I was really excited when Alton Brown won the poll last week. He happens to be my favorite of all the major celebrity chefs because he’s a) smart b) funny and c) geeky. All things that I aspire to be.
Browsing through Alton Brown’s recipes, I wanted to make sure I picked one that really embodied his philosophy. This philosophy, it seems to me, is finding ways to keep all the flavor while making cooking as accessible and easy as possible.
When I saw enchilada lasagna on the list I knew I had to make it. Actually, my first thought was, “Yea. Why would you need to roll up a corn tortilla? Why can’t you just layer it?”
Turns out you can and it tastes identical to real enchiladas. I’m not sure that I can justify ever making real enchiladas again!
Yield: 9x13 baking dish
2 16 ounce cans tomato sauce (about 3 cups)
2-3 chipotles in Adobo sauce, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 Teaspoons cumin seeds
2 Cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper
1.5 pounds chicken breasts or thighs, diced (you could also use beans for a vegetarian version)
2 poblano peppers, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
12-14 (6 inch) corn tortillas
1 pound shredded cheese, I used a combination of Pepper Jack and Queso Oaxaca.
1) In a medium pot, add a swirl of olive oil over medium heat. Then add diced garlic and chipotle peppers and cook for a minute or two.
2) Add cumin and chili powder and continue to cook for another minute.
3) Add chicken stock and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer with a pinch of salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until needed.
4) For filling, add a swirl of oil to a skillet and add diced chicken. Once almost cooked, add peppers and onions and continue to cook until they are soft, about 3-4 minutes.
5) In a 9x13 baking dish, rub it down with vegetable oil, then ladle in 1/2 Cup of sauce to the bottom.
6) Dip tortillas in sauce and lay them in the bottom of the dish until they cover it. You'll probably need 4 and you might need to cut one in half.
7) Add half of the chicken filling, followed by 1/3 of the grated cheese.
8) Then add another layer of tortillas with sauce, followed by the rest of the filling, followed by another 1/3 of the cheese.
9) Finish with a third layer of tortillas and the last of the cheese.
10) Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly, about 30 minutes.
11) Let cool before serving.
Heavily adapted from Alton Brown.
Start-to-finish this dish will probably take you 75-90 minutes to make depending on how quick you are in the kitchen. I’d guess this is 25-30 minutes faster than a traditional enchilada recipe.
Making the Sauce
The first step for this recipe is getting the sauce ready. In a pinch, you could use a canned enchilada sauce, but I like customizing my sauces a bit so I always try to make it if I have time.
The only real chopping that you’ll need to do for the sauce is to mince up the garlic and chipotle peppers. I left the seeds in my chipotles to give them extra heat. Just mince up everything pretty finely like so.
To make the sauce, add a swirl of olive oil to a medium pot and get it heated over medium heat. Add the garlic and chipotles and cook for a few seconds.
Then add all the spices (cumin, chili powder) and continue to cook. This will smell really good and the dry pan will toast the cumin seeds a bit which enhances their flavor. Be sure to stir it regularly and keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
After a minute or two of cooking, add the tomato sauce, chicken stock, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and simmer until you’re ready to make the lasagna.
Making the Filling
The filling for this dish is almost as easy.
You’ll just need these things. I added the poblano peppers to give the filling some color and flavor. Alton’s recipe didn’t have this, but I liked the addition.
Dice up the chicken and add it to a skillet over medium high heat with a swirl of olive oil. Once the chicken is almost cooked, add the onions and poblano peppers and cook until they are soft, about 3-4 minutes.
My poblano peppers in this photo are WAY too big. Be sure to dice yours finer if you use them.
Putting Together the Lasagna!
This is the part where you really save a lot of time. If you’ve ever made enchiladas before, it usually involves quickly soaking tortillas in sauce, then adding some filling, rolling them up, and stacking them in the dish.
In short, it’s a messy process that takes some time.
If we’re doing it lasagna style though, all you need to do is lightly oil your baking dish, add about 1/2 Cup of sauce to the bottom of the dish, then start dipping your tortillas in the sauce and layering them in the pan.
You’re just going for an even layer of tortillas here so feel free to rip them up to get that. This was my optimal layout.
Then just add about half of your chicken filling. This is easy people.
Next add a layer of cheese. Use about 1/3 of your cheese.
Then another layer of tortillas in sauce, then the final 1/2 of your filling, followed by 1/3 of your cheese.
Then more tortillas and finally the last 1/3 of your cheese.
This will all take you maybe 10 minutes and be a lot less messy than the traditional rolling method. You’ll end up with this awesome casserole dish full of delicious filling, cheese and sauce.
Bake this at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until the cheese is really melted and the sauce is bubbling.
Let it cool for a minute or two before slicing into it.
The awesome thing about this dish is that I promise if you did a side-by-side taste test between this and traditional enchiladas with the same sauce and filling, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
It tastes the exact same, which is to say that it tastes amazing.
I forgot to photograph it but I served mine with some Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and it was really taste.
You’ll most likely have lots of leftovers here which is just fine because they re-heat beautifully.
I can’t exactly think of a reason right now why I’ll ever make traditional enchiladas again. This was just too easy and too good.
As always, thanks Alton.