Did you ever notice that food sometimes has a story? I made Taco Bake tonight, I can not tell you the last time I made it, but I'm going to tell you the stories behind it.
First of all what is Taco Bake? It is what I will call Midwest cultural fusion food. We like to take food from other cultures and turn them into a casserole. The recipe comes from D's Grandma's church's cookbook, that I acquired on marrying my man. Grandma had given it to D as a graduation present. Which served two purposes, it raised funds for her church and gave the boy something to aspire to. I don't think he ever cooked from it but early in our marriage I most of what made came from my midwest memories. I love church cookbooks they are a interesting look into any community. In the midwest it is all about the casserole and the jello salad in all their variations. Trust me we can take most any food and change it to our tastes. (I don't eat jello with any kind of vegetable in it, carrots I'm looking at you.)
Wait let me back up to the original question, Taco Bake is layered in a cake pan: crescent roll crust, refried beans, taco meat (ground beef, sautéed onions and taco seasoning) and finally a layer of an egg, carton of sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese all mixed together. Bake that at 350F for about a half hour. Serve it, cut into a square (cause nothing says twisted Mexican food like a square) topped with lettuce and diced tomatoes. You could add shredded cheese but really why?
Tonight I forgot the lettuce and tomatoes but for some reason I served beets on the side. You need a vegetable in there somewhere. You already knew I was weird.
I think the reason casseroles are so popular in the midwest is the fact that having the oven on heats up the house nicely. I know now that the weather has cooled down I am fighting the urge to make chili, bake bread and make a roast simultaneously. Must be something in my DNA.
I will tell you the first time I brought it in for lunch where I worked in Charleston, all the ladies looked at me weird. One of them asked me to bring in my cookbooks so she could look through them. I am not sure she was impressed with what she saw. Different regions different food. South Carolina, I still miss your BBQ. One of the versions of manna from heaven that resides in my head is SC BBQ and corn bread, but really do you want that dropping on your head from heaven? Seems a bit messy to me.
The funny thing is somethings I will only make for other midwesterners. I think if you grow up with a type of food it becomes your comfort food. And I don't want any New Yorkers or Southerners turning up their noses at my good honest farm food, so I keep it for me and D. Selfish maybe so I like to think of it as family time.