Chicken Chilaquiles Casserole
Originally created to use up leftovers, chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish that lends itself well to all sorts of variations. For this recipe we've simmered bite-sized pieces of chicken in a creamy sauce flavored with jalapeño, lime, cilantro and scallions and layered them with strips of lightly-fried corn tortillas and a topping of gooey Monterey Jack cheese.
Chicken Chilaquiles Casserole
- 6 (6-inch) corn tortillas (see shortcut tip below)
- Vegetable oil
- 1-1/4 lb chicken tenderloins (about 12 pieces)
- 5 tablespoons flour, divided
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/4 cup cream
- 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
- 4 to 5 scallions, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 cup coarsely grated Monterey jack cheese
Stack the tortillas, cut them into thin (3/8-inch) strips, then cut the strips in half crosswise.
Add about 1/8-inch of vegetable oil to a large, heavy skillet. Heat over medium-high heat and once the oil is shimmering, add about 1/3 of the tortilla strips. Fry the strips until crisp and golden, tossing them frequently to ensure even cooking.
Transfer the cooked strips to a paper towel-lined plate and season with a pinch of salt while they're still hot. Repeat the process with the remaining 2 batches of tortilla strips, adding a little extra oil if necessary. Set aside and wipe out the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and coat a 9-inch square baking dish with nonstick spray.
If necessary, trim any white tendons from the chicken tenderloins and cut each one into 4 or 5 bite-sized pieces. Place 3 tablespoons of the flour in a shallow dish (a pie plate works well) and add the cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of black pepper and combine well. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, shake off the excess and set aside.
Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan you fried the tortilla strips in and return it to the stove over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and pale golden in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté just until fragrant, then sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Combine well and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the flour takes on a golden color, 2 to 3 minutes more.
Add the chicken broth and lime juice and whisk until smooth. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cream, then pour the sauce into a measuring cup (2-cup) and set aside.
Wipe out the pan, return it to the stove over medium-high heat and add a little more oil. Add the chicken and cook, turning frequently, until the floured exterior is light gold, 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and jalapeño, cook 1 minute longer, then add half of the reserved sauce. Stir in the scallions and cilantro and remove from the heat.
Scatter half of the fried tortilla strips in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Add the chicken mixture in an even layer and top with the remaining tortilla strips. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top, then sprinkle with the cheese.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings
You can cut your prep time for this recipe by using store-bought tortilla chips. Just break up them up a bit and proceed with the rest of the recipe as written.
In Mexico, chilaquiles are often served for breakfast or brunch. Try our Chilaquiles with Fresh Salsa and Avocado topped with a sunny side up egg.