So the Mardi Gras that is Ava's birthday is finally over. We had the folks over after church for her family party. Inspired by the teacher appreciation dinner, I served Haystacks.
BFF Rebecca has a cookbook which we once browsed together. I think all the contributors were rural midwesterners. (I'd love to know if this meal is made anywhere else.) There are SO MANY variations of this dish, and each one seems to be sacred to those who eat it. I made it thusly:
A bed of steamed rice is topped with ground beef seasoned with a taco seasoning mix.
Next was salsa, lettuce, cheese and sour cream.
Finally, cheese sauce, diced tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, sliced olives, crushed Dorito chips... everything but the kitchen sink.
Around "these here parts" you see advertisements from Mennonite and Amish churches inviting you to these dinners which they put on as fundraisers for the youth group or for members in need. I've attended one and I remember the fixings as basically what I offered. A lot of people add crushed soda crackers somewhere in the mix, but the idea offends me. Rebecca (an Easterner - having not experienced a Haystack Dinner)asked me how it was different from a taco salad. I did a little mild research before posting this to be sure that the answer was the foundation of the rice, but I didn't find the rice universal in the recipes I found online. Some recipes were even meatless.
My Personal Answer to her question is that in my mind (and on my plate) a taco salad is a cold dish with mostly lettuce. For me the Haystack has a foundation of rice and a larger percentage of taco meat, making it a hot dish with refreshing crunches of fresh, cool vegetables. What's great about using this meal to serve a crowd is that everyone can fix it according to their personal tastes and all can contribute an ingredient, if it's a "pitch in" kind of scene.
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