Chicken Tomatillo Casserole

This started as a dish called chilaquiles, a recipe which I clipped out of Cooking Light 4 years ago. I used to think a dish couldn’t qualify as chilaquiles unless it had eggs in it. But, I believe I was wrong. Now I believe that just about any casserole dish made with corn tortillas and chicken and some green stuff qualifies, and this definitely fits the bill. But I call this particular iteration Chicken Tomatillo Casserole. So call it chilaquiles or call it Tomatillo Casserole, just call me to come over for dinner if you make it, because it is easy and delicious and a true comfort food. I added all of the fat and calories back in that Cooking Light had taken out, just so you know. I also messed around and fell in love with fresh tomatillos, when the original called for canned.

About tomatillos…the first time I made this I used a can of tomatillos and it was great. I then went about trying to make the recipe again and I went to about 5 grocery stores before finding another can of the little beauties. However, fresh tomatillos were at many of the same stores. So I decided that it must be an improvement to use fresh and that I would do just that, and I did. And, you should also know that this is the first time I have played with fresh tomatillos so don’t let them intimidate you if you have not, either. (I acknowledge that it is muy lame that I have not played with them before this). They are great, and they are easy to handle. But if you don’t want to fool with an extra step in the process, please feel free to grab a can if you can find it, because it is still wonderful that way, too. However, if you do have a few extra minutes grab a handful of the fresh and go home and peel away the husk and discover a lovely little fruit.

In case you are curious, tomatillos are a relative of the tomato, but they are not tomatoes. And while you might see them called tomate verdes, they are not in fact “green tomatoes.” They are their own little corner of heaven. They are a little sweet and a little tart, and very delicious. And, now for some totally lazy research results…on Chowhound, a great food Q & A resource related to the also great Chow, I read that the venerable Rick Bayless said, at some point, someplace, that it takes about a pound of fresh tomatillos to equal an 11 ounce can of tomatillos. So in this recipe, I cooked them in broth with a slice of pickled jalapeno and kept as much liquid after cooking to make about 1- ¼ cups to 1-⅓ cups of green goodness. This troubles me because I like citing with a little more accuracy than that when I am coasting on the work of others. I will just say, in everything that I do in my kitchen, I am standing on the shoulders of giants, from the feeblest of my grannies to the biggest, baddest chefs. We all are. In this case, on this poorly researched point…I THINK, but cannot confirm now, that it was Bayless…and I found that on a blog because a guy named Brandon posted it. I am a numb-skull sometimes. I will do random-ish penance for this at the bottom of the post if you make it that far…please do. But suffice to say, it worked out great.

1 can (11 oz.) tomatillos OR 1 pound fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 sliced pickled jalapeno
2 cups chopped chicken
½ cup green onions, sliced (whites and light greens only)
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 Tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1 heaping teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon (each) salt and pepper
1-4 oz. can chopped green chilies
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup milk
8 to 9 corn tortillas (depending on the shape of your dish)

For the tomatillos, if you are not using canned tomatillos, roughly chop the tomatillos and place them in a small saucepan with enough chicken broth to just cover them. Simmer them for approximately 20 minutes or until they are well cooked and totally softened. Strain off enough of the cooking liquid so that you are left with about 1-⅓ cups of tomatillos. Set aside.

Cook and chop the chicken. I used 2 large breasts that I had brined for 30 minutes in ½ gallon of water in which I had dissolved ¼ cup sugar and ¼ cup salt. I sliced the chicken and cooked it on a grill pan until done. You can also use chicken tenders. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the chicken, ½ cup of the Monterey Jack cheese, the Parmesan cheese, green onions, chili powder, salt and pepper. In another small bowl, combine the green chilies, tomatillos, sour cream, and milk. Use an immersion blender to process it until smooth. You can also use a food processor or regular blender.

To assemble, pour ½ cup of the tomatillo sauce in the bottom of a 9” x 9” baking dish and spread it around. Place one layer of corn tortillas on top of the sauce. Place ½ of the chicken mixture on top of the tortillas. Place another layer of tortillas on top of the chicken. Then spread the remainder of the chicken and one top layer of tortillas. Pour all of the remaining sauce on the top, making sure it goes down the sides and between cracks. I even poked a few holes in the middle of the top with a fork to make sure it permeated the whole casserole. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese.

To repeat, the layers go from bottom to top like this: sauce, tortillas, chicken, tortillas, chicken, tortillas, sauce, and cheese. Let the dish sit for about 10 minutes so that the sauce soaks in a bit before baking it.

Bake the casserole at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until it is nice and bubbly and hot. Let it stand for at least 5 minutes after you remove it from the oven.

I served this with avocados dressed with a little lime juice and a sprinkle of cayenne. The next time I make it I think I will make a batch of this avocado and black bean dip.

Penance: (actually a privilege)

To make up for my lame research, I will tell you about several fun food blogs that I have found lately, mostly on Twitter. If you don’t do Twitter, let me just tell you this much. Unlike facebook, you do not have to be “accepted” into “friendship” to follow people. You merely “follow” them. This means that you can follow the “tweets” of astronauts in space, comedians, politicians and some of the best food bloggers and food people around. So if you just like to watch the world go by…go follow some of your favorite people (including me, I hope) on Twitter. It is very easy and pretty fun. You might even find yourself tweeting one of these days. But you need not tweet to follow. Anyway…check out some of these blogs I have found lately:

You fed a baby chili? (just great)

Homesick Texan (if you don’t already, you will be a big fan)

Baking Barrister (fellow lawyer…lots of tweeting lawyer/food/bloggers out there)

The Lunchbox Project (all illustrations…seriously cute…serious talent)

Everybody Likes Sandwiches (a new favorite based on a recent Apple Cherry Pie)

Dishin and Dishes (I like this Oklahoma gal…you can see her smiling through her typed words)

This is NOT EVEN REMOTELY an exhaustive list, and there are wonderful food giants (names you don’t know yet) playing around on Twitter. If you do try twitter you can look at the list of people who I follow and start your journey there.


