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TCP Kitchen

Fellowship and Food

Venerable Texas tradition: potluck casseroles

The potluck is a venerable tradition in Texas. From church rec halls to workplace break rooms to gatherings of friends at home, the event is a great opportunity for fellowship over a meal where no one person gets saddled with all the cooking.

What participants choose to bring to a potluck can reflect their tastes, but it can also be a function of their level of kitchen prowess or a tight schedule. Planning the group endeavor can make a big difference.

A successful potluck will invariably have a ringleader, someone who keeps a list of needs—salad, paper plates, desserts—and recruits cooks to help fill the holes. Have you ever been to a potluck that wasn’t coordinated, and everyone brought a dessert or there were 13 salads and no dessert?

I’ve been a member of a couple of supper clubs that met once a month for a potluck. The most fun and enjoyable meals were those that had themes (New Orleans Night, Dinner on the Mediterranean, Peasant Food). Those themes pushed me and the other cooks in the group to find recipes that fit.

If you’re called upon to fill a niche for a potluck meal, you might keep this recipe in mind. I first enjoyed it courtesy of my then-future wife, Lisa. It was the feature of the first meal she prepared for me almost 10 happy years ago.

While it wasn’t part of a potluck, this casserole has what I consider the essentials of a good potluck dish: It’s inexpensive to make, simple to put together and easy to transport and keep warm. And it doesn’t require meat, pleasing even the vegetarians in the crowd.

Black Bean Casserole

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (11 ounces) cream of celery soup
1 can (10 ounces) tomatoes and green chiles
2 cups frozen corn kernels
18 corn tortillas
4 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, drained
2 cups shredded Colby jack cheese
Tortilla chips (optional)

In 2-quart pot, sauté bell peppers, onion and garlic in olive oil until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, black pepper, salt and soup with half a can of water. Add tomatoes and chiles and corn. Open cans of black beans. If juice is thin, drain most of it off and add beans to soup mixture. If juice is thick, add all to soup mixture. Meanwhile, spray 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Line bottom with six of the tortillas. Spread a third of bean mixture over tortillas. Add second layer of tortillas and spread another third of bean mixture on top. Add third layer of tortillas. Top with remaining bean mixture, then cheese. Crumble a handful of tortilla chips on top, if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes or until bubbly.

Servings: 12. Serving size: 1 cup. Per serving: 319 calories, 13.4 g protein, 11.6 g fat, 41.8 g carbohydrates, 728 mg sodium, 20 mg cholesterol

April 2010 Recipe Contest