We were not a casserole family. My mother never made mac and cheese. The notion of casseroles was foreign to my great aunts. They believed that if you didn't grow, you probably shouldn't eat it. They rarely ate cheese, never ate Italian, Mexican, or Chinese, never ate anything hot or spicy. That is the reason this casserole stood out to me. My great aunt made this Mexican Chicken Casserole once.
The casserole contains chicken and an onion, staples in the kitchen. Then it went totally off my family radar. There was a lot of cheese which we never had. There were two cans of CANNED soup, and canned soup never touched our lips. Then there was the "Mexican" element which presented itself in the form of a tiny can of chopped peppers, available in your stores International isle, and isle we never went down. The other truly authentic Mexican item was a a bag of Doritos. We never ventured down the chip/soda isle.
To make this casserole required the purchase of five items! Three cans, a bag of Doritos and cheese! Casserole was an event! I loved it but it was never invited back to the family table.
At home with just my mother and me, I would often make it. In my own kitchen, I have made it with homemade soup, but after all my calamities, I just wanted comfort and this fit the bill.
Like most casseroles, there is a protein (chicken), a starch (Doritos), a sauce (two cans of cream of chicken soup), an scant attempt at a vegetable (onions and peppers), and finally a binder (cheese). Repeat these in multiple layers, always ending in cheese and you have a casserole.
Mexican Chicken Casserole
1 bag of Doritos
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1 teaspoon oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 can diced peppers
2 cans cream of chicken soup (to be a real gourmet use one can cream of chicken and one can cream of celery)
2 cups grated cheddar
In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the chopped onion, cooking about three minutes until translucent. Add the can of peppers and stir for another minute. Add two ans of soup and heat till just boiling.
In a tall casserole dish, layer the of the dish with Doritos. Add 1/3 of the chicken. With the chicken in place, begin adding Doritos to the sides of the dish. You want the Doritos to form a rough crust around the edges of the casserole. Set a row with the wide side down, the a second row, with the pointed edge filling in the gap. When the row is complete, add 1/3 of the sauce followed by 1/3 of the cheese.
Add a layer of Doritos, flat on top of the cheese and then again around the edges adding 1/3 of the chicken, 1/3 of the sauce, 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat a final time, ending with the cheese. You will probably have leftover Doritos, just save them for something else.
Bake in a 350 oven for about 40 minutes.
When my casserole came out of the oven, I just wanted to sit on the floor next to the stove, hold it in my lap, and eat the whole thing. I refrained. But after a tough week, one can't beat a warm, mushy, gooey, childhood treat. Next time life sucks -- make casserole.