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Chicken Chipotle Casserole

Chicken Chipotle Casserole
Howard Yoon for NPR /

I came up with this recipe using the popular chipotle chili (smoked jalapeno in adobo sauce) as the key ingredient. Chipotles can be found in 7-ounce cans in the Latino food section of most large grocery stores. Because they pack a lot of heat, I don't usually use more than two in any given recipe. So I freeze them, two at a time, in their adobo sauce in snack-sized plastic bags. I defrost a single pack in the microwave whenever I need it. They will keep like this in your freezer for a couple of months.

Makes 6 servings

4 boneless chicken thighs or 2 large boneless chicken breasts, cubed

1/2 medium white onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 small red or green bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeno, sliced into rings (remove the seeds if you want less heat)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup half-and-half

1 cup chicken stock

2 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, finely minced

14-ounce can chopped or diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

2 green onions, finely chopped, green and white parts

Zest of 1/2 a lime

1 cup sour cream

1 1/2 cups cheese (use cheddar or a cheddar-Monterey Jack blend), divided

8-ounce package wide egg noodles (or substitute with half a bag of tortilla chips)

Can of fried onions (or use topping recipe in Tuna Casserole below)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and coat a 9-by-13-inch glass casserole dish with nonstick spray. In a large deep skillet, saute the chicken over medium-high heat until fully cooked, 6 to 8 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Remove from pan and set aside.

Lower heat to medium. Saute onion, celery and bell pepper for 5 minutes until they are soft and translucent. Add jalapeno and crushed garlic. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Add butter and flour, stirring constantly until the ingredients thicken into a paste. Slowly add half-and-half while whisking, then the chicken stock until mixture has even consistency.

Add the cooked chicken, chipotles, tomatoes, tomato paste, cilantro, green onions and lime zest, stirring constantly. Lower heat. Add sour cream and 1 cup of cheese, and stir until fully incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste.

Fold noodles into the mixture. If using tortillas, lay one thick layer of chips on the bottom of the casserole dish, pour half of the mixture on top, then repeat the layers once more.

Sprinkle top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Top that with fried onions. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

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