Recently, as part of a World Hunger Fundraiser, my daughter Amy recruited me to teach a cooking class to a small group of U.S.C. (University of Southern California) students in the university’s Hillel kitchen (see short video below). I opted for a simple recipe, which would be quick, easy and delicious, and which would allow for several short cuts if desired.
Many cultures have some version of a casserole — chilaquiles are Mexican one, while kugel is Jewish from Eastern Europe. Chilaquiles are layers of crunchy tortilla chips covered in a spicy (usually green) sauce, and then smothered in cheese and cream. Kugel is layers of noodles, often sweet. Guess there’s something universal about putting a bunch of stuff in a deep pan and baking!
My version here is made with chicken, so it doesn’t include any dairy products. Instead of using chicken, you do have the option of using cheese where you would the chicken. My guests always rave about this dish…but little do they know how simple it is to make. Now I am giving all of my secrets away. It calls for either freshly made tortilla chips (by frying your own) or store-bought chips. Also, it calls for tomato sauce, which you can make fresh, or you may use the canned stuff if you are short on time. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of tortilla chips left over from New Year’s Eve and other recent celebrations. So this Friday night, before the chips go stale, I am going to use them to make a delicious Chicken Tortilla Kugel.
Chicken Tortilla Kugel
Ingredients and process for Step I
- One bone-in whole chicken breast
- a small piece of onion
- 1 whole garlic clove
- Salt and pepper to taste
As if you were going to make a simple chicken soup, boil the chicken breast along with onion and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. When it is tender and well cooked remove it from the broth, allow it to cool, and then shred it. It should provide about 2 cups of shredded chicken. Set it aside, and preserve the broth for the sauce.
Ingredients and process for Step II
- 18 corn tortillas or store-bought tostadas or tortilla chips
- ¼ – 1/2 cup canola oil, if you are using the fresh tortillas
Warm the oil in a small frying pan, over medium heat.
Fry each tortilla one at a time until it becomes golden and crisp.
As you remove each fried tortilla from the oil (which is now a tostada), place on a paper towel and wipe off excess oil with another paper towel.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Ingredients and process for Step III
- 15 oz. can tomato sauce or 4 small ripe tomatoes
- 2 cups chicken broth chicken broth
- ¼ of a small white onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 jalapeno pepper (or more if you want a spicier sauce)
- 1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro
- ½ teaspoon salt
Place all of the above ingredients in a blender and liquefy until very smooth.
Place 1 tablespoon of canola oil into a small saucepan and heat very well until oil begins to smoke a bit, add the sauce from the blender and bring it to a boil. Allow the sauce to boil for 2 minutes and then lower the heat so that sauce continues to simmer and stays hot. When the tostadas have cooled, break up 6 of them (each tostada should make about 4-5 pieces) in a rectangular oven safe baking dish, and spread them out evenly. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the shredded chicken evenly over the tostada pieces or chips. With a ladle, spoon the sauce evenly over the first layer of tostada pieces and shredded chicken. Repeat the process and form a second layer, or even a third layer, ending with a layer of the shredded chicken. Cover tightly with foil and place in hot oven for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and garnish with diced onion, cilantro and avocado pieces if desired.