Fiesta Pork Chop and Rice Casserole

Is it Monday already?  Really?  Truly?  The weekend flew by and I had good intentions, but managed to do absolutely none of the things on my “fall cleaning” list.  It was bad enough that I was feeling like a slug, but then yesterday evening I had one of those “idle Tuesday” moments.

If you’ve never heard of an “idle Tuesday” moment, it’s from the original essay by Mary Schmich which was later turned into the hit song by Baz Lurmann, titled Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen.  The line in the essay that defines the “big stuff” in my life goes like this:

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

I have a wonderful friend from my childhood named Marylyn.  We met at the end of 6th grade when she moved to our little town in upstate New York.  I don’t remember HOW we met, only that one day I didn’t know her, and the next day we were stuck together like glue.  We spent hours cycling back and forth to our houses.  We talked on the phone for as many hours as we could get away with (before our Moms cut us off).  I’d curl up on the floor in our kitchen, near the radiator, with the phone cradled on my ear, just talking about anything and everything. 

Marylyn was into dance and music.  I was into music, but wished I was into dance.  Marylyn taught me to dance!  She had infinite patience and would spend hours teaching me fancy footwork and turns.  I wasn’t good, but she never let me know it. 

One of the best times of my life, the year I turned 13, was spent at Marylyn’s home.  We squirreled ourselves away in her basement and practiced a dance routine to the tune “Buttons and Bows”.  Once we had the routine down pat, we headed to her bedroom to paw through all of her costumes.  We were looking for clothes to match the routine and the song.  There was a problem though.  Marylyn was a skinny little thing and I was a giant.  The tops and and hats all fit just fine, but the pants were a whole ‘nother thing!  We giggled as I tried on pair after pair, struggling to zip them, then laughing when I looked down at my bare ankles and calves.  Marylyn’s Mom came to the rescue with a pair of her “old pants”.  They were still a bit too short, but at least they covered most of me and I could breathe when I zipped them up.

Marylyn and I performed that dance routine twice that night – once for her Mom while she filmed it, and once for her Dad when he got home from work.  I was SO proud of my efforts and the fact that I’d actually learned an entire dance routine that Marylyn created!  That perfect little moment in time has stuck with me for 45 years.  It became even more important to me when we found out that her Mom was dying.  We were only 13 and couldn’t even imagine the possibility of her Mom not being fine and healthy! 

I don’t know which memories sustained Marylyn through the following year of her Mom’s illness, but for me it was the dance routine, eating liver and onions with her family and the infamous Lollapaloosa Sundae that we managed to share and eat while riding our bikes all the way across town one beautiful fall day.  I still miss her Mom.  She handed out hugs as often as she handed out popsicles.  She was always encouraging, no matter how badly we had screwed up or gotten ourselves in a fix.  I found out what unconditional love is from Marylyn’s Mom.

So last night I was just sitting at my computer, contemplating nothing more serious than what I was going to write about today when I got an email from Marylyn’s husband… it was an “idle Tuesday” email to tell me that she had been admitted to the hospital and was scheduled to have emergency surgery this morning.  Suddenly my whole world flipped upside down and my petty sulks about not being more productive all weekend flew out of my head.  They weren’t important anymore. 

I’m still waiting to hear how the surgery went and what the future holds for Marylyn, so my MAN-ic Monday isn’t a joyful one today.  I hope you will forgive me dear readers.  Sometimes life just gets in the way of cooking, cleaning and posting about silly mishaps in the kitchen.  Today is one of those days.

So I’m pulling an oldie but goodie out of my recipe box today.  It’s one of those dishes that you can make ahead, then bake when you’re ready.  It’s comfort food in the extreme, so when you have an “idle Tuesday” moment, make a Fiesta Pork Chop and Rice Casserole. 

Fiesta Pork Chop and Rice Casserole

Since I have a small family now, I make small casseroles, but you can easily double this and bake it in a 9×13 baking pan to feed a crowd.  Here are the ingredients:

Fiesta Pork Chop Casserole Ingredients

Feel free to spice it up with a little hot sauce or a few red pepper flakes.  I like mine a bit on the milder side, so I don’t add them unless Tim begs me… a lot…

Pour the rice into the bottom of a greased baking dish:

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Then chop up the onion and celery.  Layer that on top of the rice.

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Then mix together the spices and sprinkle them over the top.

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Top the vegetables with a can of undrained, chopped green chilies.

These are some of my favorite kitchen helpers. They're Dang Good and I love 'em!

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I love black beans!  But black beans tend to turn everything they touch a nice gray color, so for this dish I drain and rinse them well, then layer them over everything in the casserole dish.

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Once all of the layers are in the dish, pour 2 cups of warm chicken broth over the top.

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The last step is to lay the pork chops on top, then slather them in Salsa, or, in my case Picante Sauce because I couldn’t find the jar of Salsa.

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At this point you can refrigerate the dish overnight, or bake it right away.  If you’re baking it immediately, like I was, preheat the oven to 350F, cover the dish with a lid, or foil, then bake for 40 minutes.  If you refrigerate it overnight, bake it for an hour in a preheated oven before you top it with the cheese.

Remove it from the oven after 40 minutes, take off the foil and top the whole thing with lots and lots of cheddar or monterey jack cheese.  Colby cheese works well too!

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Leave the Fiesta Pork Chop and Rice Casserole uncovered and pop it back into the oven for about 15 minutes, or till the cheese is bubbly and melted. 

And that’s it!  Serve it with a salad and plenty of extra salsa and you have a comforting, man pleasing casserole for any day of the week, but especially for an “idle Tuesday” moment.

Fiesta Pork Chop and Rice Casserole

Fiesta Pork Chop and Rice Casserole
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Casserole
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 Loin Chops
  • 1¼ Cups Rice
  • 2 Stalks Celery
  • ½ Yellow Onion
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • ½ teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 Can Chopped Green Chili's
  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1 Can Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup Salsa
  • 2 Cups Grated Cheddar Cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Place rice in the bottom of a greased casserole dish.
  3. Chop celery and onion, then sprinkle evenly over the top of the rice in a layer.
  4. Stir together the garlic powder, cumin and black pepper. Sprinkle over the vegetables and rice.
  5. Sprinkle the chopped green chiliies over all in a layer.
  6. Drain and rinse the black beans, then place them over the top of the casserole in a layer.
  7. Pour the chicken broth into a small bowl or two cup measuring cup. Add enough water to make 2 cups of liquid. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, then pour evenly over the rice mixture in the casserole dish.
  8. Top with the Pork Chops, then pour the salsa over the tops of the pork chops.
  9. Cover with a lid, or foil.
  10. Bake at 350F for 40 minutes.
  11. Remove foil or lid, then add grated cheese in a layer. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or till cheese is melted and the rice has absorbed all of the broth.

 

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