Lazy Mexican Night – Tortilla Casserole

I should clarify that post title. I wasn’t entirely lazy with this dish. In fact, I started out quite industrious.

You see, I have always wanted to make enchiladas. I have made a few taco variations, but enchiladas never made it onto the menu. I don’t know why. They have many similar components. Enchiladas just get baked with lots of sauce and tacos don’t.

Oh yes, the sauce. Let’s talk about the sauce. I see plenty of enchilada recipes floating around the net and so many of them use jarred enchilada sauce. Is enchilada sauce really that complicated that one needs to buy it jarred?

In my opinion, there are few sauces out there one should ever buy from a jar. The main one is marinara of course. In fact, most sauces one would put on pasta are too easy to make and taste so much better than any jarred pasta sauce that I can’t understand the appeal. I don’t think gravy in a jar is such a hot idea either. When I looked at the components of enchilada sauce, I didn’t see why it shouldn’t be homemade too.

Normally I would have started with canned tomatoes, which I would feel no guilt about, but lately the food police are telling me that canned tomatoes are deadly and dangerous and full of leached chemicals from the can. Thanks guys! I appreciate having to be afraid of a pantry staple. On the bright side, it’s summer and the time has come for the best fresh ripe tomatoes to crowd the farmer’s markets. I can make truly fresh and homemade sauces almost out of the garden. I always love making pasta and marinara, but why not try something a little different and make a fresh enchilada sauce? How about one with chipotle?

I started with a buttload of plum tomatoes.

I scored and blanched them as I would do for marinara. Then I put them through my food mill. I received this food mill as a Christmas gift, but haven’t used it yet because my true purpose in wanting it was to get a perfectly skinless, seedless and lumpless tomato puree. I was imagining marinara when I asked for it, but why not christen it with a fresh enchilada sauce?

Once I had my tomatoes blanched, pureed, seasoned and cooked, I really didn’t feel much like filling and rolling enchiladas. I wanted to take the easy route. I decided on a layered tortilla casserole.

Turkey meat and onions get cooked together first and then I added a can of black beans. (Canned beans are another no-no aren’t they? Yeah, well, I’m too lazy to soak and cook dried beans too. I admit it.)

I put a layer of sauce in the pan, then a layer of tortillas, then a layer of meat. For half of the dish (my half) I layered some cheese (reduced fat because I’m getting rather tubby these days and I need to cut back somewhere). Laziness prevailed again as I bought pre-shredded cheese. The top got a layer of sauce and my half had cheese on top to indicate which was the cheese side.

Yummy, cheesy, and spicy goodness. The fresh sauce hit the spot. Sir Pickypants liked it a lot, but thought it was too spicy. I really have to show some restraint with the chipotle powder. I thought this was even better than I expected it to be. Just because I'm addicted to chipotle powder doesn't mean I should force it on everyone else.

I could see this as a vegetarian dish with maybe a second type of bean and some fresh corn.

Tortilla Casserole

16 plum tomatoes
Olive oil for sauteeing
2 pinches of salt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 Tbl (or less) chipotle powder
2 small onions, diced
1 pound ground turkey
1 15oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 8oz package shredded Mexican cheese blend
15-20 corn tortillas (will depend on size and shape of your baking dish)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Put a pot of water on to boil and have a bowl of cold water nearby. Score an x into each tomato skin with a small sharp knife. Carefully drop them into the boiling water and boil for 2/3 minutes or until you start to see the skins peel away. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in the bowl of ice water. Remove skins and squeeze out seeds and puree. If you have a food mill, place them in the mill with the fine disc and that will remove skins and seeds for you and puree them.

In a large pan, cook the garlic in a little oil until fragrant. Add the tomato puree. Mix in the cumin, chili powder, and chipotle powder and gently simmer.

In another pan cook the onions in a little more oil until transparent. Add the turkey and brown well. Stir in the black beans.

Put a small amount of the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Place enough corn tortillas in the dish to cover the bottom. Add half of the turkey mixture, cover with sauce, and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with another layer of tortillas. Add the next layer of turkey, sauce, and cheese. Cover the top with tortillas and spread the remaining cheese and sauce on top.

Bake about 30 minutes or until bubbly and cheese on top is a bit browned.


bellini valli said…
This does sound quick, east and delicious!!!
Sue said…
YUM! I also love chipotle chili pepper. That really sounds good and it looks like there were lots of leftovers, which is always a good thing.
The Blonde Duck said…
Now you've shamed me into making my own enchilada sauce.
polwig said…
That looks very yummy. I totally agree with you that marinara and most sauces should NEVER be made out of a jar. You can always make a batch ahead of time and freeze them too. (your sentance says ever I assumed it meant never)
The Blonde Duck said…
Believe it or not, Carolina is based on a certain Blond Duck...

Without the grandma.
There is nothing lazy about making an enchilada casserole. I've done it many times. I chuckled when I saw your food mill and tomatoes. I did that (posted it two summers ago). It's far too much work for me! I buy canned tomatoes and I'm not ashamed of it. I buy them at Whole Foods, and I'm still alive and well. While I cook fresh and organic, I still buy some things in cans. Beans are perfectly fine, but I rinse off that liquid. Like you, I don't always plan ahead and soak beans. After the holidays, I'll get busy posting more of my heirloom Mexican recipes. I had no idea they were that popular!