Company was coming! Our neighbor Suzanne was holding a surprise 50th birthday party for her husband Larry at our house and I had offered to make a dish or two. That sounded like a good idea before I had to fly off to D.C. for a business trip, arriving home about 36 hours before the big shindig. Time to whip something together. This Mexican casserole, which I dubbed Fiesta Cazuela, filled the bill. I made up the recipe on the fly, threw it together quickly, made a bunch of guacamole and salsa to go with it and allowed guests to decide whether to just dig in and eat it with a fork, or use it like a meaty dip. Cut down the recipe if you aren’t feeding a horde.
Ingredients: Start with:
- 5 pounds ground beef
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 pkg. of your favorite taco seasoning mix (I love the one from Trader Joe’s!)
- 1 large jar of your favorite picante sauce
- 16 oz. shredded Mexican cheese blend
- chopped green onion or chopped tomatoes or sliced jalapenos for garnish (optional)
Plus — if you want (and I definitely did want!):
- sour cream
- chips (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Saute your chopped onion in the olive oil until slightly tender. Add the ground beef. Cook over medium to medium-high heat until the ground beef is thoroughly browned and cooked all the way through.
Stir in the two packages of taco seasoning mix. (Drain the meat first, if there is a lot of grease.)
Put the meat mixture into a large casserole dish (at least 9″ x 13″ — and you may want to use something bigger, such as 11″ x 15″, if you want more surface area to spread out the cheese on). What constitutes a “perfect bite” is such a personal thing, you know.
Pour the large jar of salsa evenly over the top of the meat mixture. Top with the shredded cheese.
Bake uncovered 20 to 30 minutes, until it’s warmed through and the cheese is totally melted and starting to brown. Garnish with green onion (although if you have picky eaters around, you might want to limit the area where you put the onions). Throw on some jalapenos (diced or sliced), if you dare. Serve with the other toppings (guac, salsa, sour cream).
I know two things, mis amigos. A good time was had by all. And you should start the conga line only after you’ve allowed this to thoroughly digest.
P.S. Those are ranunculus in the multi-vase holder in the photo above. The colors worked so well with the sarape I scrunched up on the table, don’t you think?