The most recent food challenge we had was a "Comfort Food Cook Off." There were two categories: Savory and Sweet. You were also supposed to tell a story about your dish. Judging criteron included: your story about why your dish was the ultimate comfort food, appearance, overall taste, level of comfort brought by the dish and creativity.
Up until the day before the event I was thinking I was going to make a super cheesy Spinach and Artichoke dip. Comforting because it is gooey and cheesy and also because you can eat it with healthy things like celery and carrots, thereby appeasing any guilt you might feel over consuming large quantities of a gooey cream cheese based dish - and allowing the comfort to better permeate your soul. I even tested two different hot spinach and artichoke dip recipes on my husband the night before (we may or may not have consumed mostly hot spinach and artichoke dip for dinner that night). I had a plan. It was perfect!
Except that I woke up the morning of the challenge and all I could think about was cheesy, gooey, chicken enchiladas with green sauce. I mean seriously, ALL I could think about. Maybe it was divine intervention. Maybe it was my hormones. Either way, I needed to have creamy, cheesey, chicken enchiladas. Like now. For breakfast even. I talked to my husband hoping he would help me see reason. That I should stick with my tested recipe. But in the end, my gut feeling (literally) prevailed.
Having a known issue with regular enchiladas falling apart, I was trying to figure out how to counteract that. But while cruising for inspiration, I saw a recipe for enchilada lasagna and I thought it was exactly the construction I needed! I would make the enchiladas I craved in a lasagna format and win the day!
And I did. Despite having the stupidest story ever.
Because even though the above story isn't too shabby, that's not the story I told the judges. As I was plating my dish in the kitchen before presenting it to the judges, someone came in and told me "Hey, you know you're supposed to have a ridiculous story to tell the judges, right?"
"Really? But I don't have a ridiculous story."
"Then you have to make one up. It doesn't even have to be true. Think of something that will move them or make them cry. You got this recipe from your grand mother. On her death bed. Or you traversed the world to get it."
"Oh. Hmm. Okay so.....this lasagna is a delacacy because it grows on trees in Italy?"
So that's the story I told....it grows on trees in Italy. And whenever I want comfort to remember my home country (Home country? I'm a 3rd generation American!) I want gooey, cheesy enchilada lasagna. Like the kind that grows on trees. In Italy. The end.
I don't know what I was thinking either. And honestly, I'm pretty embarrassed to be telling you I had a moment of SERIOUS lapse in judgement and told this horrendous story instead of the legit one. And I won anyway. I know. I can't believe it either. Because I had some pretty intense competition. This is the winning circle:
And me. I won the title of "Comfort Food Champ" which is pretty humbling especially when you consider the combination of how fabulous my competition was and the embarrassment of how stupid my story was (word to the wise: don't let people change your story pre-competition. For real.)
But now that you've made it through that whole story, you deserve to be rewarded. How about with the recipe?
Green Chicken Enchilada Lasagna
- 1.5 pounds raw chicken OR 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 1 large can green enchilada sauce
- 16 oz. cream cheese
- 1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped (stems discarded)
- 4 cups shredded Monterrey jack cheese, divided
- 1 medium sized onion, diced
- 12 corn tortilas
This enchilada lasagna is assembled in a 2 piece, covered stoneware baker (I use the Pampered Chef "Deep Covered Baker") and then cooked in the microwave. Alternately, you could use a glass casserole dish with a microwavable lid. If you do not have a two-piece microwave safe dish of suitable size, you could a deep caserole dish and bake it in the oven at 350 for approx 45 minutes.
- If using raw chicken, pour enchilada sauce into a large skillet. Cook chicken pieces over medium high heat in enchilada sauce, turning every 10 minutes or so until cooked through. Remove chicken from sauce, and shred. Set aside. Leave sauce in the pan.
If using pre-cooked chicken (such as from leftovers), put shredded or chopped chicken in a bowl and mix with 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce. Toss to coat. Pour remaining enchilada sauce into a deep plate.
- Place cream cheese in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until cheese is very soft and easy to stir. Mix in chopped cilantro and 2 cups of the shredded cheese. Set aside.
- Spread approximately 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of your deep covered baker. Assemble lasagna layers like so:
- Dip 4 corn tortillas in the reserved enchilada sauce, and place in the bottom of the baker (overlapping and tearing as necessary to fit the shape and cover the whole bottom)
- Drop half of the cheese mixture in little blobs on top of the tortillas. Smooth out with an offset spatula.
- Add half of the chicken
- Top with 1/3 of the diced onion and 2/3 cup shredded cheese
- Repeat the layers 1-4 one more time. Top with last 4 sauce-dipped tortillas, remaining enchilada sauce, shredded cheese and diced onion.5. Place cover on baker and microwave for 15 minutes (or bake at 350 for approx 45 minutes). Allow to stand 5-10 minutes before serving.Garnish with fresh pico de gallo salsa and sour cream.