Friday, October 7, 2011

Mexican Chicken Casserole

I watched an episode of Good Eats today in which Alton Brown used leftover tortillas to make a Mexican version of lasagna with enchilada sauce. I was very amused, because I have leftovers from just such a recipe in my refrigerator right now. His recipe was startlingly similar to the one we used (from Cooking Light), although ours contains a much higher proportion of vegetables (just the way I like it). In fact, this time I really overloaded on the vegetables, using up what I had rather than following the recipe. More veggies = more healthy, right?

I originally pulled out this recipe because it sounded interesting, but I didn't actually make it for another nine months, and then only because it fit the ingredients I was trying to use up (a surplus of plum tomatoes from the farm). It turned out to be a keeper - delicious layers of fresh produce, grilled chicken, enchilada sauce, corn tortillas and cheese all melded together. I particularly like the way the corn tortillas - which can be dry on their own - get all mushy and moist in the final product. ("Mushy" is perhaps not a word with a positive connotation when it comes to food, but in this case, it's a good thing!) The fact that this can be put together a day ahead of time makes it even better - perfect for football Sundays when you just want to toss something into the oven at half time!

Mexican Chicken Casserole
Adapted from Cooking Light January/February 2011.

8 plum tomatoes, halved and seeded (I used Plum Dandies, which seed easily and have a lot of firm flesh)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and quartered
cooking spray
1/3 c fresh cilantro (the cilantro I had waiting for this decided to kick the bucket a day early, so I used a bunch of partially-dried parsley that I had on hand - it's not the same, but sometimes you have to roll with the punches in the kitchen!)
3 tbsp lime juice (fresh tastes best, but I went with the bottled juice I had on hand)
1/8 tsp black pepper
rest of casserole:
1 c onion, chopped
1 c corn kernels (I used one ear)
1 c zucchini, diced (I used two very small ones - probably about 2 c)
1 c red bell pepper, chopped (I used the whole thing)
3 c chicken breast, cooked and shredded (I used two organic chicken breasts)
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
10 oz can green chile enchilada sauce
4 oz can chopped green chiles
12 6" corn tortillas
1 c (4 oz) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 c (4 oz) crumbled goat cheese

For salsa:
Preheat broiler. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray (I lined mine with foil as well), and put tomatoes, crushed garlic cloves, small onion and jalapeno on it. Broil 20 minutes, until lightly charred. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Put the mixture in the food processor with cilantro, lime juice and black pepper. Process until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350° F. To prepare the primary casserole filling, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the pan with cooking spray (off the heat, please!). Add onion, corn, zucchini and bell pepper and saute until tender (~6 minutes). Add the chicken, garlic, cumin, chili powder, enchilada sauce and green chiles. Saute a few more minutes until heated through. (It's really tasty - I might eat it on its own, or over rice, as another option!)

Coat a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread about 1/2 c of salsa along the bottom of the pan (this prevents the tortillas from sticking). Arrange six tortillas over the salsa. Spread half the chicken mixture on top. Top with half the remaining salsa, then half of each cheese. Repeat layers, starting from the tortillas.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes, until nice and bubbly. Cool slightly before serving. (The leftovers are great, too - just reheat them in a toaster oven!)

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