It really is fun doing this Secret Ingredient Cook-Off with a friend. So many different ideas! Karly thought of Southern cooking when confronted with Cornmeal Week, and I automatically went for Mexican!
I'll give you a little heads-up: all three of my dishes this week are Hispanic-inspired! This one, my main dish, is a casserole. Simple enough, and very tasty!
Nopales (pronounced noh-pahl-ess) are cut strips of cactus leaf, and they are used often in Mexican cooking. I chose a preserved kind that was bottled with a vinegar/serrano pepper juice, but many will buy the cactus "paddles", cut off the spines, and cook them...
Regarding the Cornmeal, I thought it would make an awesome crust for a Mexican dish. I played this by ear because I couldn't find a crust recipe that made me happy. This one was a success, and yet another completely original idea straight from my brain to the dinner table!
CHICKEN & NOPALES CASSEROLE WITH CORNMEAL CRUST
1 1/2 cups cornmeal (I used corn flour for a finer texture)
1 2/3 cups flour (I used organic all-purpose)
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 cup chicken broth (or water)
Mix dry ingredients. Add egg, butter and broth. Mix well. You might even have to get your hands in there. Transfer to baking dish and mash onto bottom and up onto sides. (I had a little extra left over, so I put the extra on top...) Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
1/2 medium white or yellow onion, cut into small chunks
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup preserved nopales
1-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, diced
1 can cut tomatoes, drained
2 breasts of chicken, cooked
2 tbsp diced cilantro
1/2 can black refried beans (I mashed my own black beans)
3-4 oz Mexican Quesadilla cheese, grated (you can substitute Monterrey Jack)
Saute onion and pepper in olive oil until onion is translucent; add everything else except beans and cheese, and cook at med-high heat about 5-10 mins. Then cook out or drain liquid.
First line the crust with a layer of the refried beans. Next, add the cooked mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Cook at 350 for another 10 minutes. I also sprinkled mine with pumpkin seeds. Buen Provecho!
"Food is never just food. It's also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, & who we want to be." -- Molly Wizenberg