I love taking meals to family and friends (and sometimes strangers, too). The opportunity to enter someone’s home after the arrival of a new baby (oh the joy!) or when grief and/or sickness are looming (oh the sorrow) is, at least for me, a great privilege. There is a sense of intimacy when you enter someone’s home in those moments of vulnerability (whether the cause be happy or sad) and I relish the opportunity to do so. In case you haven’t figured it out already, sharing a meal is my love language, so packing up one to deliver with love is very much my cup of tea (or should I say, Jo).
I have several favorite dishes (I already discussed this one a few weeks ago), but this casserole is a hit time and time again. Make it spicy or not depending on your audience by cutting the jalapeno (or doubling it!) or by substituting a Serrano pepper. You could easily make this vegetarian by substituting black beans for chicken and I think it would be just as tasty. When taking this meal to friends, I like to pair it with a spinach, strawberry and goat cheese salad and then something sweet for dessert. A filling, healthy delicious meal.
Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Adapted from Cooking Light, March 2011
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c yellow onion, chopped and divided
6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 c frozen corn kernels
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro, divided
3 oz neufchatel cheese, softened
1/2 c chicken stock
1 cup salsa verde
1/4 c water
1 fresh jalapeno
12 corn tortillas
1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray.
Heat a large non-stick skillet to medium-high heat. Add a splash olive oil and swirl through pan. Add chicken breasts, flipping once when halfway through. Remove from pan when internal temperature reaches 165°. Set aside.
Add another splash of olive oil to the pan and add 3/4 cup of onion, 3 minced garlic cloves, the red bell pepper, the green bell pepper, and the spices (red pepper through black pepper). Saute until tender. While vegetables are sauteing, roughly chop your chicken breasts. When vegetables are tender, add corn, 1/4 cup of cilantro, and neufchatel cheese. Stir until cheese fully melts. Remove pan from heat and return chicken to pan.
In a blender, combine the salsa verde, water, fresh jalapeno (remove the seeds from the jalapeno if you prefer this to be less spicy, or cut it all together), the remaining 3 cloves of garlic, and the remaining 1/4 cup of onion in your blender. Blend until smooth.
Begin filling your corn tortillas with the chicken filling, rolling each filled tortilla and placing it in the already prepared pan. Don’t worry if this part is messy or your tortillas fall apart. Once you’ve filled your pan with filled enchiladas, sprinkle the rest of the chicken mixture over the top of your enchiladas. Then, pour your salsa mixture from the blender over your enchiladas distributing it evenly over the pan. Finally, sprinkle the casserole with cheddar cheese.
Place the casserole in the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro and serve.