Friday, December 5, 2014

Cheesy Bacon, Beef & Rice Casserole

Please do not judge this recipe by its photo!  Casseroles are inherently ugly, but oh boy, this one REALLY is.  I've been referring to it as "50 Shades of Brown Casserole", it's not often you see this many variations on the color brown.  Hideousness aside, this casserole is really good.  It was originally billed as Mexican Rice Casserole on the CopyKat Recipes blog where I found it (it was from a lady named Virginia McDowell in 1968!), but I don't think it really tastes like the rice you get in Mexican restaurants.  The bacon doesn't really help it seem Mexican, either, but it does help it be even more delicious!
You could serve the casserole with sour cream, cilantro, salsa, and the like if you want it to taste more Tex-Mex (I actually made a side salad with lettuce, tomatoes, and this Creamy Salsa Dressing), but on its own, it just tastes good and is a perfect comfort food.  You could also try adding more chili powder, some cumin, and some black beans to play up the Mexican factor.  I wouldn't leave the chili powder out, though, because it does add a special little something.

Note: The original recipe called for minute rice (quick cooking rice).  I don't like minute rice, so just used regular rice since the recipe looked like it had enough liquid and the simmering time of 20 minutes is just right for cooking it.  It turned out great this way!  I also used the whole bell pepper (yellow, in my case) and onion because I didn't want to waste the rest.
Now I'm no great shakes when it comes to photographing food, but isn't this ugly?  I almost feel bad for it!

Cheesy Bacon, Beef & Rice Casserole

4 oz bacon
1 small onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 C uncooked rice
1 lb ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1 3/4 C water
8 oz can tomato sauce
1 t chili powder
1 t salt
2 C cheddar cheese, grated
Cook bacon in a large skillet over low heat.  Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain.  Add diced onion and bell pepper to the bacon grease and cook until they begin to soften.  Add rice and cook for a couple of minutes, just until it starts to turn opaque and gets a little golden. 

Add ground beef and cook, stirring constantly.  Keep a close eye on the heat because the rice could burn easily!  It's okay if the beef isn't cooked all the way through if you run the risk of burning the rice. 

Add the water, tomato sauce, chili powder, and salt, bring skillet contents to a boil while stirring, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Cook without removing lid for 20 minutes.
While that's cooking, turn the oven to 400 and grease a 2 quart baking dish.  When rice and meat mixture is done, stir thoroughly, then spoon half of it into the baking dish.  Top with half of the cheese.  Layer with the rest of the rice mixture, the rest of the cheese, and the bacon.  Bake about 15 minutes, until cheese is golden.
Yield: 6-8 main dish servings

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