!)
Considering I am a minister’s wife, I should be the queen of casseroles! I love to make food deliveries to those that need a little break from the kitchen or a pick me up after surgery. Most of the time it is soup, easy enough, but it certainly isn’t soup season here in Louisiana! So I set out to make a casserole that would be hearty and easy to reheat or to freeze for our neighbors, who just brought home twins to a 1 year old big sister and 2 dogs! Yep, they certainly need a little break!
I knew I had fresh corn tortillas that I needed to use. The jumbo packs are a great deal cost wise, just make sure you plan out many meals. We already had crawfish enchiladas and fish tacos but I still had enough leftover to make another dish. I had a large can of tomatoes and beef stock, always a part of my “go to” supplies, so I set the wheels in motion and decided to make a hearty steak and bean enchilada casserole! (Hearty so if the busy parents only got a chance to take a couple bites it might sustain them for a bit!)
Steak and Bean Enchilada Casserole: You can make this dish with ground beef or turkey and take a huge shortcut, but for a about the same amount of money with some more time, steak can up the ante! Inexpensive round steak can become tender steak. Purchase 1 1/2 -2 lbs of Round steak-top or bottom. (Even a roast will work, just will take longer) Check the price for the thin round steaks, if same buy, if not buy the regular cut ones and pound out any frustrations you may have. After pounded thin, cut steaks into 1 1/2 inch wide strips. Season one side with chili powder. In a stock pot over medium high heat, drizzle olive oil and brown meat on chili powder seasoned side first, then flip and brown other side, only about 1 minute on each side. Brown the meat in batches and do not crowd the pan, or else they will be steamed. Remove and set aside.Chop 1 yellow onion and add it to the stockpot. Do the “stick and scrape” method. Let the onion cook, stick, then scrape bottom for 5 minutes. Stir in 8 oz of beef stock, 2 oz at a time to “deglaze” (getting up all those wonderful brown bits) the pan.
In a colander over a bowl, drain 1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes. Add 2 oz water to can to rinse out all juice, pour into colander. Using your hands, crush the tomatoes, like an old-fashioned tomato press. Save the tomato juice. (You can use chopped or diced tomatoes as well, but I prefer hand crushing whole tomatoes for the consistency.) Set the tomatoes aside and add the juice to the stockpot. Remember our taco seasoning? We already added the chili powder and onions, so add 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder and 1 tsp paprika. Add 1 chopped poblano pepper. Do not be afraid of the poblano and don’t let the pepper word scare you. They are the wonderful mild peppers that make chile rellenos so delicious. Remove stem, seeds, and membranes from the poblano pepper and roughly chop and add to the stockpot. You could also use 1 small can of diced green chilies, but poblanos are usually cheaper!
I like the added protein boost of adding beans to this casserole, but it’s optional. Today I am using pinto beans but black beans are a good choice, too. Mash the pinto beans and add in the crushed tomatoes making a “salsa style” refried beans. After the 1 1/2 hours, remove the meat from the pan and set aside. To the pot, add fresh (2 ears shucked) or 1 small bag frozen corn kernels. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat to cool.
On a chopping mat, using two forks pull apart meat. It is very tender and will pull apart easily. If you prefer, you can cut it into strips. Add the shredded beef to the bean and tomato mixture along with 1/2 a round of Queso Fresco or Queso Cheese (an easy melting whole milk cheese). It easily crumbles, so just crumble it in and mix well.Pour a thin layer of the tomato corn mixture on the bottom of a casserole dish (or a disposable casserole dish for delivery). In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, warm the corn tortillas on both sides, about 10 seconds each side. (Or wrap stack in wet paper towels and microwave for 10-15 seconds.) On a work surface, add 2 TBSP of meat bean mixture to each corn tortilla, fold over mixture and roll up. Put into casserole dish seam side down. Repeat with remaining mixture and tortillas.
Top with remaining tomato and corn mixture and 2 cups shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheese or a mexican cheese blend. Sprinkle with cilantro and paprika. Bake at 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Or in my case, wrap in foil, write heating or reheating instructions on top and make a home delivery. Which is what I did, so I do not have any pictures of all the hot, gooey, yummy cheese!
Put your TO COOK IS TO CREATE thinking cap on: What other fillings would be good in the enchiladas? How about Spanish rice? What about making them fajita style adding in sautéed red, green, and yellow peppers? What other toppings would be good? Black olives, jalapenos, green onions? What about layering the tortillas, filling, and cheese to make a Mexican lasagna? What ingredient could you change to make it personally yours?
FOOD FUN: According to Wikipedia, casserole comes from the French word casse, meaning a case, the large deep dish that has become known as the casserole dish. Of course, now anything in that casserole dish is considered a casserole! What is your favorite casserole? Why is it your favorite-Ease of preparation, taste, or the memories associated with it? It is a wonderful thing to be able to share something you love, so make your favorite casserole and share it with someone. It will make your day as well as theirs.