Cooking every night for your family can be a tedious chore or it can be an excuse for exploration in the kitchen. I am always looking for new ways to present the same old ingredients. Sometimes I will use seasonings of another cuisine, I can change the herbs or aromatics, and occasionally I just change the technique. Whichever you choose, I know your family appreciates your efforts, if not always the outcome, LOL! I have had my share of failures over the years, but occasionally I create a true winner. Those are the moments I love the most!
In this case I needed a new way to make chicken, a common challenge for housewives everywhere. If you struggle with the same thing, this recipe may be a fun change for you. This style of casserole is most commonly made with pasta, but I use corn tortillas for great flavor and texture. This is the hassle-free version of chicken enchiladas. The flavors of Mexico blend with a more traditional American preparation to make a creamy casserole just perfect for family dinners.
There are many ways to cook the chicken, but I chose roasting to intensify the taste. When you slow roast chicken it develops a deep, rich flavor that enhances anything you use it in. Using it here gives this casserole a whole new dimension.
Because it is so delicious and can be used in so many ways, I suggest you roast two chickens at the same time … one to use in this recipe and another just in case it smells too good and you have to devour it on the spot! You can change the seasonings on the second bird so you have different flavors to look forward to.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Make sure you use corn tortillas and not flour for this recipe. Flour tortillas won’t hold up to the filling and turn to mush! Storing the chicken in its cooking juices increases its flavor and helps keep it moist. For a short cut, use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store!
Kitchen Skill: Deboning Chicken
After cooking chicken, remove from the cooking container and set on a plate or baking sheet to cool. Don’t throw out the cooking liquid – use it to store the leftover chicken in! When chicken is cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the bones and cartilage. Discard skin if you want to, but store chicken with skin on if possible to help maintain moistness.
Depending on how you are going to use it, either pull meat apart to shred it or use a knife to cut it into bite-sized pieces. Taking the time to do this will make it much easier for your family and guests to eat politely.
Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Jane Evans Bonacci
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces, or 1 rotisserie chicken from grocery store
1-1/2 tsp onion powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of fresh thyme leaves, rinsed well and patted dry with paper towels
3 (10-1/2 oz) cans undiluted cream of chicken, celery, or mushroom soup
10-1/2 oz low-fat evaporated milk or chicken stock (use one soup can to measure)
8 oz sour cream
3 tbsp canned diced mild green chiles
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, grated
10 (6 to 8-inch) corn tortillas, torn into bite-sized pieces
3 green onions, sliced thinly
2 to 3 avocados, sliced
Fresh cilantro sprigs
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in the center position.
Place chicken pieces in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with onion powder, salt and pepper and thyme sprigs. Place in preheated oven and cook for 30 to 45 minutes or until nicely browned and chicken is done but still tender. If it starts to brown too quickly, tent loosely with foil.
Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and either shred or cut into bite-sized pieces. You can make the chicken up to 2 days ahead. Store chicken in pan juices in refrigerator.
When ready to prepare, preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine undiluted soup, milk, sour cream, chilies, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and cilantro; blend until smooth. Stir in half of the grated cheese and add all the deboned chicken.
Arrange half of torn tortilla pieces in bottom of the prepared pan. Cover with soup and chicken mixture; top with remaining tortilla pieces. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes in preheated oven or until warmed through. (Up to 40 minutes if chicken is cold.) Uncover casserole, top with remaining cheese and green onions, and return to the oven for 10 more minutes or until cheese melts.
Place a serving on plate. Top with 2 to 3 slices of avocado. Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs if desired. Serve hot with a tossed green salad and carrot sticks.