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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cowboy Casserole. {yee-haw}

I'll admit, the list of ingredients for this is a little bit unwieldy.  But sometimes, I get in a mood, a mood that can only be described as ambitious.  Apparently the day that I made this was one of those days.  I mean, it's not a difficult recipe or anything.  It just has a lot of ingredients.  But oddly enough, most of them are ingredients that I almost always have in the house, anyway.

Plus, that long list?  It bring major flavah!  Did I just use that word the wrong way?  Hmmmm.  I think it fits.  We're talking tasty, Southwest flavor.  A hearty casserole that even non-cowboys can get behind.
And sometimes, I like prepping a dish and putting it all together in one little cooking vessel, only to cover it and stick it in the fridge.  It makes me feel especially accomplished the next day.  What's that?  You want to have guests over for dinner?  Ah yes, I whipped up a casserole yesterday, so that won't be a problem.   I'll just pull the casserole out of the fridge and bake it.  No muss, no fuss.  (Previous day obviously forgotten.)

The layer of tortilla chips that are crushed up at the bottom of this casserole really remind me of this one chicken tortilla casserole that my mom made a few times when I was a kid.  And now swears she doesn't remember how she made it.  I've been trying to recreate it for years, to no avail.  This isn't it.  That one was green.  But still, it sort of reminds me of it.

Cowboy Casserole

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 1½ hours (largely unattended)
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Keywords: bake entree chicken cheese tortillas American Southwest

Ingredients (serves 8-10)
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2½ c. chicken stock
  • ½ c. white wine
  • handful fresh cilantro, ripped in half
  • 1½ Tbs. lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled & smashed
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. white button mushrooms, quartered
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1½ c. whole milk
  • 12 c. tortilla chips
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, & finely chopped (optional)
  • 8 oz. Pepper Jack Cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz. Sharp Cheddar, shredded
  • 1 Tbs. Emeril's Southwest Seasoning, either store-bought or homemade (recipe follows)
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 c. canned, diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles, drained
Combine the chicken, chicken stock, wine, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, peppercorns, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the oregano, and bay leaves in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Cover, remove from heat and allow the chicken to cool in the poaching liquid for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the cooking liquid and tear or cut into bite-size pieces; set aside. Strain the cooking liquid; reserve.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over high heat until melted and just begins to foam. Add mushrooms, remaining salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid. Continue to cook until the mushrooms are golden brown and all the liquid has evaporated, ~6 minutes.
Scatter the flour over the mushrooms, and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the milk and stir, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken.

Add 1½ cups of the reserved poaching liquid, stir, and cook until very thick and flavorful, ~10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Place the tortilla chips in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch glass casserole. Crush the chips with your hands so they form a thin layer on the bottom of the dish. Pour ~1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid over the tortilla chips and allow them to soak up the liquid. Scatter the chicken over the top of the tortilla layer. Spread the chopped onions, bell peppers, and jalapeños (if using) evenly over the chicken. Top with half of the grated cheeses. Sprinkle with the Southwest Seasoning, chili powder and ground cumin. Spoon the reserved mushroom mixture evenly over the top of the spices, then top with the tomatoes and green chiles. Cover with the remainder of the cheeses.

Bake uncovered for ~45 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the casserole is heated through. Let sit for 5 minutes or so before serving.

This casserole may be prepared in advance. Assemble and cover; refrigerate overnight or freeze until ready to use. Allow to thaw 1 day in the refrigerator (if frozen); remove from fridge and allow to come to room temperature before baking as directed.

Emeril's Southwest Seasoning (yield: ½ c.):
2 Tbs. chili powder - 2 Tbs. ground cumin - 2 Tbs. paprika - 1 tsp. ground black pepper - 1 Tbs. ground coriander - 1 tsp. cayenne pepper - 1 Tbs. garlic powder - 1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes - 1 Tbs. salt - 1 Tbs. dried oregano

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Store in an airtight container at cool room temperature.

slightly adapted from Emeril Lagasse
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