CORN TORTILLAS CASSEROLE
Sur La Table
Known as a sopa seca, or "dry soup," this casserole is the definition of Mexican comfort food. Corn tortillas cut into strips are layered with spicy tomato sauce, roasted poblano chiles, and two types of cheese, one soft and melting and the other dry and sharp. The top is spiced with sour cream or Mexican crema, a rich, thick cream available in Mexican grocers, and then the whole thing is baked.
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1/4 cup chopped white onion
• 1 clove garlic, chopped
• 3 cups canned tomato puree
• 1 canned chipotle Chile in adobo sauce, finely chopped, plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
• 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
• 1 poblano Chile
• Canola oil, for frying
• 12 to 15 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch-wide strips
• 1 cup (2 ounces) shredded queso Chihuahua or other semisoft melting cheese (such as Monterey Jack or Muenster)
• 1 cup grated queso anejo or other sharp grating cheese (such as Pecorino Romano or Asiago)
• 1/2 cup sour cream, preferably Mexican sour cream, called crema
1. Heat a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and onion to the pan and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the tomato puree, chile and adobo sauce, and salt, and bring to a gentle boil, stirring. Decrease the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until thickened.
2. Preheat the broiler. Char the skin of the poblano, turning with tongs, for 10 to 15 minutes, until evenly blackened and blistered. Place the charred poblano in a bowl, cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and let stand for about 20 minutes, or until cool enough to handle and the skin has loosened. Rub the charred skin off the cooled chile with your fingertips, or use the tip of a small knife. Rinse with water, then slit the chile along its length and open it flat. Cut out and discard the stem, and scrape away the seeds and white membranes with the tip of a spoon. Cut the poblano lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips and set aside.
3. Line a tray with paper towels. Pour oil to a depth of 1/2 inch into a 10-inch skillet, place over medium heat, and heat until a tortilla strip dropped into the oil sizzles on contact. Working in small batches, fry the tortilla strips for 10 to 20 seconds, until they begin to crisp but not brown. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to transfer the tortilla strips to the prepared tray. Repeat until all the tortilla strips are fried.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread one-third of the sauce in a 10 by 2-inch round or a 10½ by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. Layer half of the tortilla strips on top. Sprinkle with one-third each queso Chihuahua and queso anejo. Layer half of the poblano strips on top.
Spread with half of the remaining tomato sauce and layer with all of the remaining tortilla strips, half of each cheese, and all of the remaining poblano strips. Add a final layer of tomato sauce and then a layer of both cheeses. Spread the sour cream over the top.
5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the casserole is hot and bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes and serve.