Classic Southern casseroles are usually on the heavy side, if Paul Dean’s renditions are any indication. Perhaps it’s the fat that makes them so comforting, but we think that the amount of butter does not always dictate the level of deliciousness.
Since spring is on the way, and that means bikini season is also just around the corner, we decided to challenge ourselves to create a comforting casserole that is as good for the soul as it is on our waistline. For this Tex-Mex cast-iron casserole, we strike a balance by using dark meat chicken to keep it low-fat and chorizo to give it flavor. Instead of 1 pound of butter, we use a mere 1/2 stick, and lighten things up even further with sour cream to thicken the sauce, and 3 cups of sharp cheddar cheese instead of processed Velveta to make the top oozy and gooey.
The result is a light, creamy 100 calorie casserole that’s full of flavor, and not weighted down by guilt.
This healthy low-cal meal comes at an interesting time in the evolution of our recipe search systems. Amanda Hesser wrote a great piece on Food52 about what Google’s new recipe search function will mean for home cooks and bloggers who don’t have the manpower to calculate calorie count and input it for every recipe and, more importantly, who don’t think that these numbers should be an important factor in SEO. She makes a lot of great points. But for those of us who manage to create low calorie recipes like this one, and this one which Amanda found, out of incredibly fatty-sounding foods like butter, cream, and cheese, the new system is a great asset! To which we quote: don’t hate the player, hate the game.
From our kitchen, lowering the calories by keeping all the fat, to yours,
Phoebe and Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS
Creamy Chorizo-Chicken Casserole
Makes 4-6 servings
Calories Per Serving: 100
In addition to being incredibly good for you, this completely vegetable-free casserole is also incredibly delicious.
1/2 pound chorizo
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 teaspoons ancho chile powder (or chili powder)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 lime, juiced
3 cups cooked long grain white rice
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
3 cups coarsely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Brown the chorizo until nicely charred and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and 1 teaspoon of the ancho chili powder. Add to the skillet and cook on both sides until browned and cook through, about 15 minutes. Note: if your pan is big enough, you can brown both meats at the same time.
Add the butter and the onions to the pan and saute, scrapping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, remaining chili powder, cumin, salt, and flour. Cook for a few minutes, until the flour has become fully incorporated. Whisk in the broth and simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cream, sour cream, and lime juice. Gently simmer over medium-low heat until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In the meantime, cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes, and slice the chorizo. Carefully fold in the meats, cooked rice, and cilantro. Use the back of your spatula to even the top of the casserole. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted, bubbling, and beginning to brown.
Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve straight from the pan.
P.S. April Fool’s!