El Dorado casserole was so prevalent in our family growing up that I refused to make it for years–especially when I got into Martha Stewart and “real cooking” in college. This was a main dish made with crushed tortilla chips and canned sliced olives! I certainly could not make it for other people!
But El Dorado casserole is comfort food in the extreme–beefy, creamy, cheesy, salty, and crunchy.
I believe this was either my Grandma Benge’s or Great-Grandma Potter’s recipe, and it was always the go-to dish when I was a child. Mom liked to make it when we were expecting out-of-town company, which I never understood as a young adult–couldn’t we make something fancier? Now I see: it appeals to virtually anyone, feeds a crowd, and can be ready and waiting to pop in the oven at a moment’s notice–especially handy in pre-cell phone times, when we were never quite sure when our road-tripping guests’ car would pull up.
My snobbishness about El Dorado casserole cracked when I made it as a backup dish for a huge dinner for a group (it is awfully handy). My friend Caroline glared at me as she scarfed it up, demanding, “Why haven’t you ever made this for me before?!?”
So make this and bring it to potlucks, freeze it and gift it to baby-having friends, and–of course–use it to welcome out-of-town guests and torment teenage would-be foodies.
El Dorado Casserole
1 lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp. minced onion (I usually use a whole onion)
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup sliced ripe olives
1 cup sour cream (I accidentally doubled this once and I’ve always made it that way going forward)
1 cup cottage cheese (ditto)
1 4-oz. can green chiles
Monterey jack cheese, grated (there’s never been a published measurement, just have at least 2 cups)
1 8-oz package tortilla chips, crushed (I just start crushing chips–Juanita’s, of course–from a big bag and layer as needed)
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Brown meat in a pan and add onion, garlic salt, and tomato sauce. Combine the next four ingredients in a separate bowl.
Place a layer of crushed tortilla chips in a greased 8″ x 13″ casserole dish. Layer on half of the meat mixture, top with half of the sour cream mixture, and then sprinkle on a layer of cheese. Repeat with chips, meat mixture, sour cream mixture, and cheese. Top with additional chips.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. We usually had this with salad on the side, and if we were at my Grandma Benge’s, she would make sure to save any leftover (dressed!) salad in the fridge, which I attributed to her living through the Depression. Listen, I said I was snobby already.