Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mexican Chicken and Spinach Casserole

Here in San Antonio, Texas, we love our Tex-Mex.  Mostly, we don't concern ourselves with what is "authentic, regional Mexican cuisine" and what is something Mexican Americans (or cowboys) developed later.  We like what we like!
Sometimes though, despite ourselves, we get an education regarding the varied and wonderful dishes that really are native to Mexico.  In the '90s, there was a revival of interest in Frida Kahlo, painter and wife of Mexican artist Diego Rivera.  "Everything Frida" was pretty trendy in those days, so of course, there had to be a cookbook!  Written by her stepdaughter, it had beautiful pictures of the dishes and interesting essays on the artists' lives.  I bought it mostly because the stories were interesting, but it turned out to be one of my favorite cookbooks, and I've made quite a few dishes and did learn a few things about "real" Mexican food-- mostly that it's really tasty!
This casserole has lots of spinach and is fairly light.  I streamlined it a bit from the original recipe, changed some proportions (I think something was lost in the translation from metric to English measurement!), and added the chicken, which I think is very tasty with the spinach sauce and chile.  The chile flavor is subtle, but adds a lot of interest! If you don't have a food processor, you can process the sauce in a blender.  Pour in some of the cream sauce and it will all blend up beautifully!
P.S.  Like the paper flowers?  I'm making them now!  Ole! :)

Mexican Chicken and Spinach Casserole

About 2 cups cooked chicken (leftovers are good, OR shred up part of a rotisserie chicken OR simmer a couple chicken breasts in salted water for about 20 minutes)
12 oz. frozen spinach
1 serrano chile
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
8 oz. penne pasta or elbow macaroni
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Spray with PAM or butter a 2 qt. casserole.  Preheat the oven to 350F.
Boil the pasta according to the package directions in salted water.  Drain well, rinse under cold water, and set aside.
Cook the spinach in the microwave for about 3-4 minutes.  It should be hot and completely thawed.
Squeeze out most, but not all of the moisture from the spinach.  It doesn't have to be super dry.
Chop the serrano chile coarsely.  Use the seeds if you like a spicy dish, or remove them for a milder one.
Mix the spinach and chile in a food processor until chopped finely.
Melt the butter in the pot you cooked the pasta in.  Add the flour and cook briefly, stirring.  Add the milk, cream, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook and stir with a whisk until thickened and smooth.  Stir in the spinach / chile mix.  Taste to see if you need to add more salt and/or pepper.  T
Add the pasta and chicken and mix thoroughly and turn into the baking dish.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly and browned.

These Mexican shortbread cookies are fun to make!  Another post coming soon! :)

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