Saturday, July 17, 2010

Enchilada Casserole or Mexican Lasagna ... Enchilasagna?

I really admire people who plan out their menus for days or even weeks ahead of time. I just can't seem to get that organized. So while others know how many zucchini they'll need for the week, I fly by the seat of my pants, and buy whatever looks good at the farmer's market and grocery store. This is great fun, but of course, it inevitably leads to me looking at single veggies in the crisper drawer, wondering how to make use of everything before it can go bad.

This recipe for an enchilada casserole came from a "perfect storm" in my fridge. I had a chicken carcass that needed attention (I'd used the legs and most of the breasts two days earlier, in my "French Chicken" (recipe to follow later)), some leftover brown rice, four zucchinis, and three ears of corn that were all about to outstay their welcome in the refrigerator. What to do?

Thankfully, ripe summer produce means Mexican food. Tomatoes, zucchini, corn, beans, squash, peppers and herbs are all looking great (and cheap!) at the farmer's market, so I'm sure you can re-create this, or something like it, very easily, where ever you are, this summer. If you want to make it vegetarian, leave out the chicken and add another can of beans - maybe pinto.

Enchilada Casserole / Mexican Lasagna ... Enchilasagna?

  • 1 red onion, sliced approximately 1/8" thin
  • 3 ears of corn, sliced from the cob (you could use canned, but it won't be as tasty)
  • 4 smallish zucchini, sliced approximately 1/8" thin
  • 1 1/2 or 2 cups cooked rice (I used brown)
  • 3 cups cooked chicken, shredded, from one chicken carcass
  • 1 14-oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 oz. tomato paste
  • 2 cups enchilada sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 36-count bag small corn tortillas
  • 2 or 3 cups shredded cheese (I used mozzarella and jack)

1. Cook the carcass in enough salted water to cover. Boil until chicken is cooked through and easy to remove from the bone. Take the chicken out of the pot and place in a bowl to cool. If you are making your own enchilada sauce, reserve two cups of the water for that recipe.
2. While the chicken is cooling, slice your zucchinis and onion thinly. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs, and saute the corn, onion and zukes in a little butter in a very large pan. Salt, and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. You just want the onions to color a little, and the zucchini to give up some moisture.
3. Pour the vegetables from the saute pan into a large bowl. Add the rice, and the can of black beans.
4. Take all the meat off the chicken carcass, shred or chop, and add to the veggies and rice. Add in the tomato paste. Give it all a good stir.
5. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Spray a 9" x 13" baking dish with Pam, then smear a thin layer of enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan. Cover this layer with tortillas, overlapping as needed. I used seven tortillas per layer - two rows of three, and one cut into quarters, pointy ends in the corners. On top of the tortillas, spread another layer of enchilada sauce, then half the chicken veggie mix, pressing down to cover the tortillas and sauce evenly. Sprinkle with 1/3 of your cheese. Follow with more tortillas, sauce, the rest of the chicken, another 1/3 of your cheese, and finish with tortillas, sauce and the rest of the cheese.
6. Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is melty and everything is hot inside. Remove the foil and bake another 5 minutes.

Makes 6 servings. Goes well with salad and a beer. Garnish with cilantro or sour cream, if you are fancy.

Enchilada Sauce
(Courtesy of Emeril Lagasse)

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2 cups chicken stock (I used the water I boiled my chicken in: multi-purposing!)
  • 10 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
(I also added 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon)

1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil, add flour, smoothing and stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook for 1 minute. Add chili powder and cook for 30 seconds.
2. Add stock, tomato paste, oregano, and cumin. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken and smooth out.

This sauce turned out GREAT! Here's the trick: Tomato paste comes in little 6 oz. cans. Use 10 ounces for the enchilada sauce, and you'll have two ounces left over to stir into the chicken and veggies in Step 4 of the Enchilasagna. Cool, right?

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