Chilaquiles are sometimes called Mexican lasagna, sometimes described as a tortilla casserole. More colorfully, Broken up old sombrero is what chilaquiles actually means according to Diana Kennedy, the Julia Child of Mexican cuisine. Speaking of Julia, one also might call chilaquiles Mexican French toast: just as stale bread becomes French Toast by soaking and then frying it, Mexican cooks use up their stale tortillas by making Chilaquiles. They simply reverse the order, first frying the tortillas until crisp and then combining them with a moistening sauce or salsa.
While chilaquiles are traditionally a skillet dish served as a light bite, or presented topped with eggs for breakfast, I prefer making them as a casserole. Besides eliminating the fat and mess of frying and the pressure to serve the dish quickly before the torn-up tortillas turn soggy, in this more relaxed, baked version the tortillas are meant to soak up the sauce and turn soft, making a dish that is pure comfort food. It also allows for layering a filling over the tortillas before coating them with the sauce and sprinkling on shredded cheese.
You will often find shredded chicken, shrimp or beans in chilaquiles. For my version, which is meatless, I have combined creamy pinto beans with chopped spinach and corn. The result is both stomach-filling and eye-filling. Leftovers keep for a couple of days when wrapped in foil. Tossing them into the oven for reheating is a cinch and so good that you may want to plan for extra servings.
Chilaquiles with Beans and Corn
- Cooking spray
- 1 large ear fresh corn or 1½ cups frozen corn (defrosted)
- 1 Tbsp. canola oil
- 3/4 cup chopped red onion
- 1 10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach, defrosted, squeezed dry
- 1 15 oz. can no-salt added pinto beans, drained
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 14½ oz. can no-salt added, diced tomatoes, partially drained
- 6 yellow corn tortillas
- 1 15 oz. can mild or medium red enchilada sauce, divided
- 1 cup shredded reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend (divided)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat 11-inch x 7-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- If using fresh corn, cut kernels from cob; there should be 1-1½ cups. Set aside.
- In medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, 4 minutes. Add spinach, pulling it apart. Add beans and cumin and cook until cumin is fragrant, stirring often. Add tomatoes and corn and cook until mixture is heated through, 5 minutes. Set vegetable and bean filling aside.
- Arrange 2 tortillas on bottom of prepared pan. Cut 2 other tortillas in half and add 2 halves to cover bottom of pan. Spoon half the filling over tortillas. Pour on 3/4 cup enchilada sauce. Sprinkle on half the cheese. Repeat, using remaining tortillas, filling, sauce and cheese. Cover pan with foil.
- Bake Chilaquiles for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake until cheese melts and casserole is bubbly around edges, 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Per serving: 216 calories, 5.7 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 34 g carbohydrate, 10 g protein, 6 g dietary fiber, 496 mg sodium.
Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.
Photo Credit: The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR)