This casserole is seriously the least photogenic thing ever…
But it is so good! I promise.
Living in Texas for ten years, I really had a serious love affair with Tex-Mex. We made it at home, ate it at gatherings, went out for it not infrequently. One of the great things about it is that it's cheap, so going out for dinner was never a spendy affair. Which also means it's cheap to make at home! Beans, rice, tortillas…the most expensive part of your meal will be (optional) meat and possibly salsa or another type of sauce. Oh, and cheese. But really, you can't do without cheese…
My favorite thing to get at restaurants was always enchiladas. Hot and steamy, dripping in cheese and smothered in various sauces and filled with a wide variety of tasty treats – beef, chicken, cheese, corn, roasted veggies, fish – you name it! But enchiladas made at home were never quite…the same. Largely because it's a giant pain in the ass to roll all those little, prone-to-breaking corn tortillas around impossibly small piles of filling and squash them all into a pan for baking without letting them fall apart or lose their fillings.
So after making a batch or two of "regular" rolled enchiladas and deeming them too much hassle, we developed this enchilada casserole! Basically you take the tortillas, sauce, cheese and "fillings" and layer them, then bake until melty and gooey and delicious. This most recent time, M made it and he put down a layer of slightly seasoned rice on the bottom of the pan before layering everything else over it – I was wary at first, but it turned out really wonderful so I'm including the rice option here. (Typically, the rice would be on the side…)
Additionally, this casserole is infinitely adjustable. Don't eat meat? Skip the chicken. We frequently do, since meat is expensive. (Leftover chicken is perfect.) Add corn or other veggies. Make your own corn tortillas! (We actually usually do this – corn tortillas are really super easy to make. This time, we just didn't have time, hence the prepackaged Chi-Chi's.) Use canned beans for convenience or cook your own dried beans. Add more or less cheese as it pleases you. The only thing I recommend you do not skimp on is the enchilada sauce – a dry enchilada, or in this case casserole, is a sad, sad thing indeed. Also, get an enchilada sauce you really like, since the flavor of the casserole really rests on it. (We have limited options here in Portland, Maine…Old El Paso it is.)
chicken & rice enchilada casserole
an eat! craft! live! original
- 1 recipe slightly spiced rice (see below – optional)
- 1 package corn tortillas (ours had 10)
- 1 28 oz. can enchilada sauce (we prefer green, but you can use your favorite!)
- 12 oz. grated colby jack cheese
- 1 15 oz. can black beans (or use dried and cooked beans)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 chicken breast, fully cooked and shredded (optional)
If you are using rice, spread the rice in the bottom of a 9×13 inch casserole (or similarly sized) dish, then top with a small amount of enchilada sauce. If not using rice, put a thin layer of enchilada sauce down anyway. Follow with half the beans, onion and chicken, if using. Cover with 1/3 of the cheese, some enchilada sauce and half the tortillas. Repeat with the remaining beans, onion and chicken. Cover with another 1/3 of the cheese and more enchilada sauce. Layer remaining tortillas on top, cover with the rest of the enchilada sauce and the remaining cheese. Bake in a 350° oven for about 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly. It's not pretty but it sure does taste good!
slightly spiced rice
- 1 cup white rice
- 2 cups chicken broth (or veggie, or water and bouillon)
- 1/2 small onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon butter or oil
- optional seasonings: dried cilantro, parsley, cumin, chili powder…the possiblities are endless!
In medium saucepan, melt butter or heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and saute for a few minutes until onion starts to soften. Add rice and saute briefly, until rice is coated in butter or oil. Add broth or water and bouillon and whichever seasonings you desire. Bring to a boil, give it a good stir, then cover and simmer on low, undisturbed, for 15 minutes.
A side note – M wanted me to note his "pro tip" for getting the tortillas to fit pretty much perfectly: put down four, as shown, then cut the 5th one in half and cover the expose corners. You're welcome.