Monday, October 24, 2011

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchilada Casserole with Red Chile Sauce

Have you ever cut, peeled, seeded, and chopped up a whole pumpkin?  Well, if you have (and are anything like me), you vowed not to do it again for a really long time.  I mean, I don't mind cutting a pumpkin in half, scooping out and cleaning the seeds, and roasting the halves in the oven.  That's not too difficult or time consuming.  What takes forever is the peeling and breaking down of a pumpkin.  So, as you can imagine, when I came across a recipe last October in Fine Cooking for a Pumpkin Enchilada Casserole with Red Chile Sauce, I was intrigued, but not crazy.  I mean it called for a whole pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and chopped.  I realized the amount of work it would be to get that sucker cut into small pieces, and there was no enchilada casserole in the world (no matter how much I love enchiladas) that would make me work that hard!  Therefore, the magazine disappeared in the back of my bookcase for an entire year.  

A few weeks ago when I was digging through my old copies of fall magazines (yes, I save all fall magazines), I came across this recipe again, and instantly wanted to make it.  Still not convinced that it was worth the work, I thought about it for a while.  Finally, I decided to improvise a bit to make it less like bench pressing 200 pounds and more like a doable cooking project.  As I thought about how I wanted to change it, I considered other (easier to manage) winter squash, but my fear was that other types would be too grainy or soft in the casserole.  Being a southerner, my thoughts quickly gravitated toward sweet potato.  I remembered a great burrito I had eaten once with sweet potatoes and black beans, and decided this was the way to go.  The sweet potato would be even more flavorful than the original pumpkin called for, and the black beans would add meatiness to an otherwise meat-free dish (the original recipe did say that roasted turkey was optional).  

I set out to make my version of the casserole.  I made the sauce called for in the original recipe, but changed the ingredients of the filling.  I opted not to make the salsa outlined in the original recipe because I did not have fresh tomatillos, but I liked the idea of pepitas with the casserole so I sprinkled them on top.  What resulted was a casserole that was chunky and creamy on the inside, slightly crisp around the edges, and gooey from the melted cheese.  The chile sauce by itself was pretty spicy, but when added to the casserole, became more reserved with just the right amount of smokiness and heat. The pepitas, while optional, add crunch and texture. 

This is not a photogenic food (and is even less so with my poor photography skills), but it is tasty and would make a unique addition around the holidays.  While I did make it a little easier and faster, it is not necessarily a meal to make on a hectic weeknight.  The chile sauce takes about an hour (most of that being hand-off time).  I do think it would be great to make a large batch of the sauce ahead and freeze it which I plan to do in the near future.  That way, the casserole could be ready in a very short amount of time, making it an everyday sort of meal.  

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchilada Casserole with Red Chile Sauce
serves 6-8 (generously adapted from Fine Cooking October 2010)

10 large dried New Mexico chiles, stems and seeds removed
2 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
6 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp light brown sugar
kosher salt

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced small
4 large cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground chili powder
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

olive oil or cooking spray
12  6-inch corn tortillas
12 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup roasted salted pepitas, optional
sour cream for serving

Place stemmed and seeded chiles in a medium saucepan with peeled garlic cloves, oregano, and 3 cups water.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let stand 30 minutes to cool slightly.  Process in a blender until smooth.  

Heat the olive oil in the same pot where the chiles were boiled.  Add the flour and whisk 2 minutes until it begins to color.  Slowly add the chile puree (it can spatter), whisking to eliminate lumps.  Add brown sugar and 2 teaspoons salt.  Bring to a boil to thicken slightly. 

Heat olive oil in skillet on medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook 5 minutes until transluscent and beginning to brown.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute.  Add cumin and chili powder and cook 30 seconds.  Add sweet potato, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and broth.  Stir to coat.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes or until the potato is tender when pierced with a knife but not falling apart.  Add the beans and stir gently to mix.  Season with more salt as needed. 

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush a 9 x 13 baking dish with oil (or spray).  Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high.  One at a time, lightly brush each of 6 tortillas with olive oil.  Heat each tortillas in the skillet for approximately 1 minute per side until soft, pliable, and beginning to brown. 

Spread 3/4 cup sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.  Arrange the 6 tortillas in the baking dish (2 should fit the width and three should fit the length).  The tortillas will overlap a little in the middle. Spread 1/2 cup sauce over tortillas.  Spread the filling out over the tortillas in an even layer.  Sprinkle with half of the cheese.  Spoon 1/2 cup sauce over the cheese.  Heat the remaining tortillas in the skillet and layer on top of the casserole ingredients.  Spoon the rest of the sauce over the tortillas and top with the remaining cheese.  

Bake for 25 minutes.  Sprinkle on the pepitas (if using) and continue baking 10 more minutes until melted and bubbling. Serve cut in squares with sour cream.   


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