What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word casserole? For me, it’s Thanksgiving and the green bean casserole I always refused to eat (though I would always steal some of the canned fried onions; I still love those things). Canned green beans and canned cream of mushroom soup. That’s my childhood memory of casseroles. Though the green bean casserole Eric and I make now is a far cry from the kind I grew up with, I still think of icky combinations of canned stuff when I hear the word.
These days, I’m discovering a new love for casseroles. There’s something homey and warm about a whole meal baked in one pan, don’t you think? My friend Josie is the casserole queen, and I mean that in the best possible way. I think I’ve saved every single one she’s posted. These aren’t the casseroles from my childhood, either. They’re colorful and flavorful and made with fresh ingredients.
This casserole has Tex-Mex influences, so you know I loved it. It is a bit spicy with the jalapeños and chipotles but not so much that we held off sharing with Clara. There’s so much texture between the black beans, corn, crunchy tortilla chips and creamy chicken and rice mixture that it doesn’t even give the feeling of being a casserole. We try to expose Clara to a lot of different flavors and textures through the food she eats, and this one was a home run. She loved it, and so did we. We don’t typically make casseroles unless we’re serving a lot of people, but this one freezes beautifully and turned into several meals for us. It will most certainly be making an appearance on our meal plan very soon.
- YIELD: about 10 servings
For the casserole:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 jalapeños, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 chipotles in adobo, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
¼ cup flour
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4-5 breast halves), trimmed of excess fat
1½ cups white rice
4 ounces Pepperjack cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1½ cups frozen corn
Juice of 2 limes
Ground black pepper
¼ cup minced green onions
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
For the topping:
6 ounces corn tortilla chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bell peppers, onion, jalapeños, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook until softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chipotles, cumin, and chile powder and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute, then slowly whisk in the broth and cream.
Add the chicken and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool.
Stir in the rice, cover and continue cooking on low heat, stirring often, until the rice has absorbed some of the liquid and is just tender, 20-25 minutes. Don’t worry if there’s still a lot of liquid because it will absorb more as it bakes in the oven.
While the rice is cooking, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces and make the crumb topping. Place the tortilla chips and melted butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 10 times, until you get coarse crumbs. Stir in the cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. If baking the casserole immediately, heat oven to 400º.
Remove the pot from heat and stir in the chicken, black beans, corn, cheese and lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the green onions and half the cilantro.
Pour the mixture into two 8×8 baking dishes (or ones of similar size) and sprinkle evenly with the crumb topping.
To bake immediately: Cook, uncovered, until the sauce is bubbling and the crumbs are crisp, 25-35 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro before serving.
To store: Wrap the dish tightly with foil and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 month. Allow to thaw completely in the refrigerator if frozen. Bake at 400º, covered with foil, for about 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes longer.