Casserole: a dish that usually consists of meat, chopped vegetables, a starchy binder such as flour, rice, potato, or pasta and a crunchy or cheesy topping cooked in a deep vessel known as a casserole dish. I will now apologize in case I’ve given some of you horrific flashbacks.
Casseroles have a jagged history here in America, I know. The casserole started out by making its way across the nation in the late 1800s as a way of combining rice with savory or sweet, meats. Decades later they became popular among moms when casserole cookware hit the market by the 1950s. By the 1970s, the casserole became what most of you know and love (or perhaps despise) today, an unsophisticated one pan meal made with a can of creamed what-have-you and only Mom knows what else.
I truly believe the casserole is making a comeback – and it’s not the same casserole some of you might have experienced as a kid. It’s tastier, and it might take more time to prepare than the ones your mom, or maybe even grandmother, used to make. Fewer cans get opened and more fresh ingredients get prepared, but they’re still all baked together as one.
I find the modern casserole consists of a few leftover ingredients combined with fresh ingredients to turn those leftovers into something new, but be sure to leave the can of creamed mushroom soup in the pantry where it can stay until an apocalypse happens.
This recipe I am sharing with you today is a Tex-Mex chicken casserole. It is basically a huge a chicken taco turned casserole – and another winner at the dining table.
The purpose of most casseroles is to use up leftovers, and most can be very versatile, so if you’ve got a different cheese hanging around, or perhaps a different leftover meat than what the recipe calls for, by all means use them. The creaminess of the sauce combined with the crunch of the corn tortillas makes for a delicious combination.
Tex-Mex Chicken Casserole
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, small diced
1 red bell pepper, small diced
2 poblano peppers, small diced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 10-ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 pounds of leftover chicken, shredded or diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro loosely packed, chopped
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded
18 6-inch corn tortillas
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, red bell pepper, poblano and jalapeño peppers. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes or until soft and translucent. Lower the heat to medium. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute or until the garlic is fragrant.
- Sprinkle the 1/4 cup of flour over the vegetables, adjust heat if necessary, and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Using a whisk, stir in the broth slowly, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Bring to a low boil. Allow to boil for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in the drained tomatoes and the sour cream.
- Place the chicken in a large bowl and toss with the chopped cilantro. Pour the vegetable mixture over the chicken and stir until well combined. Taste for seasoning and set aside. Mix together the 2 cheeses in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat a large sized skillet over high heat. Very lightly brush the corn tortillas on both sides with a neutral oil such as canola or vegetable oil. In batches, cook the tortillas in the hot skillet until lightly browned and crisp on both sides.
- Line the bottom of the baking dish with 6 of the corn tortillas. Spread half of the chicken mixture over the tortillas and then top with 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat the layers once more. Top with the remaining tortillas and finish with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and starts to become golden brown. Serve with condiments such as guacamole, salsa, sour cream, avocado or extra cilantro.
Kayleigh Van Vliet Baig was born and raised in Riverhead, where she lives with her husband Tahir and their two dogs.
Kayleigh is in her third season as Sous Chef at a private kitchen in Southampton. Not only is she second in command but her main focus is on creating, preparing and executing cold dishes such as salads, hors d’œuvres, appetizers, canapés, pâtés and terrines. Kayleigh has been in the culinary industry for the last 15 years, working her way up in kitchens on the East End. She also is a personal chef.
Look for In the Kitchen with Kayleigh every Saturday on RiverheadLOCAL.com.
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