Tortilla Casserole of Chicken and Poblano

April 23, 2011
By Holly Jennings


I first learned of this dish, and the concept of layering tortillas with sauce, cheese, poblano chile strips, and chicken, a Mexican lasagna of sorts, from Carla Muñoz, a roommate from my Brooklyn days. (I owe a lot to Carla—she broadened my tequila drinking experience from just silver to reposado (rested) and añejo (aged), and introduced me to the joys of freezing homemade mole, which can be resuscitated with a little water for an instant sauce beyond compare.)


Prompted by the club’s foray into Mexican cooking, I finally decided to make Carla’s casserole, these many years later. Diana Kennedy does not include a recipe for this dish, popularly called “Mexican Lasagna” or “Stacked Enchiladas,” in The Art of Mexican Cooking, the current DCCC pick, so I turned to my friend Peter McGann, a great source of Mexican food knowledge, for a recipe. (The finer points of Carla’s instructions had become a bit hazy.) What follows is Peter’s recipe, adapted slightly.


In his book Authentic Mexican, Rick Bayless includes a recipe for this dish, which he calls budín de tortillas, though he says it is sometimes called budín cuanthémoc or budín azteca. He suggests using shredded cooked pork or fish as an alternative to chicken, or excluding meat entirely for a vegetarian dish. I came up with the name “Tortilla Casserole of  Chicken and Poblano” because it is what I think Diana Kennedy would likely call it.


Whatever you call it, it is delicious and, like Italian lasagna, a great option for entertaining or potlucks.


Tortilla Casserole

For the Casserole

13 (5 to 6-inch) corn tortillas

Safflower oil for frying tortillas

1 recipe Salsa Verde (below) (or 2 cups prepared Salsa Verde)

2½ cups shredded, cooked chicken (about half of a 4-pound chicken)

Salt to taste

3 large poblano chiles, charred, peeled, deseeded and deveined, and cut into ¼-inch-wide strips (called “rajas”)

1 cup crème fraiche (substitute sour cream thinned with a little milk and whipped until smooth)

6 ounces melting cheese, such as medium-sharp Cheddar, Muenster, Monterery Jack, grated (about 1¾ cups)

Thinly sliced white onion rings, for garnish (optional)

Thinly sliced radish rounds, for garnish (optional)


Salsa Verde

2 pounds tomatillos, husked and rinsed

2 serrano chiles, or to taste (jalapeños can be substituted), stems removed

3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 bunch fresh cilantro, rinsed and coarsely chopped

1 handful fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, rinsed and coarsely chopped

2 sprigs fresh mint, leaves removed and coarsely chopped

1½ tablespoons safflower oil

⅓ cup chicken stock (preferably homemade)

¾ teaspoon ground cumin

Salt to taste


Prepare the Salsa Verde: Place the tomatillos and chiles in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the tomatillos are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.


Puree the softened tomatillos and chiles with the garlic and fresh herbs in a food processor until smooth.


Heat the oil in a skillet over moderately high heat. When the oil hot (on the verge of smoking), add the green sauce and fry for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock, cumin, and salt and continue to cook until reduced, stirring occasionally.


Assemble the tortilla casserole: Preheat the oven to 350°F.


In a small skillet, briefly fry the corn tortillas in ¼-inch deep hot oil, about 2 to 3 seconds per side, then drain well on paper towels.


Spread a thin coating of the salsa verde on the bottom of a 9-inch-square baking pan.


Cut three of the fried tortillas in half. Line the bottom of the baking pan with 3 tortillas, using 2 whole tortillas and 2 halves to fill out the remaining open space on the sides. They should be slightly overlapping (see photo below).



Add a layer of ⅓ of the chicken, season lightly with salt, and then add a layer of ⅓ of the chile strips followed by ¼ of the cheese. Spoon ¼ of the salsa verde evenly over top and dollop on ⅓ of the crème fraiche.


Repeat with 2 more layers, beginning with the tortillas. Make a top, fourth layer, using 4 whole tortillas, then top with the remaining salsa verde.


Bake, covered, for about 30 minutes. Remove and sprinkle on the remaining cheese. Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the cheese is melted but not browned and is bubbling around the edges, about 10 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.


Randomly lay the onion rings and radish rounds on top, if using, before serving. Serves 6

1 Comments to “Tortilla Casserole of Chicken and Poblano”

  1. Louanne Headrick says:

    This recipe looks like a winner. Not only was your photo pleasing but I can imagine the flavors melding together. Is this one that you built and photographed, then got to devour? I hope so.


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