Yesterday started with a dead cockroach in my shower and ended with the world's most fitful sleep, with plenty of frustration, anxiety, and hard-blinking, slow-aching tiredness to fill the intervening hours.
In other words, I am old, and it was Monday.
Trying to decide what to have for dinner was a Goldilocks venture—too rich, too blah, too bland, too weird, too much like last night, too many ingredients, too few ingredients, too small, too big, too boring.
I was cranky.
But, boys and girls, do you remember what the word of the day (week, month, year) is on the Woodside?
That's right, TRASHY. I have a strong fondness for trashiness, of the creamy goodness and hearty homeyness sort (but not of the Ke$ha variety). I've been accused of being a "food snob" before, but I'm really not. I mostly suffer from a crippling lack of attention span that can sometimes cause food fatigue and requires me to try new things all the time, but I absolutely believe in the power of American tradition, the foods that are old faithfuls for a reason: Meat. Potatoes. Peanut-butter-and-chocolate ice cream.
I'd been lurking around a blog called Mogwai Soup for a while now, in part because Daniela, its Croatian author, seems so informed by her geography, and that bittersweet, far-from-home philosophy is all over her food—meals meant to conjure old memories and treasured tastes, please foreign and new (but beloved) palates, and generally create that sometimes-elusive feeling of "Home is where my kitchen is."
Feeding is believing.
I decided to adapt her Enchilada Lasagna, which I figured would mean plenty of yummy leftovers and just enough warmth and comfort to ease my Monday mind. (In a perfect world I would have made my friend JHB's insanely delicious chicken casserole, which is mind-mollifying to the max, but she stubbornly refuses to part with the recipe.)
I went the Ro*Tel route in place of the green chiles—in my world, spicy = comforting, and all ills can be cured with the addition of tomatoes. I lightened things up just a touch, too—a little more chicken (getting a nice brown crust on this is a must), a little less cheese—because while I'm sure the original recipe is wonderful as-is, I have a tendency to eat 12 servings at a time of almost anything, and I wanted to feel satisfied and overstuffed, not Violet Beauregarde. Those who know me well know that I am a charter member (and president) of the Anti-Wet Bread Alliance, so it was a bit of a stretch for me to make and eat something that requires dipping tortillas in water. But they melted into the finished product to create luscious pockets of earthy corn flavor with none of the afeared wheaty sponginess.
Still, keep your stratas over there, please.
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken cutlets, trimmed and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 (10.5-ounce) can 99% fat-free cream of chicken soup
1 (10.75-ounce) can cream of celery soup
6 ounces (about 1½ cups) low-fat sour cream
1 (10-ounce) can hot green-chile-and-habanero Ro*Tel, lightly drained
12 small corn tortillas
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated*
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated*
1. Preheat oven to 425. Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, and cumin. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until hot, add chicken, and sauté until browned and cooked through.
2. Meanwhile, mix soups, sour cream, and Ro*Tel in a medium bowl until combined.
3. Spoon ½ cup soup mixture into bottom of a prepared 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Dip 4 tortillas in water, and layer over soup mixture. Top with one-third of the soup mixture, then half of the cooked chicken, and then one-third of the cheeses. Repeat with 4 more tortillas, one-third of the soup mixture, the remaining chicken, and one-third of the cheeses. Layer with the remaining 4 tortillas and then the remaining soup mixture; top with the remaining cheese.
4. Bake 15 minutes; broil 5 more minutes or until lasagna is bubbling and cheese is melted and golden brown. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
*Seriously? Do not buy pre-grated cheese. Yes, it is a pain to wash your cheese grater, but doing it yourself makes all the difference in terms of meltability. All the difference, I swear on J. Come back here and thank me later!