Monday, November 7, 2011

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

THIS is the family favorite. My mom made this for our fam when we were growing up. It makes a large casserole, but there were hardly ever any leftovers. Even if there were a little bit of leftovers, they definitely didn't last past lunchtime the next day. To this day, this is the most requested birthday item from everyone in my family. 
In fact, this time that I made it, it was per request from my brother and sister-in-law when they came home from the hospital with their new baby boy. 

Rather than the traditional chicken enchilada which has individual rolled enchiladas, this one is a layered chicken enchilada casserole. I love casseroles because they are easy to assemble, all the flavor is trapped together in one dish, and they are great for feeding a crowd.  
This recipe makes a large 9x13 casserole, however I made two 8x8 casseroles this time; one for Peter and I, and one to take over to Cullen and Ashley's when they got home from the hospital.

For this enchilada, there are only 3 parts that get layered together: tortillas, chicken, and sauce:

The chicken is as easy as plain cooked chicken that is chopped or shredded. In a pinch, a rotisserie chicken works VERY well for this recipe. This time, I cooked a whole chicken and shredded all of its meat for this casserole.

Some enchiladas allow you to use corn or flour tortillas, but I would urge you NOT to use flour for this one. I've made it with flour tortillas once and I will never make that mistake again. It came out too soggy :( Besides, corn is healthier anyway :) For these enchiladas, just stick to corn tortillas.

Recipe (makes a large 9x13 casserole dish):

  • 1 can Cream of Chicken soup
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
  • one 24 oz jar Salsa, I use 'medium' spice (the 'La Victoria' style of salsa)
  • 16 oz Shredded Cheddar, plus 8 oz Shredded Cheddar; divided
  • 1/2 to 1 cup Milk (I use fat free)... not necessary for flavor, so if you don't have the milk, don't stress; it just helps to thin and stretch the sauce so that you have enough for the top (which is pretty important)
  • 24 Corn Tortillas
  • about 4 cups Chicken, cooked & shredded (4 large Chicken Breasts or the meat of one Whole Cooked Chicken)
  • For serving: Sour Cream, or a healthier option- Guacamole!

First, mix together the can of Cream of Chicken soup, the can of Cream of Mushroom soup, the jar of Salsa (reserve a few spoonfuls for the bottom of the baking dish), and 16 oz shredded cheddar, and the milk. 
(The cup of milk does not affect the cooking or flavor of this dish, but if you have a cup of milk it helps to make this sauce stretch a little further; it's important that you have enough of this sauce as you layer because this needs to be the top layer covering the casserole.) 
It makes a great looking pink sauce... Peter always sneaks over with a bag of tortilla chips at this point and starts dipping into this sauce- until I whack him with my spoon :)
Now slice your tortillas into 1 inch strips (they already have lines baked into them, so I just pile a handful at a time and slice the stacks all at once along the guide lines.)

I roasted a whole chicken and shredded it for this dish, so I used some of the chicken broth juices from the roasting pan to cover the bottom of the enchilada dish. If you do not have the cooked chicken broth, then you can use a few spoonfuls of salsa, or even spread a bit of your cheesy-pink enchilada sauce. 
(If you do not put something down there, the dry tortilla strips might bake hard onto the casserole dish)

Lay out your tortilla strips to cover the bottom of the pan:

Then layer 1/3 of your shredded chicken:

Then 1/3 of your sauce:

Repeat, ENDING WITH THE SAUCE. This is important. If you end with a layer of tortillas or chicken, it will bake all hard and dried out. No es bueno!
Then cover the top layer of sauce with 8 ounces or so of shredded cheddar (my favorite part- the ooey gooey cheesy crust :)

Bake at 350 degrees F until the cheese bakes golden brown and bubbly (about 45 minutes): 

Let is sit for about 10-15 minutes before you cut into it. This will allow it to cool slightly, and to firm up. Otherwise, you will cut a serving and it will ooze off the spatula and all over the plate. It will taste great, but it won't look as appetizing. So let it sit for a little!
Delicious served with a healthy side of yummy guacamole!

This is one meal that gets even better the day after because all the flavors marry together even better as they sit. Unfortunately, leftovers (if any) hardly last long enough. 

...A good solution to this could actually be even easier for you; make it ahead of time! When you are ready to bake it, pull it from the fridge, bring it to room temp, and then pop it in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes. A flavorful, filling meal that's ready when you are! That's why I love casseroles :)

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