Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Box, A Can, and A Bottle

First things first - it's Veteran's Day in the U.S. A big "thank you" to our armed forces, past and present, and to their families whose sacrifices often go unrecognized.

Longer ago than I care to admit I spent six months in West Africa. We went to the capitol on occasion but mostly stayed on/near campus in "bush country" - lots of banana and mango trees, lots of rice growing, lots of malaria. And no packaged food. The closest you could get was a Maggi cube (chicken bouillon) at the market; other than that, we were on our own to turn just-stopped-squawking chicken, hot peppers, rice, and coconut into a meal.

Oddly enough, twenty years later it's now the hot, healthy thing to do.

And of course, I'm exactly off-trend by discovering this gem of a Chicken Tamale Casserole recipe. It uses a box (of cornbread mix), a can (of green peppers) and a bottle (of red enchilada sauce). And it's delicious.

If you need to divide the work, then cook & shred the chicken and bake the cornbread in one session, and combine for casseroling in another.

Chicken Tamale Casserole
Cooking Light, November 2008

1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded 4-cheese Mexican blend (y'all know how I feel about pre-shredded cheese. Blech. I used cheddar and some Monterey Jack that I put in the freezer after making enchiladas a few weeks ago)
1/3 cup skim milk
1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon ground cumin (great stuff that adds flavor, but don't buy it just for this recipe if you don't have it)
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (ditto)
1 14-ish-ounce can cream-style corn
1 8.5-ounce box corn muffin mix (we're a Jiffy family)
1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained
Cooking spray
1 10-ounce can or bottle red enchilada sauce (Trader Joe's "Mexican Red Sauce" is great)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream (optional)

1. Preeat oven to 400 degrees

2. Combine 1/4 cup cheese, milk, egg or egg substitte, cumin, red pepper, creamed corn, and corn muffin mix in a large bowl. Stir until moist. Pour mixture into a 13x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

3. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until set [the original recipe said 15 minutes; mine took at least 25, so start checking it at 20]

If you're not making the recipe all at once (e.g. your kids are out of the house in the afternoon and you can't get 20 minutes to cook when they're home; you can do prep work the night before and need to get dinner in the oven right after work), turn off the oven and move on with your day.

4. Pierce the surface of the cornbread liberally with a fork. Pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.

5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes (really) or until cheese melts. Remove from oven, let stand 5 minutes. Slice, and top each serving with sour cream.

A green salad goes well with this. Black beans would also make a good side dish.

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