Nothing says “I’m sorry for your loss” like a homemade casserole, so it’s not surprising when one appears in the first episode of Dead to Me, the Netflix hit starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini.
The series opens with Applegate’s character, the recently widowed Jen, accepting a Pyrex dish filled with what her neighbor describes as “my take on a Mexican lasagna.” READ MORE
The dishes we Americans enjoy today as “Mexican Casserole” (aka “Mexican Lasagne”) are hybrid culinary creations featuring Old and New world traditions. Recipes are all over the map. Combinations of native Central American ingredients baked casserole style were documented in the 16th century. Contemporary USA interpretations resemble Italian lasagna: substituting tortillas for pasta, salsa for tomato sauce, beans/ground meat/chilies for protein/flavor/color. Dairy component varies from Spanish to German to TexMex to Southern California to processed American cheddar.
“A Mexican Casserole Costs Little. ‘This casserole is an American concept of a Mexican-type dish,’ writes Marcia B. Stover. ‘It’s ideal for the budget-minded homemaker.’
Marcia’s Tortilla Casserole
1 pt. cottage cheese
1 pt. dairy sour cream
2 8-oz. cans tomato sauce
2 7-oz cans whole green chiles
12 corn tortillas
1 lb. mild Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded
Blend cottage cheese, sour cream and tomato sauce in a shallow dish. Cut chiles into 1/4-in. strips. Place tortillas on a cooky sheet and heat in 500-deg. oven just long enough so they will fold easily, about 3 to 5 min. Working quickly, dip hot tortillas into tomato mixture, place two strips of chiles on each, and fold as you would an enchilada. Place a layer of tortillas in 7 X 11-in. baking pan. Sprinkle generously with shredded Cheddar and mozzarella cheese and top with some of the tomato mixture. Repeat with tortillas, making two layers in pan, using remaining cheese and sauce for top. Cover pan and bake at 350 deg. 1 hour. Makes 4 to 6 servings.”
—“My Best Recipe,” Marcia B. Stover, Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1966 (p. F18)