Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Turkey Enchilada Casserole

You know those days when you open the refrigerator and/or freezer and feel like you've got nothing but little bits of stuff in there.  That is a great sign that it is time to make enchilada casserole.  Enchilada casserole is easy to prepare, it tastes great, and the leftovers taste even better.  The variations are nearly endless.  You can substitute chicken or beef for the turkey, use any type of beans, and leave out the rice if you want.  Leftover corn is nice with beef and kidney beans.  You can add pretty much any sort of tomato product:  fresh, paste, sauce, salsa, etc.  Old vegetables are easily hidden in this mixture, but we are actually out of fresh product right now.

In my picture, you can see leftover tortillas (corn and flour) that were way past their prime, leftover turkey meat from the freezer, leftover white beans from another recipe, leftover rice, and some cheese sticks that had been cut to make homemade monterey jack sticks but not used because the mozzarella ones didn't really taste that good.  There is also a can of enchilada sauce (green chili this time), a bag of shredded cheese that I didn't end up using, and some extra tortillas that I didn't need either.

First, defrost anything that is frozen.  In my case, it was the turkey and the rice. I defrosted everything in the same bowl.   If your meat is big, chop it up into small bits.  You don't want a huge hunk of turkey in your bite - messy!  As you can see, I'm using the dark meat that I always seem to have leftover.

Mix together the filling.

Pour a thin layer of your sauce (red, green, whatever) in the bottom of the baking dish.  Top with a layer of the tortillas.  I used the sort of mangled but not destroyed tortillas on the bottom layer.

Mix the rest of your sauce in with your filling.  You want it to be relatively wet.

Top your first layer of tortillas with some of the meat mixture.  I ended up using about half of the meat in the first layer, but this is very flexible.  I had envisioned several thin layers of meat with more tortillas, but I didn't have that many tortillas and the meat didn't want to spread nicely.  Top with cheese.  If you are using shredded cheese, about a 1/2 cup per layer is good (more or less is fine.  You can even skip the cheese altogether and this will be good.)

Continue layering until you run out of ingredients or room in your dish. I was lucky as I ran out of both at roughly the same time. You can place tortillas on top before the final layer of cheese, or just the meat mixture and then the cheese.  As you can see, I sliced up the last tortilla and threw it on the top before the last bit of cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until heated through. Your actual time will vary based upon the size and shape of dish that you use.  It should be bubbly and maybe a little brownish on top.

I baked this during the day and left to run around like a crazy Momma.  I heard jealous comments from other moms when my kids would inquire about dinner and I could say, "It already made and waiting for us at home."  When we got to the house, I cut it into squares and microwaved it while I made a veggie tray.  I served it with steamed frozen corn.

The Verdict

Not bad at all.  It felt a little heavy, but it was warm, comforting, and not too spicy for the kids.  I think that using all monteray jack cheese was too thick for it, and I'll definitely use a lighter mix next time.   The dark meat flavor of the turkey was noticeable and I didn't like that too much, but it was good enough otherwise that I ate quite a bit.  Two children ate multiple servings each.  (Although one child claimed, as she asked me to heat her a third piece, that it was only because she had a headache and so she couldn't actually taste the food.  Ah, teenagers...)  Two kids tried it and claimed that they didn't like it.  The dreamy husband is out on the boat for a few weeks, so no reviews from him.  He will be finding it in his lunch some day when he returns, so maybe he'll give us an opinion then.

Turkey Enchilada Casserole, serves 6 big portions

tortillas or corn chips
two cups leftover turkey or chicken, shredded or chopped fairly small
one cup white beans
cheese, around two cups
one or two cans enchilada sauce, taco sauce, or salsa
leftover rice
any other random things you can sneak in

Pour a bit of sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish.

Mix the meat, beans, rice and other filling ingredients in a large bowl. Add the remaining sauce and mix well.

Cover bottom of baking dish with one layer of tortillas or chips.

Spread a layer of filling mixture over tortillas or chips.

Top with cheese to please.

Repeat layers until you are out of stuff.

Top with cheese.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is bubbly and hot throughout.  Actual cooking times will vary greatly depending on the size and shape of your baking container.

This freezes beautifully and is even better the next day.  I'm looking forward to the leftovers right now.

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