Any Kitchen Will Do

Give me a kitchen and I will cook.

Layered Chili Bake

This dish is a huge, gluttonous monstrosity. It is meant to be. I combined a couple of comfort foods into one dish. I will explain.

Big D makes chili and is really good at it. He uses three kinds of chilies – including powerful chipotles – along with onion, garlic, cumin and stew meat, as well as tomatoes, secret ingredients and sometimes some beer. He starts it in the morning in our well seasoned iron dutch oven. It simmers on the stove top all day, making the house smell like the Mexican restaurants I frequented when growing up in San Antonio. He stirs it, adds some of this and that, tastes it, stirs it some more. The result bursts with a smoky, spicy flavor that does not reveal its heat until about five bites into your meal. We always have leftovers that just don’t taste the same after they have been frozen, so there is always an urgency to eat it for days until it is all gone. I can eat bowl after bowl of it topped with cheese, sour cream and cornbread, but I get to a point when I look forward to the flavor, while also wanting some variety.

The other day we had some chili in the fridge, but I was craving a casserole. I was actually craving a casserole my mom used to make – layered enchiladas. I recall it had corn tortillas, ground beef, cheese, some mixture of sour cream and condensed soup, onions and tomatoes. My brother and I would gobble up a plate full of the casserole somewhere between school, soccer practice and homework. It was so good. I wanted the flavor of Big D’s chili and the texture of my mom’s casserole. I can do that. I know I can!

Necessity is the mother of invention, although there is debate as to who first made such a declaration. My craving necessitated a casserole, so I made one. This casserole adds some variety to our menu, freezes well, and stretches out a batch of chili.

Warning: Big D’s chili is usually thick and meaty, so if you try to use a watery canned chili I don’t want to know about it and cannot guarantee your results.

Layered Chili Bake

12-15 corn tortillas
1 cup salsa
4-6 cups leftover no bean chili (chili with beans should work, but control yourself and don’t add any separately)
2 cups sour cream

2 cups corn, cooked
2 cups cooked pinto or black beans
3-4 cups shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 9×11 casserole dish. Add 1/2 cup of the salsa in the bottom of the dish and cover with 4-6 tortillas. Make sure the bottom of the dish is completely covered by overlapping the tortillas. Use half of the chili to make an even layer on top of the tortillas. Follow the chili with half the sour cream, 1 cup corn, 1 cup beans and about a cup of cheese. Continue by repeating once again the layers, ending with a top layer of tortillas. Cover the top tortillas with the remaining salsa and cheese. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for 10-20 minutes until hot and bubbly.




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