Thursday, February 4, 2010

Because She Asked....

Nearly two weeks ago, my friend Cherin wrote an interesting piece, calling for casserole recipes. I wasn't sure she would want mine, since mine involve green chile. For those of you who don't live in the Southwest or in New Mexico, let me explain. Green chile is what lobster is for people from Maine or jambalya is to people from Louisiana. It's a common ingredient here--actually a staple. Last summer I roasted my own, froze them, and have a stash that's rapidly dwindling. 

Which reminds me that this year, I'm not bragging about how much green chile I preserve. First because it's a lot of work and it took roughly 50 pounds of green chile to get enough for the winter. It would have helped if we weren't eating it as soon as it's roasted, but freshly roasted green chile is highly addictive! Second, because of my big mouth, I had people begging, pleading, threatening  me to send them my supply. Green chile has that affect on people who used to live here where the habit formed. Yes--green chile is not only addictive but habit-forming. People go through withdrawals when they don't have their green chile fix. Seriously.  Those people who were actually crying or threatening me if I didn't send them green chile were simply going through withdrawals. At the end of the roasting period, I only had 16 containers of green chile and I needed it to last me through winter. We've used up most of that. 

So next year--no bragging. I'm not telling people. No way. Not doing it!

Since I'm a typical dump cook--you know what I mean--dump a little of this in, pour a bit of that, add a handful or two of this ingredient....In other words, I rarely measure anything. I go by look, taste (mine or D's), and smell. So I told myself the next time I made chicken enchilada casserole, I'd remember to measure everything for Cherin.

Yesterday, other than cooking that big pot of chowder for D's group, answering student emails and phone calls in between getting papers graded, I put some chicken on that needed to be cooked. (I had two packs of chicken thighs that were getting close to the expiration date.) I cleaned them, put them in a pan, covered them with water and let them cook over medium heat for about 2-3 hours. This produces a rich chicken stock that can be filtered later.  Remove the chicken from the pan, peel the skins, and debone the pieces. Save the pieces for later shredding or cutting--whichever is preferred. To filter the stock, pour it through a strainer--with a bowl underneath to catch the stock. This removes the bits and pieces you really don't want in stock or broth.

To save yourself some time later, make your tortillas while your chicken is cooking.  

Now you're ready to make this dish! How exciting is that?

2 Cups cooked, shredded/chopped chicken
2 Cups chicken stock
1 onion, cut to strings 
1 TBSP butter
2 Cups Whole Milk
1/4 cup unenriched, unbleached flour
1/2 tsp dried, minced garlic or 5 cloves finely diced 
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coarse black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Green Chile 
 Tortillas (homemade or 1 pack of flour or corn tortillas)
White Cheddar Cheese--finely sliced or grated

In a saute pan, melt butter and add onion strings. Cook them until they begin to carmelize. Add the garlic and breathe that heavenly scent of someone's cooking something good. Sorry--had a Pioneer Woman moment there.  I'm sure she won't mind. Cook until half the mixture is carmelized--it's yummy this way.

In a separate pot, add your chicken stock and your chicken. Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of milk.  Heat to nearly boiling, stirring frequently. In another measuring cup or bowl, add 1 cup of milk and the flour. Stir this until it's smooth and creamy. Add it to the chicken in the pot. Add your onions and spices. 
Chicken Stock 
Don't mind the flour on my counter--I wasn't following my own advice!
 This part is tricky since I'm using my roasted green chiles--the ones I did myself. The container I'm taking them from holds about 3 cups. Aren't they lovely? Trust me, these particular chiles are more than hot--they turn everyone into fire-breathing dragons! Anyway--you'll have to use your judgement here because everyone's taste and heat preference is different. I'm only using about half a tub for this batch. 
 Dice up the green chiles and throw them--ok--just add them to the chicken mixture. At this point, it should be about done. I let it simmer for another 30 minutes just blend in the flavors more. 

Now tear your tortillas. Yep, tear them. You are going to layer them in a casserole dish like so:
When you've covered the bottom of the dish, ladle some of the chicken mixture over the tortillas. It might be a bit soupy, but that's ok. The tortillas will soak most of it up. Add your cheese. 

Side note: I quit grating my cheese because it's all going to melt anyway. I just finely slice the cheese to where it's thin, almost like paper. It works for me. You can grate your cheese if you want--but DON'T use the pre-grated cheese. It's loaded with chemicals and preservatives and it really messes up the flavors of this dish. 

Repeat the process until the dish is completely layered and full. The last layer should be tortillas topped with cheese. Slide the dish onto a cookie sheet. Trust me--it will bubble over and the cookie sheet will save you either hours of scrubbing down your oven or a smokey house or both! Bake at 425 Degrees until bubbly and hot and the cheese is all melted.  Pull it out and let it set for about 5-10 minutes. Serve it up. 

This dish can be made ahead of time and frozen. By doubling the ingredients, you can easily freeze one dish for later. Homemade tortillas freeze equally well. Just don't nuke them---let them defrost with the bag opened.  Nuking homemade tortillas makes them hard, like crackers. 

Disclaimer: The measurements in this recipe are not exact--but they are approximately close!  


  1. I will love this! Thank you for the detailed instructions. Green chiles are fantastic, even though I often have to used the canned ones here.

  2. I might hire you to come cook at our house. You know how much I love food but hate the kitchen!

  3. Are there different varieties of green chiles? We only have canned ones here and they don't pack much of a punch at all. Your casserole looks so, so good!

  4. recipe sounds delicious and I consider myself a dump cook as well

  5. Looks like a good recipe. I have wanted to make tortillas, so I will check out that posting as well. Thanks!