Thursday, September 08, 2016

Easy Enchilada Casserole (your new go-to dinner, I swear)

What happened? It was summer and summer and summer and then it wasn't summer anymore.

"This would be so good with bacon!" I thought to myself, with a lightbulb over my head.
As you now, this is not a graceful time of year for me and my family. Everybody is sad and lies in a sad pile and staggers around frowningly or pretends to be sick and reads in bed all day. Okay, that last thing was just me, and I was reading this, which was fantastic, but still.

Birdy wanted to eat half a watermelon with a melon baller, and did. #goalsetting
Birdy is in 8th grade and is, accordingly, 8 feet tall. After the door shuts behind her, the cat runs to me, depressed, and sits in my depressed lap all morning.

Ben grew cucamelons, which are a cross between cucumbers and melons, neither of which he likes. Don't worry, that's my old-lady hand, not his.
Ben is a junior. He is about to get his driver's license, which I have been joking about for so long, as a way of hamming up the passage of time, that now I am out of jokes. The fact that I do not cling to him crying and also crying, "Never leave us!" every second of every day is a huge maternal victory for me.

I made wild grape soda. If you find the grapes, it's easy to do. Just cook them in a pot with a splash of water until they're soft (about 15 minutes), mashing them up as they cook. Strain them and add sugar, stirring to dissolve. Then put a few tablespoons in a glass and top with seltzer. 
The only silver lining, really the only one I can think of at all, is that once school starts I stop dreading the fall, if that makes sense. Then I can enjoy the full fallishness of it--the wild grapes and turning leaves and cooling nights and mushrooms everywhere. Last night Michael and I walked on the golf course near our house as the darkness was pulling down over the sky, and bats were diving and swooping near us, and I kept saying, "I'm not even scared!" But then I was screaming and covering my head with the paper bag I'd brought in case we found mushrooms, and it turned out I was scared, but in a good way. That, for example, was not the worst 15 minutes of my life. I offer that grudgingly.

Anyhoo. In compensation for how lame I've been about posting, I am offering you not any of the summer recipes I had been documenting and planning to post here (I am no longer in the mood for gazpacho, waah waah waah) but this humdinger instead, my ace in the hole, the famous Enchilada Casserole. It is in the oven ten minutes after you first think about making it, and everyone loves it every time. Which is a lot, because it's easy and we always have the stuff to make it. And, weirdly, it's not only a great desperation dinner, it's also a great dinner-party dinner because it is so crazily delicious and crowd-pleasing. Like enchiladas, minus all of the work and mess. I don't even grate the cheese myself!

Tortillas sprayed with oil (ew) and cut in half.
Exact science.
More layering. The thing I don't mention in the recipe that you don't recognize is called "chicken mushrooms" and I found them on a stump. Just ignore them. 
I try to make the top layer neater. #fancy

Easy Enchilada Casserole
Serves 6

This is not only delicious and crazily easy—it is also easily doubled! Make it in a regular-size lasagna pan, and use roughly twice the amount of everything. Please note that while I am using homemade greenenchilada sauce, this is good with any color or storeboughtness of enchilada sauce! It would probably even work fine with salsa, but then it wouldn’t taste like enchiladas. Oh, also, you can add shredded chicken to this—pulled off of a rotisserie chicken or leftover or whatever—and it’s great that way, if you have chicken-eaters in the house.

Olive-oil spray (or olive oil)
1 ½ cups enchilada sauce (this one, or another homemade or store-bought one of your choosing)
8 corn tortillas
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
1-2 cups corn kernels (fresh, or frozen and thawed)
10 ounces shredded cheese ( I use the better part of a 12-ounce bag of Trader Joe’s shredded 3-Cheese Blend, which is cheddar, Monterey Jack, and mozzarella. If what you have is an 8-ounce block of something, that will be enough.)

Heat the oven to 375 and grease a 7- by 11-inch or equivalent sized (equivalently sized? what?) baking dish. Please note that this is not a full-size lasagna dish, but the, like, half-sized one.

Do the tortillas. So, if you fry each one in a little bit of oil, the way you would if you were making real enchiladas, the casserole will be sublime. Sometimes you will do this, and sometimes you will be lazy. When you’re lazy, which I 90% of the time am, simply spray each tortilla, back and front, with the olive oil spray (or brush them with oil). Stack them and cut them in half.

Layer the casserole: pour ½ cup sauce in the bottom of the pan and tilt it to distribute. Arrange 5 tortilla halves so that they more or less cover the bottom without overlapping. This is not an exact science. Distribute half of the beans and half of the corn over the tortillas, then sprinkle with a third of the cheese.

Now add another layer of tortillas, top these with ½ cup of sauce, then the remaining beans and corn, and half of the remaining cheese.

Top with a final layer of tortillas, then the remaining sauce and cheese, and a seal with a piece of foil that you’ve sprayed with olive-oil spray so that all the cheese won’t stick to it and pull off.

