One of my wife’s go to asks for dinners is tacos, but I get tired of these—no matter how good. As an alternative, we finally agreed on enchiladas. One problem that I have always had was that even though the enchiladas looked good in the pan, they tended to fall to pieces as you try to transfer them to a plate. There had to be a better way.
Enchiladas are a bit of a complicated, “fussy” dish. You have to first cook the filling and then carefully fill up and roll each tortilla. Although I am generally opposed to casseroles—too many years of being a PK—I decided that it would be easier to make enchiladas more like a lasagna. I know that this is not much of an improvement labor-wise, but it makes the final product much easier to serve as an attractive presentation.
The last time I made this dish I used beef, but my wife is not overly fond of red meat. Today, I shredded some store bought baked chicken. She is also not fond of mixing cheese and meat, so I made one side of the casserole with cheddar and the other cheese free.
Karl’s Mexican Lasagna (Chicken Enchilada Casserole)
½ medium yellow onion
2 Anaheim chilies
½ red bell pepper
1 bunch cilantro, separate uses
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 Tbs. corn oil
1 pkg. corn tortillas (10)
1 can refried beans
(Optional) 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1. Slice the onion, pole to pole, into thin half moons and reserve.
2. Cut the chilies and bell peppers into matchsticks.
3. Coarsely chop the leafy parts of the cilantro and set them aside.
4. Mince the cilantro stems.
5. Shred the chicken breast into small pieces and set them aside
6. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over a medium high heat.
7. Sauté the onions, chilies, and cilantro stems until soft, about 5 minutes.
Note: You may use canned chilies if you are in a hurry, but fresh is almost always better.
8. Add about half of the can of enchilada sauce and the shredded chicken to the pan.
9. Continue heating the mixture—stirring gently to mix—for another 3-4 minutes, until starting to thicken.
10. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool a bit.
11. Put the refried beans in a microwave safe bowl and warm them for 1-1½ minutes.
Tip: Heating the beans a bit makes them easier to spread on the tortilla.
12. Spread half a cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish.
Note: For this dish I used an 8 x 12 inch baking pan.
13. Pre-heat the oven to 350º F.
14. Taking two tortillas, cut them in half, and lay them cut-side along the long side of the pan.
15. Lay 2 whole tortillas in the to cover the open spaced in the center of the pan.
16. Spread half of the beans over the tortillas in the pan.
17. Spread half of the chicken chili filling over the beans.
Tip: If you are using cheese, place some cheese over the filling.
Note: If using cheese, save some to sprinkle over the top of the enchilada casserole during the last ten minutes of baking. Wife Jan does not like cheese with her meat, so I make this dish half and half—some with cheese and some without, the cheese on top tells you which side is which.
18. Peel and slice the avocado, laying half of the slices over the meat filling.
19. Spoon some of the enchilada sauce over the top.
Tip: You should have about a third of the enchilada sauce remaining when you have finished this step. Plan to use the whole can of sauce for this dish.
20. Lay 2 whole tortillas in the to cover the open spaced in the center of the pan.
Note: Tortillas usually come in packages of ten. If you have 12 tortillas use the same pattern as steps 14-15.
21. Repeat steps 16-19—making a second layer of tortillas, beans, meat, cheese, avocado, and then sauce.
Tip: If you have a lot of cilantro, you may add a sprinkle of fresh greens over the casserole before covering them with the last layer of tortillas.
Note: When you are finished you should have used up all of your ingredients, except a few tortillas and about an half cup of the sauce.
22. Cut two more tortillas and with two more whole tortillas make a final layer to cover the filling completely.
23. Brush the remaining sauce over the tortillas.
Note: If you are splitting the casserole between cheese and not cheese, sprinkle just a little cheese on top to mark which side is which. If you are covering the whole casserole with cheese this is not necessary.
24. Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake the casserole for 15 minutes.
25. Remove the foil and rotate the pan, so that the dish cooks evenly.
Note: If using cheese, spread the remaining cheese over the top of the enchiladas.
26. Continue baking for another 15-20 minutes.
27. Let the dish cool slightly before serving
28. Cut out servings and garnish them with the fresh cilantro.