Enchilada Casserole

There are certain instances where there is not much else you can do besides give food. I have a suspicion that the casserole’s role as a cultural food staple is due largely in part to community events such as weddings, births, holiday gatherings and deaths. And while some of these occasions are happy and others are sad, there is a common thread—it is most appropriate to attend with a casserole in your arms.

This fall, we are expecting a few new babies to come into our lives. As such, we are starting to make a plan for what food we can gift the new mothers. Lasagna is always a favorite, along with soups, shepherd’s pie and macaroni and cheese. This year, however, on the suggestion of a friend (and one of the expecting mothers), we made enchilada casserole. So good that we’ll be adding this to our regular routine, this casserole was perfection in its layers of tortillas, shredded chicken, cheese, cilantro and enchilada sauce.

Enchilada Casserole

1 can tomato paste
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
2 heads of garlic, minced
1 dried chipotle, crumbled
1 dried red pepper, crumbled
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced (for a spicier dish)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock

3 chicken breasts
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
6 medium sized flour tortillas
2 cups cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
3 cups extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

To make the sauce:
Heat olive oil and butter in a medium sized pot. Add onion, garlic, and jalapeno, and sauté for a few minutes. Add peppers and tomatoes, and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Add vegetable stock, tomato paste, and dried peppers. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 30 minutes, it is time to blend the sauce. If you have an immersion blender, use it to blend the sauce smooth. If you do not, transfer the sauce to a food processor and blend until smooth.

To make the casserole:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. To assemble the casserole, begin by cooking your chicken. Drizzle each breast with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes on a baking sheet. When the chicken is done, pull it apart into long pieces with your fingers.

Next, crisp your tortillas. In a medium sized pan that has been sprayed with oil, pan-fry the tortillas for 30 seconds to a minute per side over medium heat.

At the bottom of your casserole dish, layer two tortillas. Top with a handful of shredded chicken, green onion and cilantro. Add a layer of cheese and then top with two more tortillas. Repeat this pattern, finishing with a layer of cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350.

Elena Rosemond-Hoerr is a writer and photographer and can be found on her own website, biscuitsandsuch.com.

What’s your favorite casserole? Chime in below!

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