It's basically a base of spicy refried beans topped off with the ground beef and tomato mixture and then finished off with cheese. I found the taco bake to be slightly spicy but good. My husband wanted to know if it was supposed to be a party food or an entree. After he asked this I found that it would be a great meal or snack for a party. The taco bake is basically a glorified casserole dish full of nachos. Although we both enjoyed it, I think next time I'll save it for a snack instead of an entree.
Beef Taco Bake (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
1 (16 oz) can refried beans
2 (10 oz) cans Ro-Tel tomatoes
¼ c. cilantro, minced
1 T. hot sauce
1 c. Mexican blend cheese, shredded
4 oz. Queso Fresco cheese, crumbled
2 t. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. chili powder
2 T. cumin
1 lb. (90% lean) ground beef
2 t. white vinegar
1 t. brown sugar
1 c. tortilla chips
2 scallions, sliced thin
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the refried beans, one can of Ro-Tel tomatoes (drained), cilantro, and hot sauce. Smooth the mixture into the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish. Sprinkle with half the Mexican blend cheese and half the Queso Fresco cheese.
3. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add in the onion, red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Cook for 1 minute.
4. Add the ground beef to the vegetables in the skillet and cook until the beef in no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Stir in the remaining can of Ro-Tel, vinegar, and brown sugar. Continue cooking for 5-7 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
5. Spread the beef mixture over top of the refried beans in the baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining Queso Fresco. Scatter the tortilla chips over top and then sprinkle with remaining Mexican blend cheese.
6. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with scallions.