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25 comments to Chicken Tomatillo Casserole

  • NS24

    I made this last night. It was great, but a little low on salt for my tastes. I highly recommend it with Arizona Gunslinger’s green jalapeno hot sauce.

  • Kelly

    I’m so glad to hear about the successful substitutions. I’m so glad you liked it.

  • Anne

    Wow — that was tasty! I live in the NE and the tomatillos are the last thing to come out of the garden — they continue to grow well into the fall and are really easy plants. I heartily recommend them to the new gardener. I roasted a couple of poblanos, threw one into the chicken and the other into the sauce. In the face of Sandy Frankenstorm, I used what I had in the fridge, substituting mozzarella for the Monterey Jack and yogurt for the sour cream. Absolutely delicious — thank you!!

  • esmer

    Thank you Kelly! I did half time with foil paper, and the rest without :) it was great and very yummy!! Will be doing this for sure again!

  • Kelly

    No. But, thanks for asking. You certainly should put some on if you think it is browning too much. But I didn’t bake with foil during this process.

  • esmer

    do you wrap foil paper before you bake?

  • Kelly

    Ken, I’m so glad you popped in. And I hope you love the soup and visit PIE often.

  • Kelly

    I just bought my first tomatillo plants for my garden. I’m hoping for a bumper crop! Have fun in Austin. I understand Uchiko is not to be missed…and of course tons of BBQ and Mexican. Enjoy!! And thanks for the sauce method. I’ll try it.

  • Tracee

    I love experimenting with tomatillos (who would have guessed it is related to the gooseberry!) As a misplaced Texan living in the NE, it is one of the few fresh items I can find in abundance!! I make my own sauce every other week and my favorite method right now is to fill a cookie sheet with tomatillos, roma tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, garlic and serranos. Coat them in olive oil, salt and pepper. I don’t roast per se, but cook them at 400 for about 1/2 hour. I let them cool then put them through my food processor and add cilantro and whatever seasonings jump up and shout at me.

    We visit family in Austin a few times a year and we always leave room in our suitcases to bring back canned items that we just can’t buy up here. We also “eat” our way through Austin. Every meal is either BBQ or Mexican. We’re headed down in June and my husband already has his restaurant meal plan ready!

  • Ken

    Delish! Just discovered your blog looking for a recipe just like this. Wonderful. First time I ever brined chicken too!

  • Kelly

    Thank you so much, Dot! I’m glad you are here.

  • Dot

    i so enjoy your site… trying a lot of your receipes and results are very good….the pictures help a lot!

  • Colleen

    Very good and very easy! I have this recipe bookmarked as a favorite and have made it several times now. Thanks!

  • Kelly

    I’m so glad that you liked it. Leftover turkey is an inspired idea!

  • Norma

    SO yum! I made this for guests last night using leftover thanksgiving turkey that I had frozen instead of cooking up the chicken. I also added cilantro to the tomatillo sauce. Delish! It was a hit. Thanks for the post!

  • Kelly

    Jennifer…thanks, and I’m so glad you liked it. It is one of my favorites. Thanks for the heads up on the jalapenos. I’ll check it out. I depend on you friends to keep me in line. Have a great week!

  • Hi Kelly,
    I made this yummy concoction tonight…I am a tomatillo freak, so was very excited when I saw my friend had posted your recipe on fb. I think you may have left out where to put the jalapenos, but maybe it’s there and the fact that I am blitzed out on cold medicine and was cooking with my 2 year old in the room caused me to overlook it…this is very likely! In any case, I just mixed in the jalapenos with the chicken mixture, but maybe they go in with the tomatillos? For a little color, I splashed some chile powder on the top before putting it in the oven and once cooked and just before serving, I sprinked a little lemon and lime juice over it and topped with fresh cilantro. Thanks for a great recipe I’ll be telling everyone about and making again for sure!

  • This recipe was so yummy. My first attempt at one of your blog posts since discovering your great site. Next up: bread pudding. Thanks for sharing your love of food. It is my most favorite delight as well.

  • Oh this looks wonderful! I make a roasted tomatillo salsa verde and it was sooo yummy! Definitely worth the effort! I am still trying to duplicate one from a restaurant here – the chef finally told me he put the tomatillo’s under a salamander and charred them – the salsa verde is very dark green and yummy. Love this recipe and have to try!

  • Kelly

    I found them more easily than canned…but I did not find out where they came from. Either way, you are in good shape. It is yummy.

  • Susan Burns

    Are there going to be fresh tomatillos in January?

  • Kelly

    M, rest assured that had I found the can before I became exasperated and bought the fresh, this post would have been about the wonder of canned tomatillos. I’m a huge fan of the can!

  • M the chef

    this has to be one of my favorite posts, love the writing, and although I know this dish well, I am tempted to make it again, just for fun, and because it is soooo dang good.
    Do NOT tell on me if I am a lazy chef and used canned (not that I have decided yet)!

  • Adrienne

    Beautiful! And GF, I might add. Can’t wait to try it.

  • [...] quite an affection for green salsa and for its main ingredient, tomatillos. Recently I posted a Chicken Tomatillo Casserole that is a favorite of mine. Prior to working on that recipe I had never worked with fresh [...]

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