December 29, 2012

  • Loca Chili Bake

    A few years ago, I remembered a Mexican casserole my mom used to make and tried to recreate it from memory. As far as I knew, there was no written record of it, and googling never got me anywhere close to the things I remembered on how it was created. My recreation was *ok*, but not great, had a couple of problems, but still good enough to eat.
    Two years ago I ran into my mom's old recipe box, found a recipe possibly in my grandmother's writing called Loca Chili Bake, and it comes closest to what I recreated on my own from memory. Looking at my mom's recipe, my recreation was actually better than what we used to eat as kids, even with its flaws. Funny how we can remember something as really good and go back and find out it was only so-so. So I had a good think and thought, I can do even better! I figured out what I could tweak, and had learned a trick about casseroles along the way. This is my final version of what I'm going to start calling Loca Chili Bake, to keep the old recipe going. Anyway, Scott loves this stuff, so I must have gotten it balanced out pretty good.
    I started with basic ingredients.


    The first thing you do is start cooking a pound of hamburger with a small chopped onion. While that is cooking, open the tamales, peel them, and slice them into buttons to layer all over the bottom of a 13X9" pan. Pour the juice from the can over that, tilt around to even it out. Then get a big bowl out and dump in the drained corn, chili beans, and enchilada sauce, mix it real good. Then I stirred in a teaspoon of minced garlic from a jar and a half teaspoon of salt. I can't eat a lot of salt and spices, so at this point, another person might also want to add cumin, chili powder, or more salt to taste. And you should taste it, you could definitely over-spice or over-salt it since there is already sodium in all the cans, and plenty of spice in the beans. Finally, add a cup of shredded colby-jack and stir that in.


    After the burger is cooked, I spoon it out onto paper towels and then pour it into the big bowl. I try to keep as much onion in there as possible. Stir all that in, then carefully spoon that mixture out over the sliced tamales and smooth it out. Put it into a 400 degree oven to start getting hot.
    While that is getting hot, I mix up two boxes of corn muffin mix. If you make cornbread from scratch, I don't know how big your batch is, but two boxes of corn muffin mix is like two 8 or 9 inch square pans. I wanted more coverage than just one batch. However, the coverage is pretty thick. In the past I've had problems getting it cooked through after I spread it onto the casserole, but I've learned this trick since then- get the casserole hot *first* so the heat and steam coming off the casserole will help cook the batter underneath. So after the casserole has heated up a little for 15 to 20 minutes, pull it out and spread the cornbread batter over it. Put it back into the oven and let it get pretty done looking, then turn the oven off and let it sit in the oven to keep cooking the batter through without burning the top. It can sit in there another 15 to 20 minutes with no problems, and when you pull it out it's still pretty hot.
    I decided to garnish like Mexican restaurants do, with fresh sour cream, avocado, and chopped tomatoes. This also really adds to the overall flavor, so it's going to be part of my recipe from now on.


    It pulls out of a nonstick pan very easily with a pancake turner. This held together really well, thanx to the little bit of cheese in there. If you're a big cheese eater, you could probably add more, but it might get way gooier.


    I mashed mine down to show off the inside. This is probably a super adaptable recipe, you could add anything imagineable or turn it into something Italian, etc. The cornbread mix I use adds a sweet touch to the spice flavor, nice balance.

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