Liddie’s Traditional New Mexican Dishes: Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Green chile chicken enchilada casserole. Photo by Liddie Martinez

Espanola Valley

After a week’s travel to vertical eastern cities, I am dying for sunshine, vistas and green chile chicken enchiladas.

I long for our high desert and our unique food. This casserole is the ultimate in comfort food.

 Waiting at the luggage carousel I am taking virtual inventory of my pantry, my refrigerator, my deep freeze, visualizing all the ingredients I will need and lamenting another wait for the park and shuttle.

I speed to the I-25 exit, breeze by Sandias, sideline Santa Fe and breathe a sign of relief when I can finally see Truchas Peak off to my right.

I’m at the homestretch.

Before I unpack the car I am defrosting meat and chopping in a frenzy. Like most New Mexicans, I am passionate about green chile and every roasted, peeled and packed bundle gleams back at me, like a cache of emeralds, from my freezer.   

When I am in a purist mood, and have the time, I cook a chicken the day before, let it come to room temperature and bone and shred the chicken by hand.

But on most occasions, I cheat and buy a roasted chicken at Smith’s and save the time and trouble. In a real pinch, I always have a can or two of chicken in my pantry because when the urge calls – you must respond quickly.  

Another fall back is to substitute with a different protein like beef, or lamb or turkey but, of course, in an emergency, forget about the chicken or its substitute, it’s really all about the chile anyway.

This casserole version is easy, feeds a large group (about 12 servings) and, if you have any leftovers, you can freeze them in small containers and take some for lunch whenever you like!

Green Chile
3 Cups Green Chile, roasted, peeled and chopped
1 ½ Lbs. Beef or Pork (or a mixture) ground or cubed
1 Small Onion, chopped
4 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Cups Tomatoes, chopped
2 Cups Chicken stock
1 Cup Cold Water
3 Tbsps. Olive Oil
3 Tbsps. Flour
1 Tbsp. Bouquet Browning (optional)  
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a heavy dutch oven brown beef and onions in olive oil over medium heat until it begins to sizzle in the pot. Make sure to season the beef with salt and pepper, this builds a base of flavor for the dish.

Add minced garlic and flour and cook for two full minutes. Add stock, water, green chile, tomatoes and Bouquet Browning.  

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 20 minutes or until tomatoes collapse. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Chicken Enchiladas
7-8 Cups Green Chile
18  Corn Tortillas
2    Cups Boneless Chicken, shredded
3 Cups Longhorn Cheddar Cheese, grated 5-6 Tbsps. Olive Oil
1 Can Large Black Olives
1 small container Sour Cream

In a large frying pan heat olive oil to medium heat and fry each tortilla for a second on each side, leaving them soft and draining on paper towels.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the center.

In a large casserole dish begin by placing six of the tortillas to cover the bottom and form the first layer, cover tortillas with half the chicken, top with cheese and then smother with green chile.

Begin second layer with six more tortillas, the rest of the chicken, top with cheese and smother with green chile.

Cover with last layer of tortillas, smother with green chile, top with cheese and place in oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and an olive.