I think my very favorite meal to ever come out of my mother’s kitchen is her green chicken enchiladas. Even as an exceptionally picky child (have we discussed how picky I was as a kid? I basically ate nothing, ever), I loved those enchiladas. They were cheesy and creamy and a bit spicy (or a lot spicy, depending on the particular batch of salsa verde from the Mexican grocery store… every once in a while we got a good, if unexpected, sinus clearing). I’m not sure what kind of voodoo magic my mom uses in her enchiladas, but I’ve never been able to replicate them exactly; so, rather than driving myself up a wall trying to make them exactly right, I finally just decided to put my own little twist on the recipe.
My version is slightly different, but delicious in its own way; most obviously, it’s more of a casserole than actual enchiladas. Many, many attempts at rolling enchiladas and having the damn tortillas crumble in my hands (YES, I’ve asked my mom how she does it, and NO, I still can’t make it work), and I’ve finally given up. Casserole it is!
(My apologies for the sub-par photos… this is just not the most attractive dish on earth. However, I promise that it IS delicious, looks aside!)
Green Chicken Enchilada Casserole
1 lb chicken, cooked and shredded*
1 large sweet onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
two 16oz jars of salsa verde**
8oz monterey jack, shredded
8oz sour cream (reduced fat is fine)
12 small corn tortillas
salt and pepper
*If you use Pinterest, you’ve likely seen a million pins talking about how you should shred your chicken in your stand mixer. Quite frankly, this grossed me right out when I first read it – but, lucky for me, a friend of mine tried it and said it worked really well, so I got up the nerve to try it… and it. is. AWESOME. It cuts the tedious chore of shredding a pound of chicken from 20 minutes (and sore hands afterward) to about 30 seconds. I bake my chicken (in this instance, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder; baked, covered, for about 30 minutes at 350°), let it cool for about 5 minutes, and then pop it into the bowl of the mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on to low, and 30 seconds later, you have perfectly shredded chicken.
**I prefer the Herdez brand, and it can usually be found in the Hispanic foods section of your grocery store. If you can’t find Herdez, use any other brand you enjoy!
1.) Heat a pot over medium heat, and add a teaspoon or two of olive oil to to it. Once it’s hot, add the onions, and cook until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about one minute; season with a pinch each of salt and pepper.
2.) Add the shredded chicken, and one jar of the salsa verde, and reduce the heat to low. Keep the mixture over low heat to keep it warm.
3.) Heat a small skillet over low heat, and add some of the second jar of salsa verde to it, so it’s about 1/2″ deep. While that sauce heats through, preheat your oven to 375°, and grab a casserole dish (I used a 9×9 dish).
4.) Spoon a small amount of the green sauce/chicken mixture into the bottom of the dish, and spread it evenly around. Then, take a corn tortilla, and put it into the small skillet filled with sauce; let it sit in the sauce until it’s evenly coated and slightly softened, just about 10-15 seconds. Remove it from the sauce, and lay it in the dish, using as many tortillas as you need to create a layer (I used three per layer, ripping one in half to sit the dish better). You’ll repeat this with all the corn tortillas, layering them into the dish as you go, and adding more sauce to the skillet as needed.
5.) Spoon 1/4 of the chicken mixture on top of the tortilla layer, and spread it out evenly. Spread 1/4 of the sour cream on top of that, doing your best to spread it out; top with 1/4 of the cheese. Continue layering until you use all your ingredients, ending with the cheese. I like to lightly mist the cheese with olive oil, to help it brown in the oven.
6.) Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and browned; turn the broiler on for the last minute or two, if needed, to brown the cheese.
7.) Allow the casserole to sit for at least 5 minutes, so it will set up a bit. Then, cut into squares, and serve!
You can serve this with a side of refried beans, or some rice, or chips and guacamole… or whatever you like! I served ours with a side of chili lime-seasoned cauliflower (recipe forthcoming), because I really wanted to have a slightly lighter side dish; of course, Crist wasted no time in telling me (repeatedly) that serving cauliflower with Mexican food was “gross”, but I paid her no attention, because we thought it was delicious.
Crist comes to visit in 3 days!