I have been asked in the past if all I ate growing up in Mexico was tacos and burritos. That assumption has never offended me, though. I understand that a lot of people in the USA have that impression thanks to Taco Bell and other food chains. But that is as wrong as thinking that Americans only eat hamburgers and hotdogs, though many people in Mexico believe that.
Most of the “Mexican” food I’ve encountered up here is unfamiliar to me. Burritos, chimichangas, hard shell tacos, quesadillas, fajitas, chalupas and so many others were either new to me or completely different than their original versions and none of them are the main entrée on a typical Mexican table. Most of them are considered snacks or fritangas.
In my parents’ restaurant I learned that Mexican cuisine has a great variety of dishes and tastes, not everything is spicy, either. They had a different menu every day that rotated throughout the month (those kinds of restaurants are known as “fondas”) and my dad always included at least one new dish a month. One of my all time favorite recipes is a tortilla and chicken casserole that was seldom part of the menu. My mom reserved it for special occasions, the delicious pastel (cake) Azteca.
As with almost every recipe, there is an easy and a not so easy way to prepare it. Here is the typical way to prepare it. The shortcuts are at the end of the recipe.
- •1 chicken breast shredded
- •1 lb Roma tomatoes
- •1 medium size onion
- •3 garlic cloves peeled
- •1-2 canned chipotle adobado peppers
- •24 corn tortillas
- •3 cups chicken broth
- •8 oz. Chihuahua cheese shredded 2 cups approx.
- •Salt to taste
- Cut tortillas in triangles (quarters) and fried them in batches until they turn hard, Mexican restaurant style.
- Blend together tomatoes, ¾ of the onion, garlic and adobado peppers using one cup of chicken broth.
- In a large pot pour the tomato mix.
- Add the rest of the chicken broth and salt and let it simmer for about 10 minutes over medium heat. Stir constantly.
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Cut the rest of the onion in thin slices.
- Place a layer of tortilla chips at the bottom of a 9”x13” baking dish using ⅓ of the tortillas.
- Add another layer using half of the shredded chicken, ⅓ of the sliced onion and ⅓ of shredded cheese.
- Pour some of the tomato sauce.
- Add another layer of ingredients, tortilla chips, cheese, onion and the rest of the chicken.
- Finish up with a layer of tortilla chips and onion.
- Pour the rest of the tomato sauce.
- Top off with the remaining cheese.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Use a 16 oz bag of tortilla chips instead of frying your own tortillas. Just be careful with the amount of salt you use since most commercial tortilla chips are already salted.
- Instead of boiling and shredding your own chicken, buy chicken bits. I personally don’t like the precooked packaged chicken. There’s nothing like the flavor of chicken breasts boiled with the bone, salt, onion and garlic. You can even make your own chicken broth that way.
- Use a shredded Mexican cheese blend found in grocery stores if you don’t find Chihuahua cheese.
- Use a prepared enchilada sauce found in the Mexican food isle of your grocery store. I am not sure about this last shortcut. I have never used any kind of prepared sauce before so I wouldn’t know what the result would be like. But if you don’t have enough time to prepare your own sauce, I guess it’s a valid shortcut.
I have a list of typical Christmas Mexican recipes I am going to make in the next weeks that I will be posting here. So stay tuned if you want to have a tasty twist in your Holiday cooking.