Crusty Mexican Bean Bake
We have a few standard recipes around our house that don’t immediately strike me as applicable to this blog. Then I take a second look and realize that plenty of market items end up in the final dish, whether they were in the recipe originally or not.
Crusty Mexican Bean Bake is a good example. This is basically a taco salad style casserole, but with a flour crust instead of taco shells or chips as a base. We originally made it exactly as written, but, as with many recipes, have adapted it to what’s on hand, what’s in season, or what we feel like having that night. It’s a little more work than just piling ingredients in a bowl, but not much.
This is a meat and beans based recipe, but over the years we’ve made it many, many times without the meat. I haven’t tried it, but I imagine I can make it with meat and vegetables and no beans. That will be my next attempt! The bean/meat mixture is definitely a place to include more vegetables than just the onions and tomato paste. Try fresh hot peppers in place or addition to the spices, too.
The crust is very forgiving and can be made with either white or whole wheat flour, gluten-free flours, or cornmeal. When I see the word “crusty” in the title I think “crunchy,” but it tends to be a soft crust. Perhaps the word crusty refers to the fact that each serving has some crust in it.
The toppings are a place to let the season’s fresh produce shine. Whether it’s cool season greens and herbs, or summer tomatoes and peppers, sprinkle generously! Remember to include some cheese, whether a grated hard cheese from Sequatchie Cove, or some crumbled goat cheese.
Jeffrey’s latest version of this dish included carrots, celery, cilantro, and spinach from the market. He was inspired by Enchilada Casserole from More with Less’ sister cookbook, Extending the Table, to add whole hominy corn. To make hominy you soak and cook corn in lye water, then rub the skins off the kernels. You can buy it canned, or buy whole, dried corn and make it yourself.
Use this recipe and its options next time you need a hearty meal, or let it be your inspiration to turn your favorite family meal into one that is made with seasonal and local ingredients.
Crusty Mexican Bean Bake
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. butter or oil
1/2 c. yogurt or sour cream
1 egg, beaten
Stir together all the ingredients for the crust. May be slightly lumpy. Spread thinly with the back of a spoon on bottom and sides of shallow, greased 2 quart casserole. May be made in advance and refrigerated.
3/4 lb. ground beef
1/2 c. onion, chopped
2 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. Tabasco sauce
6 oz. tomato paste
2 c. undrained, cooked pinto beans
Brown beef, and onions in skillet. Add chili powder, Tabasco, tomato paste, and beans. Spoon into crust and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.
½ cup grated cheese
1-2 cups chopped lettuce
1 cup chopped raw tomatoes
Make this vegetarian by omitting beef. Leave it out entirely or replace with mushrooms or a meat substitute. Make vegan by substituting your preferred fat for the butter and vegan cheese for the shredded cheese.
Use other meat, leftover, or cooked with the onions.
Add mushrooms with the onions or as a topping.
Add hominy to the bean mix. Whole corn is sometimes available at market. Make it into hominy at home.
Use fresh or canned tomatoes in place of the tomato paste.
Add in-season vegetables to the bean mix: carrots, greens, spinach, squash, and/or tomatoes, for example.
Use cornmeal from the market in place of the flour in the crust.
Top with in-season veggies and herbs, such as arugula, cilantro, kale, or spinach.
Use a different bean or beans, or even field peas for a different taste.
Use refried beans, whether homemade (another good More with Less recipe) or canned.
Printable recipe here