New Mexico Red Chile Enchilada Casserole
Nothing can rival the charm, ease, wow factor, and the umami-dense flavour of an enchilada casserole. When you mix red chile sauce, copious amounts of cheese, veggies and/or meat together with some corn tortillas—it’s gonna be a good time. Enchiladas are a core component of New Mexico’s culinary heritage and I’m excited to share this recipe with you!
In its essence, all New Mexican cuisine, and especially enchiladas, comes down to the chile. New Mexico’s high desert climate, with its sunny days and cool nights, creates ideal conditions for chile pepper cultivation. Making red chile sauce isn’t difficult but having access to these special kinds of chile pepper can be tricky. Lucky for you, I have a great deal of red chile powder that I bring home with me each time I return to Canada. If you’re interested in trying this out with my New Mexico red chile sauce that I make from scratch, just scan the QR code next to this article!
If you don’t have access to New Mexico red chile sauce, enchilada sauce from the store will definitely work.
The process of creating a New Mexico red chile enchilada casserole involves layering corn tortillas, fillings, cheese, and the signature red chile sauce. Common fillings include shredded chicken, beef, cheese, beans, or a combination of these ingredients. I often add zucchini or corn. The beauty of the enchilada casserole lies in its versatility. You might choose to roll the corn tortillas around the fixings, but I find that layering the enchiladas is less work and ultimately feeds more people in a 9x13 pan because the servings are more dense.
Once the casserole is assembled, it’s time to bake it to perfection and hopefully not accidentally fill your kitchen with smoke (because you added too much cheese, which then overflowed into the bottom of the oven and is still there to this day). The first part of baking the casserole happens with a lid or foil on the dish at a lower temperature, then you remove the covering to make sure the cheese gets nice and bubbly or browned. The tantalizing, golden-brown crust is…well, perfection!
By this point, you’ve filled the house with smells of smokey chile and melted cheese. People are milling around the kitchen trying not to seem too impatient, but it’s going to get worse before it gets better. When the casserole emerges from the oven as the bubbling, golden-brown work of art that it is, you’ll have to let it rest for around 15 minutes on the counter (or else it will be more like a soup on the plate). I dare you to keep people from trying to pick at the crusty cheese on top! But patience is a virtue and virtue definitely pays out in different ways, including melted cheese.
You can use any size baking dish for this recipe, but 9x13 is recommended. All estimations of ingredients are loose. The general idea is to make a lasagne style dish, so feel free to throw in extra veggies such as a zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, etc. It’s recommended, but not required, that you pre-cook these veggies ahead of time because it will remove some of the water content from the veggies.
Serve with sour cream. In northern New Mexico, there’s actually a famous restaurant in Santa Fe called “The Shed” that serves enchiladas with buttery garlic bread on a baguette - which offers an amazing way to soak up the extra sauce!