Saint Sara’s Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Left to right: Sara, Tinky, and Alice (yes, I am really that much of a shrimp!)

This Tex-Mex dish is more Tex than Mex, but non-purists will enjoy its bubbly warmth.
The recipe comes from my dear friend Sara Stone in Waco, Texas, possible the nicest person in the whole world.
Here’s just one of Sara’s kind deeds: when I was trying to finish my doctoral dissertation, she invited me to stay in her house for the month or so we thought it would take to do the final rewrites.
It took me A YEAR to finish up the darn thing.
Sara never once complained about the messy cooking or the show tunes or the diet-coke cans or the vintage TV programs or the piles of paper or the general Tinkyness of her apparently permanent houseguest.
She even managed to laugh when an experimental cake exploded in her oven on the hottest day of the year. (I can almost still smell the fumes as I type this.)
That’s not just being a nice person. That’s being a saint.
This casserole is a little like her—colorful and comforting. I think it might have a sense of humor, too.
I was lucky enough to see Sara last spring when the Mount Holyoke Club of San Antonio flew me to Texas to cook with them.
Playing with the Mount Holyoke crowd was fun and enlightening. Texas has tons more fresh produce in early June than Massachusetts, and the alums and their husbands certainly knew what to do with it.
After I left San Antonio I enjoyed a wonderful reunion with Sara and another friend and former roommate, the brilliant and funny Alice from Dallas. Husbands and kids rounded out the crowd. (Both Sara and Alice were smart enough to marry people I like.)
Need I add that the food at our reunion was fabulous?
I made Sara’s casserole recently because I get a kick out of being reminded of her—and because my family loves it. Here is her recipe. It serves a crowd.
The Casserole
1 2-to-3 pound chicken
vegetables as needed for making broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
1 can (about 10 ounces) cream of chicken soup
1 can (about 10 ounces) cream of mushroom soup
1 small (4 ounces) can green chiles, chopped
about 8 corn tortillas, ripped into pieces (about 3 to 4 per tortilla)
1 pound store (Cheddar or similar) cheese, grated
First, cook the chicken. Bring it to a boil in a pan of water with vegetables appropriate for making a rich broth (onion, garlic, celery, perhaps a carrot or two—and some parsley if you have it in the house), plus salt and pepper; then turn it down and simmer it until it is tender and the broth is flavorful. This will take about 2 hours. Stir occasionally during this process, and don’t forget to add more water if you need it.
Drain the chicken, saving the broth, and set it aside to cool briefly. Strain out 1 cup of the broth. The remainder of the broth may be used for cooking or sipping at your leisure. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, strip the meat from the bones and shred it.
When you are ready to proceed with the casserole, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brown the onion in the butter. Combine the soups, broth, onion pieces, and green chiles in a saucepan. Add the pieces of chicken and heat well.
In a baking dish, place a layer of broken tortillas, a layer of chicken sauce, and a layer of cheese. Repeat until the casserole is filled. Repeat this layering process. Bake the casserole until it is bubbly around the edges, about 30 minutes.
Serves 10 to 12.

Messy but yummy!

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7 Responses to “Saint Sara’s Chicken Enchilada Casserole”

  1. This sounds really good. My family will love it!

  2. We all need a Saint Sara in our lives! I love casseroles and don’t make enough of them. One question – corn or flour tortillas?

    Funny, your personality is so much larger than life here on the blog, it never occurred to me you were such a petite little thang:)

  3. Grad says:

    Tinky, I’ve been catching up on your posts. I loved the one on I Love Lucy. I still laugh out loud when I’m lucky enough to catch it in syndication (which is less and less these days). I have the complete The Honeymooners on tape, so I should probably start collecting Lucy. I love this recipe. I have a huge left-over turkey that I’m going to use in it. I’ll let you now how it works. I’m not fond of corn tortillas, so I’m going to use flour. One other thing, that No Knead Bread…I am now baking all my bread using the same process, i.e. heating up the Dutch oven, throwing the dough in, same baking process. It works beautifully on just a kneaded bread recipe – even dough made in a bread machine (which is what I usually do). Hope your Passover was fun!

  4. tinkyweisblat says:

    Oops–Thanks, Abigail, for mentioning the tortilla thing. I use corn (much better flavor). Maybe we’ll hear back from Grad about how the flour ones turned out. In the meantime, I’m fixing the recipe……

  5. I can relate to this one, as I’ve been in San Antonio!!

  6. Kim says:

    This casserole sounds great. My Grandmother made a similar one with ground hamburger. I’m going to make this for our Sunday dinner!

  7. tinkyweisblat says:

    Frayed, you’ve been everywhere! And Kim, I hope you enjoy it. The beef version sounds good, too!

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