Turkey Enchilada Casserole


Serves 6 – 8

1 teaspoon or so of lard or oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
675 grams ground turkey meat
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
5 cups red enchilada sauce (see below)
425 grams corn tortillas (12 to 16, depending on size)
1 cup soft goat cheese (or feta), crumbled
1 cup cheddar, shredded

Heat the lard or oil. Add onions and fry over high heat. Add turkey, garlic, oregano, and cumin until turkey is crumbly and no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in one cup of the enchilada sauce. Add salt to taste.

Cut tortillas in half, if they are large (even if they are small, you may wish to cut some of them in half to ensure good coverage of the casserole dish). Spray or brush a shallow 3-quart casserole dish with a little oil. Dip the tortillas into the enchilada sauce just before they are added to the casserole, but don’t dip them faster than you are layering them into the dish, or they may get soggy and fragile. Using tongs greatly speeds up the dipping/layering process.

Arrange one fourth of the tortilla halves evenly over the bottom of the casserole, overlapping to ensure coverage. Sprinkle a fourth of the cheese evenly over the tortillas, then top with a third of the turkey mixture and a cup of the enchilada sauce, spreading until level.

Repeat to make two more layers of tortillas, cheese, turkey mixture, and sauce. Top with another layer of tortillas, sauce and cheese.

Bake at 425° until the cheese is melted and the casserole is hot in the center, 18 to 20 minutes (30 minutes if you are starting with a made-ahead, chilled sauce). Serve with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.

Note: the number of tortillas you need will depend on the size of your casserole, and the size of the tortillas. Likewise, you may need more or less cheese.

Red Enchilada Sauce

Makes 5 cups


4-6 large dried chilies (such as ancho, pasilla, guajillo)
1 small onion chopped into 4 chunks
4 garlic cloves
6 Roma tomatoes
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
brown sugar

You can use any dried Mexican chilies, but ancho is my preferred chili for this. As always, a blend of two or three chilies is best. Toast the chilies in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant and turning colour (most chilies will turn red), but before they smoke too much. Keep turning the chilies so they do not burn. Put the toasted chilies in a bowl of water, and let them soak for about 15 minutes. When soft, tear off the stems and pull out the seeds.

Toast the onion and garlic in a dry pan over medium heat until there is a good amount of black on the outside, turning occasionally. Remove, then toast the tomatoes in the pan over medium heat until they blacken, turning occasionally. Always blacken the tomatoes last as they tend to burst and so add moisten to the pan.

Bring six cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and add all of the chilies, onion, and garlic. Reduce the heat and simmer for fifteen minutes, uncovered. The chilies will float to the top, so push them under from time to time.

Transfer the tomatoes, the oregano, cumin, and the saucepan with all its contents (including the water, but add the water after you’ve started pureeing) into a food processor. Blend until the mixture is very smooth. Be careful because the mixture is very hot.

Return the contents of the food processor back to the pan by forcing the mixture through a strainer with the back of a spoon to remove the bits of chili and tomato skin that remain. Don’t skip this step as it greatly improves the texture of the finished sauce.

Heat the strained enchilada sauce and simmer for 15 minutes to blend the flavors and reduce it a little. Taste, and add salt and sugar as needed. Sugar will balance out the acridity of the chilies, but add a little at a time, as it shouldn’t take too much.