One of the best shopping tips I have ever received is that you should plan your weeks’ dinners before you go to the grocery store. That way you know what you have on hand, and you’re not scrambling last minute to figure something out. It also saves a substantial amount on your budget when you’re at the store. When you have a list in your hand you are much less likely to fall for the impulse buy (unless it is a paperback at the check outline, but I do not regret snagging The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). Another super helpful thing I have found is having a small white board on your fridge. That way when you run out of standard pantry items (eggs, milk, garlic, onions) you know what you need, and you don’t overspend guessing if you have something or not.
This lesson in kitchen budgeting is all the back story for this recipe. I was looking through my fantastic cookbook “Make it Fast, Cook it Slow” and I came across a recipe for layered enchiladas in the crock pot. The recipe was fairly simple and plain, and didn’t include much spice or healthy fillers like corn or beans (the constant turn to in southwestern cooking). So I decided to snazz it up a bit with some additions of my own. The reason it is called enchilada lasagna (the name I made up) is because I layered it in a casserole or crock pot instead of rolling it up into individual enchiladas. Like a lasagna, it has the meat, the cheese, and the starch in layers.
Today our lesson is in food history. I love history–there are always amazing back stories to the simplest things like paperclips or salt. That is the same here–the basic form of enchiladas goes all the way back to the Aztecs and Conquistadors. As is still common in Mexico today, the Aztecs ate much of their food wrapped up in tortillas (the Aztec word is tlaxcalli). In this particular instance, they ate small fish wrapped up in a tortilla with some kind of chili.
The word enchilada is actually the past participial of the Spanish word enchilar, which means to season or decorate with chilis. Traditional enchiladas, as I’m sure you know, are smothered in a chili sauce. The earliest known record of enchiladas is from the first Mexican cook book ever written–El cocinero mexicano in 1831. So this is not just some recent tex mex creation. But what we get in our normal Mexican restaurants is not the full extent of the possibilities of enchilada. We are used to just tortilla, meat, cheese and sauce. But in real Mexico they can be filled with a whole variety of things like potatoes, rice, beans, squash, veggies, corn, meat, and/or cheese. So me adding a bunch of veggies to my casserole isn’t so out there after all.
- 3 large chicken breasts
- Adobo seasoning
- 1 can black beans
- 1 can diced/crushed tomatoes (or Rotel–if using Rotel take out one of the cans of chilis below)
- 1 can diced mild green chilis (the little can)
- 1 can diced jalapenos (if you like it spicy. Otherwise a second one of mild).
- 1 can corn (I used frozen)
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 onion, chopped
- Cheese of your choice (I used pepper jack, but Monterrey Jack or mild cheddar would work too. I recommend a white cheese really.)
- Corn tortillas
- 1 can green enchilada sauce (can be found in the Mexican aisle).
- You can do this either in a crock pot or the oven. If oven, heat to 350 (375 high altitude).
- Season the chicken with the adobo seasoning. You can get it at most spice stores (like my favorite Penzey’s) or at the grocery store. Or you can look up a recipe online. Grill/cook in pan. Shred.
- Mix together the beans, chilis, onions, garlic, tomatoes and corn in a large bowl.
- Layer into a crock pot or a casserole dish in the following order: chicken, bean mix, cheese, tortillas, chicken, bean mix, cheese, tortillas. Then top with the can of enchilada sauce. Top that with more cheese (you can never have too much.)
- Bake for about 30 min (or until bubbly) in the oven, or on low 2-3 hrs, high 1-2 hrs in the crock pot. Just make sure you don’t go too long or the tortillas get mushy.