Bake for ½ hour, then uncover and bake 10 minutes longer, until the casserole is bubbling and browning. Let it rest 5 minutes before you cut it.


  1. Are those chicken of the woods? Do you know how to make them less dry chicken-y? I like them, but also don't.

    1. Meera, honestly, if they're fresh, they're great (fresh enough so that if you squeeze them, your hand gets wet) but if they're dry, they can't be made less dry. It's like a bizarre science experience. Their dryness is impenetrable.

  2. This is the recipe I've been looking for, for those wtf nights, like last night, when we have frozen dumplings from Trader Joe's and the kids say, Is this dinner? Also, I've been waiting for your back-to-school post. I'm always wishing you happiness and light, but it is also so comforting to know that someone else finds this season to be so sad. Also, I admire your fungal prowess. I prowled the woods of Hampshire with the mushroom guide, but was always too scared to eat anything. Mostly I was there to laugh at the penis mushrooms.

    1. Wait, wait, are Trader Joe's dumplings *not* dinner? But yes, we love to laugh at the penis mushrooms. Especially when they're dribbling stuff out of their top holes.

  3. I've missed you.

  4. I always look forward to your sad back to school post. I've been checking every day and here it is! Late August is the WORST time of year for me because of the anticipation of back to school, but you're right--once we cross that bridge,the relief from the anticipation is at least something to be thankful for. But make no mistake,I am still sad. Thank you for getting that. And the recipe looks like just what the doctor ordered. And a good excuse to blend up some margaritas as an accompaniment.

  5. So nice to hear your voice, Catherine. And my Senior (argh) daughter will love to make this casserole.

  6. Hey Catherine, I've missed you too - have been checking your website for updates and was thrilled to see one yesterday<3! It was my wedding anniversary, so I pretended this was just for! The wild grape soda looks delicious, I love the color. Good luck with teaching Ben to drive, I just went thru that with my son and we survived. It's heart wrenching seeing them drive off on their own for the first time and your insurance will go through the be prepared and good luck!

  7. Jennifer N6:48 PM

    Thank you for this recipe! I love the simplicity and my family will love eating it. Hopefully my 2 huge (7th grade and hs junior) will enjoy making it.

    1. My 2 huge children...I was too quick to hit Publish. :-)

  8. I, too, was awaiting the "melancholy fall" post (I kid 'cause I love!). It's so funny because my kiddo started a new school (middle school, aargh!), and yesterday he had a lousy first day, so if I had read this yesterday I would have totally rolled around in the sadness with you (as I usually do). But today he had a great day, and so (because it's like he and I are attached at the emotion-center) I am, in fact, like, oh wait, fall? sad? really? (And, by the way, it was a great day especially because he got to jam with the jazz band for the first time, so I have some hopes that middle school won't totally suck for him, right? Naive, but it's keeping me going right now.)


  9. Anonymous6:23 PM


    If you add the black beans, frozen corn, canned tomatoes, and grated zucchini to a frying pan where you have sautéed onion and garlic(add a dash of cumin)- then add them into the casserole with the tortillas, sauce, and cheese...well, our family likes it :)

    **We spray the bottom of the pan, not the tortillas...layer tortillas, veggies, sauce, cheese, then repeat.

  10. Fall back to school melancholy, check. Wild grape soda, check, sort of. My grapes live a contented, domesticated life outside my door. Tame grape soda?

  11. Anonymous9:31 AM

    Made this last night and ate it on the porch (squeezing in as many on the porch meals as we can until it's too cold or too dark) and LOVED it. Will absolutely make it again. Also--made the wild grape soda. My son and I love to find these grapes with their amazing fall smell and pick them, but for some reason they don't end up liking the jam that much. They loved the soda. By the way, they also like to tease me about the one time I oh so barely complained about making the stuffed wild grape leaves. I'll never live that down. Thank you for all the amazing meals. Glad you're getting past the melancholy. Every time I hear the geese honking as they are flying past, I get that heart squeezing feeling despite loving the sight and sound of them. --Cathy K



  13. Sigh - we are without Trader Joe's for a whole year and I can't find frozen corn in any grocery store. On the plus side, I am cooking my own beans and scouring your old recipes for ones that fit - pasta with chickpeas and lemon coming right up. Thanks for feeding us over the years!

    1. Anonymous1:17 PM

      I substituted canned corn and it worked out fine. Just drain it first, and then canned corn works well in place of fresh or frozen in most recipes.

  14. "I'm not even scared!" That sums up pretty much everything. My parents grow grapes -- I'll pass along the soda suggestion. I loved craftsister's comment about being attached at the emotion-center.

  15. Have you ever had chilaquiles? This is a lot like that. There's a great recipe for chilaquiles in the Moosewood Low-Fat Cookbook. It's basically this recipe plus you can add meat and greens (spinach or kale are both good), and can use tortilla chips (baked, in the cookbook) as a super-lazy cheat for corn tortillas. It's tasty. This sounds delish - thank you for sharing!

    1. Mm I was going to post similar response! I love Molly Katzen's chilaquiles recipe!