A few months ago, I got this email from reader Rebecca:
“I have no idea what to give to new parents or the bereaved–you know, those occasions in life when a casserole is all but mandatory. I want so badly to show that I care by offering simple nourishment, and all I have in my repertoire are a tired lasagna or straight-out-of-the-1950’s tuna-noodle casserole, which I’m almost embarrassed to offer to friends with even a moderately discriminating palate. Do you have any recipes that can be thrown in the oven for an easy dinner during life’s transitions, but are fresh, modern and tasty enough that I can feel proud to offer them to friends?”
I get this question all the time, and it’s taken me this long to respond because I have been stuck in the lasagna rut, too. Until the other night, when I was flipping through my second favorite quick meal cookbook*, Great Food Fast. I was looking for something to bring over to my friend and mother-of-three Teresa, who is recovering from back surgery, and came upon a recipe for Tortilla Pie. By merely plating it in a beautiful pie dish (and not my grease-streaked Pyrex baking dish) it was transformed into a modern, tasty upgrade from the more tired Mexican lasagna. I made it for my own family last weekend (the “A” is for “Abby,” since her wedge of the pie was not to include black beans. Another option: “A for Are you kidding me?”) and man oh man was it spirit-lifting, aka delicious.
Another thought: Time for Dinner owners might want to try the “personal pan” lasagna recipes on page 166 in this situation. (Easy to customize for kids, since they are crafted out of ravioli, so can be made with half cheese, half…pumpkin?)
Please comment below or on the DALS facebook page if you have a go-to Show-You-Care Casserole. I think we can all use these.
*You didn’t really just wonder which one was my first favorite, did you?
Whole Wheat Tortilla Pie with Chicken
Adapted from Great Food Fast
If you are making it for your own family, preheat oven to 400°F. Heat a little vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 large onion (chopped), 1 jalapeno (minced, optional), 1 clove garlic (minced), 1/2 teaspoon cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 2 15-ounce cans black beans, and 12 ounces of beer (or water) to skillet. Simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in a handful of shredded cooked chicken (I poached a breast in salted water in a small saucepan for 12 minutes, then pulled it apart with a fork, but you could also just use a rotisserie chicken), 1 box frozen corn, a handful of scallions and remove from heat. Start layering your pie dish with whole wheat tortillas (you may have to trim a little to make them fit), then a layer of shredded cheddar, then chicken and bean mix. Repeat three times, using about a cup of cheese on the very top, and an appropriately placed initial fashioned out of tortilla trims if you have to cater to your own Little Miss Picky. IF YOU ARE GIVING TO SOMEONE, COVER WITH FOIL AND REFRIGERATE THE PIE AT THIS POINT. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until cheese is melted. Top with more chopped scallions, cut into wedges and serve with sour cream and salsa.
Make sure to include baking instructions for the pie if you are giving it to friends — so they know how to finish up.