A hasty June move to Chicago slowed not down the consumption of Az-Mex comida one bite. Riding shotgun in the Penske were undocumented tortillas, carne seca sacks, red and green chiles (NM), salsa (NM), a bushel of dry pinto beans, Macayo’s green sauce (but tristemente sin tamales). All arrived without incident.
Unlike the junkie who muertoly shoots a fat final bag, rather than speedball my way through these Az-Mex rations to an pre-mature sugar skull I solemnly swore to dutifully dole out just enough of this culinary Blue Stuff to survive the summer months: a little carne adovada here a little pork on a tort there, here a little, there a little whatever a little leaving me just enough time to suss out the Chi-Mex offerings round the friendly confines Chicag-E I E I O.
The report so far: one week in and I’ve lead on fresh flour tortillas. (Thank you driver of the moving truck originally from Nogales who, like moi, lives disabled by tamale DTs.) Three months later, a bushel of fresh roasted NM green chiles, flour torts and tamales roll up via FexEx Tuesday.
Still, rations are running thin. I refuse to take up Tex-mex-methadone (a.k.a. Old El Paso and/or Mission products) and instead taken to concocting platas by cross-breeding time-honored Midwestern culinary traditions the bountiful grazings of my beloved Sonoran Desert (and New Mexio).
Cutting these Az-Mex rations with local ingredients I rolled out of the oven The Great Grandmother/Abuela of All Dishes: The Mexichago Casserole.
Midwestern Casseroles (also known as Hot Dish), when you think about them as I now do, are a lot like meatloaves and The Fall line ups (of Cruiser’s Creek, not NBC/CBS/ABC/ETC):
1. Casseroles/meatloaf/The Fall are all retain the same name across decades yet no two are quite alike.
2. All are a hodgepodge of your basic food groups and/or musical instruments, usually thrown together at the last minute (See ‘The Fallen”) with the constant centerpiece being a medium-grade meat (ground), fish (tuna) or Mark E. Smith (See ‘The Fallen”).
3. Each casserole/meatloaf/The Fall can provoke simultaneous admiration and disgust while evoking both benevolent nostalgia and thorny family/church/The Fall gatherings/concerts.
One never knows what to expect in another’s casserole, meatloaf or The Fall line-up. And your first within your own family, usually the one your grandmother or Mark E. Smith slapped together, holds steadfast as the standard by which all other meatloaf, casserole or The Fall line-ups are measured.
To paraphrase the poets of The Sugarhill Gang, “All else is ugly food that stinks.”
To quote Mark E. Smith: “Blue cheese contains natural amphetamines. Why are students not informed about this?“
Mexi-Chago Green Chile Chicken Casserole*
– 2 cups of shredded chicken and/or chopped up grilled breasts marinated in olive oil/salt/pepper/rosemary/sage(?)
– ½ box of medium shell pasta
– 3 squash (zucchini, yellow, etc) = to a cup
– 1/2 yellow onion – diced
– 3-4 garlic cloves – chopped fine/minced
– Salt and pepper and Mexican oregano to taste
– 1 can cream o’ mushroom soup
– 1 can Macayo’s green enchilada sauce (or Hatch)
– 1/2 cup of fresh roasted, seeded, peeled (or sm can)
– A mess of pre-shredded Mexi-cheddar cheese
Pre-heat oven to 375
1. Pre-cook chicken and pasta: set aside
2. Dry fry squash in a skillet (med/high heat until browned) – set aside in bowl
3. Dry fry onion/garlic -salt and pepper/small pinch of Mexican oregano – stir into to squash in bowl
4. Mix together cream of mushroom, green sauce, and green chiles and handful of cheese
5. Layer in casserole dish in order: Pasta – Chicken – veggies – sauce – cheese
Repeat until ingredients is all gone. (BTW – If you want to add a layer of tater tots lmk how it turns out!)
Sprinkle/cover top of casserole with cheddar
6. Bake until burbling hot – approx 20/30 minutes
7. Set under broiler for a couple minutes until seared and crusty.
8. Let cool, serve with sour cream and/or grilled corn/tomato/cilantro relish, squeeze of lime.
*This casserole does not contain blue cheese.
And so what makes this casserole Chicago? Mira: comida tipica del Chicago, por ejemplo hot dogs and pizza dragged through the garden and deep-dish/stuffed, respectively, ain’t nothing more than someone’s grandmother’s casserole/hot dish delivered on a bun and/or crust instead of Pyrex. Think about it.
And so what does The Fall have to do with any of this?
Knowledge the science Mark: