When I ask my lovely wife about something that happened when the children were little, quite often her response is simple. She will tell me, "That was the 80's. I don't remember the 80's." However, one evening in the 80's has become memorable.
One Tuesday or Thursday evening, she picked up the girls from after school care and arrived home to discover the refrigerator and pantry were nearly bare. Children become really grumpy if they don't eat, so she took what she found and went to work. She used frozen pre-made hamburger patties, taco seasoning, rice, salsa, and Velveeta to make a one pot meal. When the girls asked, "What are we having for dinner?" she answered,"It's a surprise." When I got home from rugby practice I asked what was left from dinner. She gave me the same answer. It was really good.
Over the last thirty years we have collaborated to change the recipe to something a bit more elegant, but it remains a one pot comfort food that everyone likes.
1 and 1/3 cups of uncooked basmati rice
1 pound ground beef
one can drained corn
one can drained and rinsed black beans
one large onion diced
one small or half of a large jalapeno diced
1 cup mild chunky jar salsa
1 teaspoon high quality chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 large pinches of salt
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Velveeta or Queso
In a dutch oven over medium heat saute the onion and jalapeno in olive oil with the spices added. When the onion is nearly translucent, add the ground beef and continue to cook until the meat is browned.
Add the rice and continue to cook until the rice begins to look chalky. Add the salt and the salsa and stir to combine. Cook for two or three minutes until the steam begins to rise, then add the water.
Bring the mixture to the boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cover the dutch oven. Simmer for 20 minutes. Leave the pot covered and turn off the heat. Allow the dish to rest at least 20 minutes. If no queso is available, slice Velveeta in thin slices and scatter over the casserole to melt before serving. If queso is available, serve the Surprise and pass the queso separately.
Variation: If you need to take a potluck dish and it needs to be vegetarian, make this recipe without the ground beef. Transfer it to a preheated slow cooker for the simmer stage, add the cheese, and switch the setting to warm. Call it Cheesy Salsa Rice.