I first had this casserole while visiting my friend Jayce in Florida a few years ago. His sister made his family, Boyfriend, and I a huge, fabulous dinner that included this Mexican casserole.
One of the things that drew me to this dish was the simplicity and versatility of it. I can often throw it together with ingredients I always have on hand, and even if I'm missing something I might usually put in there, it doesn't throw off the dish that much.
I start with my quick and easy version of Mexican rice. Simply prepare minute rice according to package directions, but replace half of the water with salsa and add a chicken bouillon cube. So easy!
When it's done, fluff it gently with a fork or wooden spoon. Whatever you've got layin' nearby.
Then we make the refried beans! I use canned pinto beans because it's easy, but you could use dry pinto beans and cook them. I really don't care for canned refried beans, though. They always have a weird taste.
I start by cooking minced garlic in bacon fat until it's fragrant. You could use shortening or butter instead of bacon fat... but you shouldn't. Refried beans are traditionally made with fat for a reason!
Once it's fragrant, pop the tops off the pinto beans and strain off the liquid. Reserve the liquid, though! We might need some. Add the beans to the garlic and begin mashing them using a potato masher. Add a tablespoon of the reserved liquid at a time until the beans are the consistency you like. I like 'em a bit runnier.
Throw the beans into a baking dish. Okay, don't throw them- just scoop them out gently.
Add a can of corn.
A nice helping of picante sauce or salsa, whatever you got.
Some chili powder.
And some fresh cilantro and a few dashes of hot sauce.
Then mix it all up! It won't be pretty anymore. I'm sorry.
Sprinkle some cheese on top, because everything needs cheese.
And bake it for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Just until it's heated through and the cheese is melty.
To assemble the dish, I spoon some of the rice into a bowl.
Then some of the refried bean mixture, some broken chips for crunch, and more cheese.
Then some sour cream and cilantro, and you have Mexican casserole!
I often add ground beef and/or black beans when I have them- the ground beef makes it a bit more filling. I love this dish because it's easy to throw together and it'll stick to your ribs!