Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Tamale Casserole

For some reason, years ago, Chris decided to make it a tradition to have Mexican food for Christmas. It started with Christmas Enchiladas, and then we tried to go all authentic and make homemade tamales, but it didn't really work out. And it took so much time for us to make something that wasn't as satisfying as a good tamale should be.

I found this chicken tamale casserole recipe a few weeks ago, and it's become my new favorite. It has enough of that delicious tamale flavor that it satisfies my craving -- without all the hours of hard work.

I use {this} chicken recipe, and it makes moist, flavorful chicken that falls apart when you touch it.
Instead of using packaged ranch mix in the chicken recipe, I use {this} easy, better-for-you, DIY mix.
You can do both of these things days in advance. It makes life much easier when it's time to cook.

Chicken Tamale Casserole (adapted from Cooking Light)

1 cup (4oz) pre-shredded cheese (I love 4 cheese mexican blend)
1/3 cup milk of your choice (we use almond mostly)
1 egg
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1 (14oz) can cream-style corn (I never have this on hand. I just blended up a regular can of corn)
*in the picture above, I didn't have a can of corn, so I used a few spoonfulls of mild green salsa. It kept it moist and gave it flavor. But I recommend the corn. It gives it extra tamale-ness.
1 (8oz) box corn muffin mix
1 (4oz) can chopped green chilies, drained. *this is optional. I rarely have these on hand, so haven't ever actually tried it in this recipe.
Olive oil
1 (10 oz) green enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (see note above for my favorite recipe)

Preheat oven to 400*
Combine 1/4 cup of cheese and next 7 ingredients (through chilies) in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a 13x9 inch baking dish lightly rubbed down with olive oil.
Bake for 15 minutes or until set. Pierce entire surface of corn muffin cake liberally with a fork; pour enchilada sauce over the top. Top with chicken and remaining cheese (you can even add olives here, like I did in the photo above -- because I love olives...) and bake for 15 minutes until cheese melts.
Broil for a few minutes, watching it closely so the cheese gets that lovely brown on top, but doesn't burn. Remove from oven and let stand for several minutes to set before serving.

This recipe is just as tasty (or maybe even better!) as leftovers, after it's been absorbing the flavors all night. It would probably be healthier if you made your own corn muffin mix and enchilada sauce, but it's delicious, quick, and easy the way it is, if you've got leftover chicken to use up.

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