Sunday, May 26, 2013

Chicken Taco Casserole

So I haven't posted any new recipes in the last month. It's been quite busy at work so I've been sticking to the staples and not taking the time to experiment and come up with something new. My creative juices were itching to get out this afternoon, and with it being a lazy Sunday, I had ample time to dream up a new dish. I started as I usually do: with a vague idea of what I want to create. Then I google and see what's already out in the world, and based on my own image of the dish and what others have created, I start my work.

I'm calling this dish a chicken taco casserole, since it contains most of the ingredients in a taco but in casserole form. I wouldn't call it a Mexican dish, however, as I gave it my own spin. I'm personally not a fan of very spicy food, and my cupboard is much more full of herbs than it is of spices. My go-to spice for a little heat and smokiness is paprika, so that's what I layered into this dish to give it a slight kick.

Chicken Taco Casserole

¼ onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ orange sweet pepper, diced
½ green sweet pepper, diced
5 cremini mushrooms, cut into eighths
1 cup spinach
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp paprika paste
1-2 chicken breasts, pounded flat, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup cream cheese
1 tsp paprika paste
1 tsp parsley flakes
2 whole grain tortillas, ripped into pieces
1 ½ cups salsa
1 cup grated cheese
15 grape tomatoes, halved

Preheat oven to 350oF. In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, peppers, and mushrooms. Season with salt, pepper, and 1 tsp paprika, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the spinach and stir until it wilts. Add the 1 tbsp of paprika paste and stir until the vegetables are thoroughly coated. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl.

Add the remaining 1 tsp olive oil to the pan. Add the chicken breasts and sauté 4 minutes each side. Remove from pan, and cut into small pieces.
In a small bowl, mix the sour cream, cream cheese, 1 tsp paprika paste, and 1 tsp parsley.
Spray a glass 12x12 baking dish with cooking spray. Put ½ cup of the salsa in the bottom of the dish and spread it to cover. Top with ½ of the ripped tortilla pieces. Then add all of the cooked chicken. Spread the sour cream mixture on top of the chicken layer. Top with the vegetables and the rest of the salsa. Sprinkle half of the cheese on top. Layer on the rest of the tortilla pieces.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Bake for 10 more minutes uncovered. Remove from oven and top with remaining cheese and grape tomatoes. Bake for an additional 5 minutes. Garnish with chopped green onion and serve.

I snapped a few different pictures of this dish. First, my ingredients ready to begin the layering process:
Starting from the bottom left, I have my two kinds of cheese (marble and medium cheddar), my ripped tortillas, salsa, seasoned cooked chicken cut into small pieces, sour cream mixture, and sautéed vegetables.

There's the finished product when I took it out of the oven after the entire cooking time. I also snapped a side-on view to catch a sneak-peak into the layers:
Finally it was time to plate the dish and see if my experimentation paid off:
I will admit - it really doesn't look too pretty. But in my defense it's a difficult dish to plate. I can assure you, however, that it was delicious and very filling. As always, I encourage you to make additions, deletions, and/or substitutions. Putting in some black beans or a layer of guacamole would add another dimension of flavour. Or using taco seasoning or lime juice on the vegetables and chicken instead of paprika. This is a versatile dish, and I'm sure that I'll make it in a different way the next time I try it.

Even though this is really not a Mexican or Latin dish, it still put me in the mood for Latin music. I took Latin dance lessons in university with some friends and we had a blast learning all the sensual steps. My favourite was always the salsa because of all the hip action. So my tunes for tonight come from Shakira - Hips Don't Lie.

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