My cooking style can best be described as “figuring out how to combine the greatest amount of healthy ingredients that happen to be in the fridge while dirtying the least amount of dishes, then probably smothering the entire thing with cheese.” I’ve followed enough recipes in my life to have a general understanding of how foods interact, but I prefer to be flexible and cook with the ingredients I already have, which usually leads me to make up my own random stuff. Plus, I’m lazy and hungry, and long prep times are stupid. However, I’ve brought this particular dish to a few events this summer and it got rave reviews, and since I feel it’s a perfect representation of the above values (plus like four people asked me for the recipe already) I figured I would share it with you!
Chip & Dip Casserole Recipe
Serves: Probably A Lot
Prep Time: I THINK Around 30 min, Most of which is in the oven
Prepare your Protein of Choice
This can be anything you want: beef, pulled chicken, sausage, something soy-based I don’t understand, black beans… I’ve had success using (grassfed) ground beef seasoned with (fancy hipster organic) taco seasoning, and also chorizo (from the co-op a couple blocks away, because Minneapolis). For a 9 x 13 pan, I used about a pound of meat. Brown/Season/Shred/Chop/Prepare your protein so it’s cooked the way you like it (this is a generally Tex-Mex themed dish, so season accordingly), then set aside for a second.
Collect and Crush the Chips
This is the crowning jewel of resourcefulness and the entire reason I created this recipe. The worst part about eating bags of chips is all the tiny crumbled up pieces at the bottom that you either spill all over yourself, or throw away because you can’t use them for dipping. When I make this at home, I save the remnants from 3-4 bags (+10 non-wastefulness points!), but making this for other people I just use a fresh bag. Tortilla-style chips work best (I use gluten free sweet potato quinoa corn chips, because of course I do). For a 9×13 pan, one large bag or a couple mid-sized bags should provide enough chips. Crush them up so they’re in-between “I can almost dip this in something” and “this is an unidentifiable powder” size, and set aside.
Assemble the Parade of Veggies and Salsa
Because this is a casserole, which means “thing I totally made up and stuck in the oven,” this is where your creativity gets to shine! How spicy do you like it? What flavors are you into? I’ve been happy with a combination of medium (organic) chunky salsa, pico de gallo (homemade if you have time on your hands, or purchased from the store if you realized you only have a few hours until your party and you still need to shower and pick out a flattering-yet-casual, I-totally-tried-to-look-like-I-didn’t-try outfit), and fire-roasted tomatoes. For a 9×13 pan, two standard-sized salsa jars should be enough, plus extra veggies to taste.
Ah yes, the most important ingredient (unless you don’t/can’t eat dairy in which case I’m very sorry, but you’re probably used to it, have reasonable substitutes, and don’t need my condescendingly pitying attitude, thank-you-very-much). Anyway, this dish (like most good things in life) is going to require a lot of cheese. Probably two standard-sized bags, or a few blocks if you want to grate/crumble/shred it yourself because you’re an overachiever. My favorite combination so far has been one block of crumbly Queso Fresco, and one bag of “Mexican Blend” shredded cheese.
Let’s Make This Thing!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then, if you’re in a tiny kitchen like I am, put your 9×13 casserole dish (I use Pyrex) on the stove and use it as extra table space, sweating from the radiant oven heat and wishing for central air conditioning. But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?
You can grease the dish if you want to, but I usually don’t because it doesn’t stick much. Spread out a thin layer of the crushed up chips to evenly cover the bottom. Top with a layer of salsa, then a thin layer of veggies, then a thin layer of protein, then a thin layer of cheese. This isn’t like a lasagna where everything is going to hold together and look like a “layers of the earth” exhibit when you slice it, so it’s ok (and encouraged if the layers mix together.
Once you have the first layer, repeat the process: chips, salsa, veggies, protein, cheese. If you have room for another layer, do it again! Cover the top with enough cheese that it basically just looks like a tray of cheese, and put it in the oven for approximately 20 minutes (or, if you’re like me, put it in the oven with no regard for time, and keep checking it until the cheese is that perfect melty consistency with a little browning on the edges).
Cool a little, then serve (best eaten with a fork like a civilized person)
It’s important to remember this step and not just try to shove the fresh-from-the-oven dish into your transport tote, melting the sides of the tote a little bit and making you feel kind of idiotic in the process, not that I would know from experience. Then, party on, and have your intoxicated friends/extended family/fellow church potluck-goers marvel at your resourcefulness and ingenuity.