Every now and again, even the best laid menu plans go awry, and we’re left with an abundance of certain ingredients in our pantry of fridge that are crying out for some creative use. Such was the case a few days ago when my wife noticed a few unopened packages of corn tortillas languishing in the back of the fridge, castaways from a planned fish taco feast that never materialized. Further inspection turned up a few half-eaten jars of tomato salsa, some shredded cheese, and a huge bag of baby spinach.
Whatever shall we do?
As luck would have it we also had some poached chicken in the fridge (more on that in a future post), as well as some mushrooms and cilantro. To my wife, the answer was obvious…tortilla lasagna.
Good thing that she was around to help me with this call, because no, I’d never heard of tortilla lasagna before, and if left to my own devices I probably would have shoved everything further to the back of the fridge until I felt like making soft tacos or something. She described the basic principal of the dish then left me to figure out specifics, and can I tell you something? This Mexican-Italian mash-up of a dish is really great.
I was a bit concerned that the whole thing would taste like a left-over plate of chicken nachos, you know, one where the tortilla chips have gone all soggy under the salsa and melted cheese, and you have to shovel it in with a spoon because the little buggers completely disintegrate when you try to pick them up with your hands. Well, that’s not at all what the dish is like. The tortillas do soften, but hold together nicely, resembling layers of corn based pasta sheets in the finished dish. YUM.
This is a great clean out your fridge kind of dish as almost anything would be good stuffed between the layers of tortillas. Sautè whatever veggies you have laying around, toss in some extra cooked meat or seafood, and finish it all off with some spare herbs and a mix of salsa and ricotta cheese, and you have a truly delicious flavor bomb that’ll feed a crowd.
Cheers – Steve
- About 3-4 cups of cooked chicken (or some other left-over protein), shredded or cubed into bite sized pieces
- 10 ounce package of crimini mushrooms, washed, stemmed and quartered
- 1 large cello bag of baby spinach
- 10-12 10 corn tortillas, each cut in half
- 3 cups of your favorite pre-made salsa
- 3 cups shredded Mexican-style cheese, such as a monterey jack/cheddar blend
- 16- ounce carton ricotta cheese
- About 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, sliced jalapenos, and your choice of hot sauce for garnish
- kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste
- Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When quite hot, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until just nicely browned, 5-7 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring constantly, until just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Scoop into a colander set in the sink and use a spoon to gently press out excess moisture. Let the vegetables cool, then scoop the mix into a bowl and season with salt to taste. Reserve.
- Heat the oven to 350 ℉ degrees.
- Lightly oil a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. In a medium-size bowl, mix the salsa with the ricotta and season with salt and pepper. Spread about a cup of the salsa mixture over the bottom of the baking dish, then cover evenly with a single layer of tortilla halves. Top with half of the vegetables, about 1/3 of the remaining salsa mixture, 1/2 of the chicken, and 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Add another layer of tortilla halves and spread with 1/2 of the remaining salsa mixture. Top that with the remaining vegetables and chicken, and 1 cup of the shredded cheese. For the final layer, evenly lay out the remaining tortillas, spread with the remaining salsa mixture (making sure to completely cover the tortillas) and evenly sprinkle on the remaining 1 cup shredded cheese. Dot the top with jalapeno slices if desired.
- Cover lightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until bubbling and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let stand a few minutes before sprinkling with the cilantro, then cut to serve.