My mamma never really made casseroles, but I’ve experienced enough bad ones in my life to understand why they are often maligned. (You probably have too.) Scratch all those bad memories: this meal-in-one is a fresh spin on the casseroles of old (no canned soup required); the end result is almost like a Mexican risotto (arrozotto?), which can be topped with fresh tomatoes or diced avocado or even a drizzle of my Cilantro Lime Sauce. It’s a hearty yet elegant way to use up rotisserie chicken (or holiday turkey or almost any other leftover meat), and you can add whatever you like or happen to have on hand. The basics are rice, reduced fat sour cream, salsa verde, and frozen corn. Any leftover rice will work, but this is a perfect way to be sneaky with brown rice (if you have brown rice objectors in your household). With all the other seasonings and textures in the dish, you’d have to be Tom Coliccio to catch it. Lately I’ve been stocking up on Trader Joe’s pre-cooked vacuu-pouches, so I’ll always be ready for a casserole.
This recipe was inspired by Rick Bayless’s Arroz Gratinado, from his insightful book, Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen. Rick’s version calls for making your own roasted poblano rajas (sautéed roasted poblanos and onions), which I find too time-consuming for a mid-week meal. By using a good-quality jarred salsa verde, you can get almost as tasty results in a fraction of the time (and importantly: with only 2 dirtied dishes!).
Mexican Rice Casserole
Serves 4-6, though can be doubled for a crowd
- 1 cup reduced fat sour cream
- 1 cup salsa verde (I like Xochitl brand)
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 1 ½ – 2 cups cooked rice
- 1 ½ cups frozen corn
- 1 – 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken or other cooked meat
- 1 cup grated cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
- 1 can green chiles, chopped
- 1 cup canned black beans
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- Anything you’d normally put on nachos: Diced fresh tomatoes, diced avocado, shredded lettuce, chopped cilantro, sliced olives
- Crumbled tortilla chips
- Cilantro lime sauce
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Mix sour cream, salsa verde, cumin and oregano in a measuring cup or small bowl.
In a small casserole or 8×8 baking dish, sprinkle ½ of the rice. Then sprinkle with ½ of the corn. Top with ½ of the sour cream/salsa mixture. Then add ½ of the chicken, ½ of any optional fillers, and then ½ cup cheese. Repeat for a second layer, starting with the rice and ending with ½ cup cheese. (Don’t worry too much about the order of the layers; just try to have the sour cream/salsa mixture touching the meat layer.)
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until bubbling and browned on top. Serve hot. (Reheats well the next day, too, though it won’t be quite as creamy.)
Add desired toppings. I went with tomatoes, avocado, crumbled tortilla chips (always a favorite), and some leftover cilantro lime sauce.
¡ Buon provecho !