Saturday, August 18, 2012


I think a lot about food. This is what you do when you're trying to give up all the food that is bad for you, which is a constant, unwinnable battle. (How is unwinnable not a word? It should completely be a word, right? Things that can't be won: unwinnable. I guess I could just say futile but that's not quite the same. Whatever. Words are stupid. Says person who writes a lot.)

Anyway, I was discussing our mutual attempts to eat better when a friend said something about scrambling eggs and them not coming out right and I asked her what she did and she said, "Ya know, just scramble them in the pan." What? No. What? NO. AHAHAHA What? Noooo. I then described in detail how to scramble eggs. At least how I do it. (Opinions vary, as I discovered when I went to link friend to a "how to scramble eggs" youtube clip and none were quite what I do. But none were "throw eggs in pan and scramble" either.)

Then 40 Going on 28 wrote about popping corn on the stove top and what a revelation that was. Something I had already informed you good people about.

Funny what you grow up knowing about cooking. It helps that I happen to truly love being alone in a kitchen doing stuff. Sort of powerful for me. Which is one reason why my problem with food persists. I'm currently whipping up these bad boys BECAUSE I CAN. And I like afternoon tea. And shortbread goes really well with afternoon tea. Apparently I'm British. (Related: I bought a Bloomspot deal, and the other day and my mom and I went to Dartealing to use it. In white girl speak: Super adorbs! Highly recommended tea place.)

All of which is a really long way of saying: I know my way around a kitchen and hope you guys learn to love what I love.

Along those lines, I've been thinking about sharing this Chicken Enchilada Casserole recipe for awhile. I was even going to include pretty pictures next time I made it and all that but I am a horrible photographer so...whatever.

I thought about sharing this one because I was thinking about death (of course I was) and how there is this tradition of bringing casseroles when people die. Strikes me as very Southern thing to do. Casseroles themselves are this weird post-WWII Betty Draper kind of thing. When we were looking for convenience in our foods, ways to make things ahead from canned items and reduce time in the kitchen so we could drink scotch and smoke cigarettes while pregnant, there suddenly was this proliferation of one dish casseroles. Pretty sure the Campbell's "Cream of..." line exists solely for the purpose of casseroles.

Here's the thing about casseroles: they are kind of a mid-century abomination. Nothing about the below recipe is going to sound appetizing. It's going to LOOK awful. I promise you it tastes delicious. It's one of those handy, make ahead, feed a big group recipes. But this is not elegant, fancy plated stuff. This is feeding your family of 4 on a budget food.

Hysterically, even for convenience, this was a special occasion meal growing up. Before you could buy roasted chickens you had to boil your own chicken for this and shred your own cheese and it was so much labor. So my mom would refuse to make it. But now it's a simple matter of getting store bought items and putting them together.

Oh: I have no idea of the provenance of this recipe. The printed version we have is from one of my cousin's parents recipe books for their Catholic grammar school, which they graduated from in the mid-80s. Not that anyone has opened the recipe book in years because we know how to do this by memory. But beyond that? No idea where this comes from. Generations of housewives is my guess.


Chicken Enchilada Casserole (This is about as Mexican as going to Taco Bell. But delicious!)

What you need:
1 whole roasted chicken. Ya know, the Costco kind.
4 cups shredded cheese. Whatever you want. I usually go with the Mexican 4 cheese blend for "authenticity".
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup (seriously, don't think too much about the ingredients)
12 corn tortillas, sliced into about 1.5" wide strips
Salsa, about a cup. I usually use Pace Medium for this. You do NOT want fancy fresh salsa. Jarred salsa.
1/4 cup of milk
9x13" pan

Alright, messy not fun part first: shred your chicken. Peal off the skin and take all the meat off the chicken and shred it into bite size pieces and put it aside. I actually usually use 1 & 1/2 Costco chickens for this because I like mine really chicken-y but if you don't need a second Costco chicken sitting around your house taking up room, then just one will be plenty.

Once your chicken is all shredded, in a separate bowl mix together the two cans of soup, the salsa and the milk. I know, okay. It looks gross. But it really doesn't taste awful. You have to trust me here. You might want to add more salsa than a cup. It's up to you. It should be sort of a vague pinkish color.

Take your 9x13 pan and butter the bottom really well. Then pour 2 tablespoons of water in.

Take half the sliced tortillas and layer them in an overlapping pattern on the bottom of your pan so that the entire pan is covered.

Evenly disperse half your shredded chicken on top of the tortilla layer. Then half your sauce mixture. Sauce doesn't have to be a perfect layer but try and get it all over the place. Then half your cheese. (I usually use about 3 cups cheese total, so 1 1/2 cups here. Just a nice, not too thick layer of cheese.)

Then repeat: tortillas covering the cheese, the rest of your chicken, the rest of the sauce, rest of the cheese.

Cover with foil and leave overnight, or for at least 6 hours. Basically: make this the day ahead or first thing in the morning and let it sit.

When you're ready for dinner: put the whole thing in 350 degree oven for an hour.

Ta-da! Abominable, BUT DELICIOUS! casserole. Serves, I dunno, 8? Good for parties with the melty cheesy gooey factor going on. Or to bring to a friend who had a loved one die. Or for stressed out parents of a newborn who can't figure out how to feed themselves. Or just to, ya know, feed yourself.

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