GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 29, 2012

1-2-3-4-5: That's all the ingredients needed for this Chicken Enchilada Casserole

By Victoria Brown
Special to to the Times

Chicken Enchilada Casserole with:

"This recipe only has one, two, three, four, five ingredients so it's going to be very quick to put together" boasts Stephanie Smith of Changing Tides Gifts in Gloucester. She uses pre-prepared ingredients — rotisserie chicken, tortilla, salsa verde, cheese and cream — layers them like a lasagna and bakes for 30 minutes. "It's pretty easy," she says, "and it makes a fabulous dinner."

According to the National Restaurant Association, Americans are spending more money on eating out than ever before. Approximately half of the money we spend on food is spent in restaurants. With this comes an assortment of health issues, such as obesity, that are associated with eating out more, particularly fast food. Often we do not have the time, energy or desire to cook a proper meal at the end of the day, so what can we do if we want to be more health conscious? Besides being more careful with menu selections when eating out, home meal preparation rather than home cooking could be a step in the right direction.

Home meal preparation refers to making a meal using something that is already partially cooked or prepared. For example, with Smith's dish, you buy a rotisserie chicken that has already been cooked, a packet of tortillas, a jar of salsa verde, some cheese and cream and then assemble the dish at home.

The beauty of a throw-together dish like this is that you can add whatever you have in the fridge that needs using up; you don't have to stick to the core ingredients. "I make this with different varieties" says Smith, "In the summertime when I've got fresh zucchini and summer squash I sauté© summer squash and zucchini with a little bit of garlic and olive oil and then I put them in here as a layer."

Smith highlights just how versatile a rotisserie chicken can be. She uses half her chicken to make enough for two people and then saves the rest for a chicken curry salad the next day. You could make all manner of salads with the leftovers — how about a Vietnamese chicken salad with vermicelli noodles, red onion, crushed peanuts, cilantro and mint, dressed with fish sauce and lime? Or what about using the leftovers in place of chicken breast in a chicken Caesar salad? Alternatively, you could mix it with some mayonnaise for the perfect sandwich filler. And don't forget you can make a delicious stock with the bones.

Quite apart from the fact that it tastes great and it's easy to make, Smith says one of the great things about this dish is that it "looks like you've slaved forever over a 5-minute meal." She suggests serving it with a side of vegetables and a squeeze of fresh lime. Her verdict? "Awesome. You really have to try this recipe."

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Ingredients

1/2 pre-roasted whole chicken, meat shredded (or equivalent pre-cooked white chicken meat, about 1/2 to 1 pound)

1 jar roasted tomatillo sauce (or green verde sauce) (about 2 cups)

4 medium sized tortillas (flour or corn)

1/2 pound mozzarella or other crumbly cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

1. After shredding the chicken, place a little of the salsa on the bottom of a small casserole baking dish or pan. You will be layering the ingredients similar to a lasagna.

2. Cut tortillas into 1/2-inch strips and place half on bottom of casserole dish, covering the salsa.

3. Place a layer of the shredded chicken over the tortilla strips.

4. Place a layer of crumbled cheese onto the chicken layer. Cover with more of the salsa.

5. Repeat layering with rest of tortillas, chicken and cheese. Finish assembling by adding heavy cream over the top.

6. Cook in 375 degree F. oven for about 20 to 30 minutes, until heated through and top is browned. Note: All ingredients are already cooked so you are only trying to heat thoroughly.

Any suitable ingredients can be substituted or added. Stephanie often uses vegetables such as sauté©ed squash from her garden in summer.

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Recipe courtesy of Stephanie Smith, Changing Tides Gift Shop, ACE Hardware, 2012.