Chili Pepper Casserole

Sometimes when I tell people that I love to cook, they ask me what my favorite dish to cook is; and I’ve never really had a good answer. It’s tough, because I don’t think I have a favorite thing to make. Cooking to me is oftentimes a means to an end (a delicious home cooked meal). That doesn’t mean I don’t love the labor of cooking, I truly do. Finding zen in the kitchen after a long day, the rhythmic rapping of the knife hitting the cutting board, the sizzling of vegetables in hot oil, the flavor sneak preview every time I taste along the way are all things that bring me joy while cooking. I find flow in cooking, I find pleasure in the food I cook afterwards, so picking a favorite is nearly impossible. 

However, I feel like that’s kind of a cop out of an answer, so I thought more about it. The best answer I can come up with is not my favorite dish to cook, but it is an ingredient that I adore, and those are chilis. Fresh chilis, dried chilis, spicy chilies, charred chilis, they all bring something unique to a dish. As someone who loves spicy food, the depth of flavor achievable is insane, and that’s why at any given moment I have 4 or 5 types of dried chilis in my cabinet waiting to be savored. 

This recipe aims to make a delicious, simple meal which highlights chilis. It takes the form of a Mid-Western classic, a casserole. Mixing the spiciness of the chilis with the creaminess and fat of the mayonnaise and cheese results in a rich dish which will keep you coming back. Along with this, the meal is simple & straight forward. The vegetables are cooked directly in the casserole dish to limit clean up and the sauce is made in the blender for speed.

One quick note before getting into the recipe is finding specific dried chilis. In this recipe I call for an ancho chili and a puya chili. These should be available at a latin american grocery store, even possibly an Indian grocery store as the spices often overlap. If you can’t find the exact two chilis I call for, know that the ancho chili is mild and the puya chili is hot. Armed with that knowledge, feel free to sub them out for whatever dried chilis you may come across.  I hope this recipe makes its way into your kitchen soon!

Active Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup dry long grain brown rice
  • 3 cups cooked black beans (about two 15oz cans)
  • Yellow onion, thinly sliced in semi-circles
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 bunch broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeno, stem and seeds removed
  • 1 whole dried ancho pepper, stem removed
  • 1 whole dried puya pepper, stem removed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 cup favorite jarred salsa
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup bean juice (or vegetable broth if using canned beans)
  • 200g shredded marble cheddar cheese
  • Salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Cook the rice according to package instructions and set aside for later. 
  2. In a large 9x13in casserole dish toss the onion, red bell peppers and broccoli florets with a tbsp of neutral oil and a ½ tsp of salt. Cook in the oven for 22-24 minutes mixing about half way through. The casserole dish will be pretty full, but as the vegetables cook they will give off water and settle. Set aside when complete.
  3. Now we will make the chili-mayo, combine the garlic, jalapeno, dried chili peppers, cumin, lime juice, salsa, mayonnaise, bean juice and ½ tsp salt in a blender and blend for a minute or two until smooth. Since it is not a lot of liquid, stopping the blender and scraping the sides down with a rubber spatula can help to get a smooth consistency. 
  4. In either a large bowl or directly into the pot where the rice was cooked, combine the rice, beans and chili-mayo. Stir well and taste for salt levels, if using canned and unsalted beans, more salt will likely be required. 
  5. Once the vegetables have been cooked, turn the oven down to 350F. Add the rice & bean mixture into the casserole dish and combine everything. The casserole dish will be fairly full, don’t be shy to squish it down a bit. Add the shredded cheese on top to form an even layer. 
  6. Return to the oven for 15 minutes. Once at 15 minutes turn the oven to broil high to add a nice browning to the cheese, be very vigilant during this phase as it can burn easily, it will not take long. Enjoy it while it’s hot!

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