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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chicken Cilantro Enchilada Casserole

I came across this recipe for enchiladas in the Raley's Something Extra magazine a few years ago. It combines chicken, onions and cilantro for some really tasty enchilada filling. I have never actually made the enchiladas in the recipe because rolling enchiladas takes too much time. I have modified the ingredients and process to make a tasty lasagna-style layered casserole.
This is the type of dish that works well in quantity. Cooking and assembling a single casserole is almost the same amount of work and making several. With that in mind, I will be making several and freezing some. After gathering my ingredients, I put the chicken in the stockpot to boil.

The tomatillo sauce is next. I put in all 7 tomatillos, 5 cloves of garlic, and some of the little chili peppers. The tomatillos have a great scent. I am looking forward to using more of them this summer since we have 4 tomatillo plants in our garden.

Note: For hot peppers of any kind, be careful when handling. I have experienced a burning sensation in the past on my fingers because I used them the remove the seeds from semi-hot wax peppers. I decided to use a plastic baggie this time since I couldn't remember how hot these peppers were.

While the chicken and tomatillos are cooking, prepare the cilantro and onions. I used my mini chopper for the onions. They were very strong and made me cry more than once. You will likely need two bowls to hold the ingredients. Once the chicken is cooked, drain and chop. Add to the onion and cilantro mixture.

Not forgetting the sauce, drain most of the liquid. I decided to pour the remaining contents into the mini chopper and puree. This worked well. Pour half of the sauce into each bowl and mix.

Next, grate the cheese. I split about 3/4 of the 2lb block between the two bowls. The remaining 1/4 is reserved for sprinkling on the top of the finished casseroles.

The final step is to assemble the casseroles. I use a non-stick spray to coat the pans. Using 9x13 casserole dishes, the first layer consists of 6 tortillas. Spoon out the filling to cover the tortillas.

Repeat the layering until the casserole is full. This time I made 3 layers of filling. Add one last layer of tortillas to the top and sprinkle with cheese. I was able to make three 9x13 casseroles with this quantity of ingredients.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Serve in squares as you would lasagna.
Note for frozen casseroles: Defrost before cooking and cook until brown on top (may be longer than indicated above)

My Chicken Cilantro Enchilada Casserole:
~6 lbs boneless chicken thighs
3 bunches cilantro
corn tortillas (the big pack, 84 I think)
4 small onions
2 lb block Monterrey Jack cheese
7 tomatillos
5 cloves garlic
chili peppers

1. Boil the chicken until cooked through. Drain the liquid and chop the meat.
2. In a separate saucepan, cook the tomatillos, garlic, and peppers until the tomatillos are soft
3. Clean and chop the cilantro and onions
4. Grate the cheese
5. Puree the drained tomatillo mixture to make a sauce.
6. Mix the chicken, cilantro, onions, cheese, and sauce in a large mixing bowl (or 2 if necessary)
7. Prepare the casserole dishes by spraying them with non-stick oil
8. Begin layering with the tortillas. It is okay to overlap.
9. Add a layer of filling. Repeat until the layers have reached the top of the dish.
10. Put a final layer of tortillas on top and sprinkle with cheese.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
Makes three 9x13 casseroles.


Deanna said...

This is really good. I normally make it without the sauce. A lot easier. Maybe I will try it with the sauce after you give me some tomatillos from your garden.

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