17 October 2011

Eats: beef tamale casserole

It’s really starting to get cooler and darker outside, isn’t it? Most people call it “Fall” or “Autumn”, but I find that far too romanticized and instead call it what it is, “The Prelude to the Dark Time”. So, sorry, you won’t find pumpkin carving and harvest pillow covers and wreaths made entirely out of brush from my backyard here at this blog. I save all my seasonal decorating energy for that bright spot in the middle of the Dark Time, also known as Christmas. Now that I think about it, it’s no wonder that I put, on average, fifteen hundred twinkle lights on our seven-foot slim-line Christmas tree. It’s a beacon of light and warmth!

So yeah, you won’t find a lot of fall projects here now that the season’s a-changin’. You will find, however, that I adjust my cooking for the season. Gone are the recipes of summertime vegetables that I challenge myself to like! Instead: it’s comfort food time. Perhaps not a beacon of light, but definitely warmth. And consolation.

Today’s recipe fits the bill perfectly: A casserole of Mexican flavors topped liberally with cheese. Well, granted, the cheese part works year-round, but it’s especially appreciated now, right? I loosely used this recipe as my starting point – I’ve actually made it nearly as-written once, and it was pretty good but could be better. So, I adapted it to something I’m calling a Beef Tamale Casserole. It wouldn’t win any gourmet or health awards, but it’s a delightfully appropriate dish for this time of year!

To start, mix up a box of Jiffy corn muffin mix with 1/3 cup milk, an egg, a can of cream-style corn, a teaspoon or so of cumin, half a teaspoon (again, or so) of red pepper, and a small handful of shredded Mexican-blend cheese.

When it’s blended, spread that into a well-greased 9x13” baking dish.

And bake for about fifteen minutes in a 400-degree oven. You don’t want it to bake all the way through, just halfway-ish.

Meanwhile, brown a pound of ground beef with some onion – I honestly use the shaker of dehydrated onion, and only to add a little flavor, because we’re not huge fans of onion in this household. You can add more if you like onion. Then add in a packet of taco seasoning and a drained can of diced tomatoes.

Basically just make your favorite taco filling. I would have also added a can of green chiles, except I didn’t have any, and some black or refried beans, except Mr. P doesn’t like beans. Or sub in shredded chicken or pork for the beef, if that's what you have on hand. If you want to make it vegetarian, use the tomatoes and chiles and lots of beans, and skip the beef altogether. Options for you!

By this time your cornbread base should be done. When you take it out of the oven, use a fork to poke holes throughout.

Then spread your beefy taco filling all over the cornbread, mashing it down into the halfway-set base. Remember, tamales are normally made with meat wrapped in masa dough, so we’re mashing here to incorporate it all together like you’d find in actual tamales.

Then top that all with a can of enchilada sauce (I used the cheap red stuff, but you can use your favorite) and shredded cheese. A million Mexicans are shaking their heads right now and saying “You call that a tamale?”

Yes, well. I did say casserole, after all. (And as if I have a million readers. Ha.)

Put that back in your oven and bake for another fifteen minutes until completely set. Then serve it up with a dollop of sour cream and, if you live in this household, a serving of green vegetables to make up for the cheesy goodness:

This is so tasty and so easy – the source is good, yes, but I think this way is better. The only flaw I’ve found is that I can’t figure out how to adapt it to freezer cooking. I’m thinking you could freeze it before the last baking step, but the egg has me concerned. So, try that at your own risk.

Here’s the full recipe with my adaptations:
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1/3 c. milk
1 can cream-style corn
1 egg
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 red pepper (or less if you want to avoid the heat)
1 to 1 1/2 c. shredded cheese, divided
1 lb. ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning, or use homemade
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can green chiles, beans, onions, etc. – your choice
1 can enchilada sauce
sour cream

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the first six ingredients and ~1/4 c. cheese and spread in a greased 9x13” baking dish. Bake for fifteen minutes until halfway set. Brown the ground beef, with onion if you prefer, and drain the grease. Then add the taco seasoning and tomatoes, plus chiles and beans if you prefer. Poke holes in the cornbread base with a fork, then spread the ground beef mixture over the cornbread, mashing it in. Top with enchilada sauce and the remainder of the shredded cheese, then bake another fifteen minutes. Serve with sour cream.

Try this on the next cold, dark night when you need some comfort food!


Shanna said...

I'm gonna try this! And I'm gonna send this blog post to Rachel, because she & I are vying to see who can substitute more ingredients in a recipe and still come out with something edible! :)