This Texas classic is a stick-to-your ribs kind of meal and reminds me of a baked chicken nacho.  It is cheesy and rich,  full of great spice and perfect for a houseful of hungry teenage boys.  I have updated the recipe and left the Fritos off the top and used baked tortillas as a substitute.  You can make this casserole ahead and serve with some cilantro rice.  If you are a fan of chips and queso, you will enjoy this recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 15 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • olive oil for brushing tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • medium onions, chopped fine
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • jalapeño chiles, seeded and minced, plus more thin jalapeno slices for garnish
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons chili lime seasoning (trader joes), or a smoky chili salt of choice
  • 2(10-ounce) cans Ro-Tel tomatoes (I used one can of hot and one can of mild)
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • cup heavy cream
  • cups  chicken stock 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more leaves for garnish
  • juice of 1 squeezed lime
  • fresh cherry tomatoes, halved for garnish
  • 2 thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
  • sliced avocado for serving and garnish
  • 4 cups grated monterey jack cheese
  •  kosher salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400.   Lay tortillas on two baking sheets, and lightly brush with a little bit of olive oil on either side.  Bake for about 10 minutes until crispy and golden. Repeat in batches as necessary if you don’t have enough space.  Once baked, sprinkle tortillas with chili lime seasoning. Once cool enough to handle, break tortillas in large pieces (chip size) and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 350.
Next, heat butter in a heavy bottom pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté onions, garlic, jalapeños, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper until fragrant and soft (around 10 minutes). Add ro-tel and continue cooking until most of liquid has evaporated, an additional 10 minutes or so. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute, the bottom of pan will brown a bit. Add cream and stock and bring mixture to a simmer, and continue to cook until the mixture thickens for another several minutes. Add diced chicken allowing it to cook in the sauce for about 10 more minutes (chicken will finish cooking in the oven).  Turn off heat, adjust seasonings to taste, add fresh squeezed lime, chopped cilantro, shredded cheese and stir until cheese is melted.
Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Distribute one third of tortilla pieces to cover bottom of baking dish. Spoon half of filling evenly over broken tortillas. Repeat the layering process, ending with a layer of tortillas.  Bake until filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes.  Cool casserole 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro, scallions, sliced avocado and additional lime as desired.  Serve warm alongside cilantro rice if desired.  Enjoy!
make ahead option: The casserole can be assembled through the final step and refrigerated for up to 1 day. When ready to serve, cover casserole with foil and bake for about 30 minutes until the casserole filling bubbles and then garnish before serving.