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Chicken Enchilada Casserole

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Casseroles are the go-to dinner for weeknight family meals: they usually feed a ton of people and, even better, left-overs from casseroles are delicious the next day too! My Chicken Enchilada Casserole is definitely one of those meals. Yet pretty simple to make, I have decided to give you two alternative recipes for the method to use for preparing the chicken. You know me; I am a girl who goes for full flavors… So the first option involves roasting a whole bird, which results in a more flavorful and moister sauce. If you don’t have the time or patience, you can definitely use chicken breast instead. One last thing, this recipe was modified from the Chicken Enchilada Casserole I ate 3 weeks ago at my Husband’s aunt’s (Angie Dennig). Her good friend, Jean Ricchiute, made a recipe that had me craving more and more. I could not stop stop thinking about it, that’s how good it was (yes, pregnancy does that sort of stuff). So huge thank you to Jean for sharing the recipe that inspired me to make my own Chicken Enchilada Casserole. I hope you enjoy!

Serves 8

Chicken Ingredients (see Cook’s Notes for alternative method):

  • 1 roasting chicken (4 to 5 pounds)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mexican Spicy Blend Ingredients:

  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 can tomato sauce (15 ounces)
  • 2 cans chopped green chiles (4.5 ounces each)
  • 24 white corn tortillas
  • 6 cups mild cheddar, shredded (preferable freshly shredded)

Garnish Ingredients:

  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions for Chicken:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse chicken inside and out. Place chicken in a working surface and remove any excess fat. Pat dry really well using paper towels. Season generously with salt and pepper; spreading it well inside the cavity and on the outside of the chicken. Tie the legs with chicken string and tuck the wing tips under the body of chicken.
Transfer chicken to a roasting pan and roast for approximately 60 minutes, or until juices run clear when cut between leg and thigh. Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil. Allow to cool at room temperature.
Shred chicken into small pieces, as tiny as possible. Do not use food processor. Discard bones and any excess skin. Return chicken to roasting pan and mix well with juices from pan. Cover and set aside.

Directions for Mexican Spicy Blend:

In a small bowl, mix chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika, sugar and cayenne until combined. Add to shredded chicken and stir to blend. Set aside.

Directions for Sauce:

To a large sauce pan set over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Once oil is hot, add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle all-purpose flour and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Reduce heat to medium and slowly add milk, constantly whisking, until it thickens. Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, and green chiles. Cook uncovered for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chicken and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Assemblage:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cover the bottom of a large baking pan, measuring about 11 x 14 inches, with 1 ladle of the chicken sauce. Layer 8 corn tortillas, overlapping where needed to cover the bottom of casserole dish. Top with 3 to 4 ladles of chicken sauce and 2 cups of cheddar cheese. Repeat the process one more time. Top with the remaining 8 corn tortillas, chicken sauce and remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese melts and the sauce bubbles, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh tomatoes and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Cook’s Notes:

If you don’t have the time or patience to roast the whole bird, I recommend that you use 4 pounds of deboned and skinless chicken breast, or 5 pounds of chicken breast with bones and skin attached as substitutes. In both cases, you will cook the breasts in a large sauce pan of salted boiling water until they are fully cooked; 45 to 55 minutes. Discard the water (or save it to use it in soups). Allow breasts to come to room temperature then shred into tiny pieces, using your hands (don’t use food process otherwise you will end up with ground chicken meat). I am a huge fan of the flavors and moisture that result from roasting the whole chicken, but you can use chicken breast if you prefer.

In this recipe, I used the fresh young chicken from NatureRaised Farms. I was so excited to hear that their product is now available in the Fort Wayne area!!! Their line of all natural chicken products, are 100% antibiotic free. The chickens also enjoy a 100% vegetarian diet, free of steroids and hormones. Such great care reflects in the product’s delicious, fresh flavor; which will also reflect in the health of our kids (and on our own). Click here to connect to the NatureRaised Farm GIVEAWAY page, for a chance to win a gift basket with their products!

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Loaded with chicken sauce, this Chicken Enchilada Casserole super moist and delicious!

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