Salsa. Tortillas. Chicken. Cheese. Repeat.
That’s essentially what we’re doing today. Can you dig it?
Boy is studying for the Georgia Bar at the moment, so our apartment is a bundle of excitement and joy.
Oh, sorry, I misspelled “stress” and “nerves.”
Needless to say, he has plenty on his plate right now without worrying about what to eat. So I have been stocking the freezer with his favorite foods that he can reheat when I’m out of town (or feeling lazy). We’ve got meat sauce, pizza, and slow-cooked vegan chili. And now, chicken enchilada casserole.
This easy enchilada casserole is fairly healthy (low-fat cream cheese, people) and it’s perfect for the freezer — which is great, because it’s a teeny bit time-consuming to prepare. So I like to make two pans of the stuff, and stick one in the freezer unbaked. When I need it, I just thaw it and bake it at 425 degrees F for about 15 minutes. Or, if I don’t have time to thaw it completely, I stick it straight into a 400-degree oven for about 30 to 40 minutes. Easy peasy.
Also, I make this dish with chicken, but you could easily substitute ground beef or roasted veggies. That would be like a fun spin on my Roasted Veggie Stacked Enchiladas.
But chicken is classic. Chicken is king.
Speaking of chicken – I like to use dark meat, as per usual. Just boil 8 bone-in chicken thighs in a pot of water seasoned with things like cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and seasoned salt. After about 20 minutes, remove the chicken and shred it off the bone with two forks. I also run my knife through the meat to cut it into nice bite-sized pieces. You can do that a few days in advance, if you’re thinking ahead.
But if you ain’t got time for that, just pick the meat off a rotisserie chicken. It will give ya what ya need.
Either way, you’ll need about 4 cups of chicken.
Dump that into a large bowl and move on with your life.
Chop some un-yuns…
(You don’t have to form yours into a heart shape. But I don’t know why you wouldn’t.)
And toss them into a big ol’ skillet with some olive oil.
Salt and pepper! And let it cook for about 5 minutes.
Meantime, let’s add some tasty goodness to our chicken bowl. Softened cream cheese, anyone?
And how ’bout some corn?
I used frozen kernels that had thawed out a bit. Fresh would also be delicious, lopped right off a few cobs
Okay, back to the onions. When they start to get little brown bits, add some minced garlic…
(Your definition of “some” is 6 cloves, right? Good.)
…and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant. Then add half of this beautiful mixture into the bowl with your chicken ‘n’ stuff.
The rest of the onion mixture is going to become our sauce, y’all. Add a minced jalapeno to the skillet party.
You could also use a poblano if you have one.
I took the seeds and membranes out, because Boy isn’t the biggest spicy fan, but you could leave them if you’re cooking for a heat freak (like my daddy).
Pour in some salsa verde…
…and chicken broth.
I also added a bit of water to thin out the sauce, but I forgot to take a picture. Just wasn’t terribly exciting, I guess.
Now the sauce needs to cook down for about 15 minutes. While that happens, we’ll work on the tortillas! Grab about 16 tortillas and cut them into quarters.
I use a corn-wheat combination for this recipe, because I think it holds up better in the freezer. I also really like the texture. And it was on sale. Huzzah!
Arrange them on a few baking sheets…
And bake at 425 degrees F about 7 minutes, until brown and slightly crisp.
Back over to our sauce — when it has thickened, carefully pour it into a blender.
Chop up some cilantro…
…and add half to the blender.
Blend this until it forms a thick witch’s brew.
We’re almost there, people! Just a few more things to add to the chicken glop. The rest of the cilantro, along with some cumin and chili powder.
Mix this all together.
Now we’re ready to assemble! Grab an 8 x 8 baking dish (I’m using a disposable one, ’cause why not?). Pour in a layer of sauce.
Then arrange some tortillas in a single layer.
Top with about a quarter of the chicken goop…
…and sprinkle lightly with cheese.
Now repeat those layers! More sauce….
CHEESE, lawdy mercy!
And from there evidently I forgot to take photos. I could blame this on the laundry or the iron some other domestic distraction, but let’s be real here — this was good old fashioned thick-headedness.
Anyway, from this point you need the following layers: salsa + tortillas + cheese + salsa.
If you wanna enjoy this bad boy right away, just stick him in the oven for ’bout 15 minutes until golden and bubbly. Amen.
Sprinkle with cilantro for some delicious freshness and dig the heck in!
This recipe actually makes two casseroles, though — so I like to freeze the other one.
That’s it, y’all! Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Here’s the quick-and-dirty!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 fresh jalapeno pepper
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2/3 cup salsa verde
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (white and/or dark meat)
- 1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen & thawed)
- 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 18 (6-inch) corn tortillas
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place a large skillet over medium heat and drizzle in olive oil.
- Chop onions and add to skillet, cooking about 5 minutes until translucent. Mince garlic and add to skillet, cooking about 30 seconds. Pour half of mixture into a large bowl.
- Chop jalapeno, discarding seeds and membranes. Add to skillet with onions and garlic, and cook about 1 minute. Then add broth, salsa, and ¼ cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Arrange tortillas on a baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Place in oven to toast, about 5 minutes. Cut into quarters and set aside.
- Meanwhile, add to bowl with onion and garlic: chicken, corn, cream cheese, spices, and half of cilantro. Mix well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- When sauce mixture is cool, carefully pour it into a blender (or use immersion blender?). Add remaining cilantro, and process until smooth.
- Spread a thin layer of salsa mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 10 to 12 tortilla quarters over salsa mixture. Spoon 1/4 of chicken mixture over tortillas, then a thin layer of cheese. Repeat layers, ending with tortillas. Repeat with another 8-inch square baking dish. If you have any remaining salsa mixture, drizzle it evenly over both casseroles; sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned. Top with remaining cilantro.
- Don’t have pre-cooked chicken lying around? Boil a whole chicken in a pot of water seasoned with Mexican spices (a blend of cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and seasoned salt will work nicely) for 45 minutes, then shred with two forks. I also run a knife through the meat, so the pieces are nice and bite-sized.
- Freezing instructions: Cover in foil and freeze, unbaked. When ready to eat, thaw completely and bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes or until golden and bubbly. (If you don't have time to thaw it, stick it straight into a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.)