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Sargento Cheese and The First Day of School 
 
Aug. 1, 2013 5:20 pm 
Updated: Aug. 3, 2013 5:58 pm

Imagine my delight when I found out that our newest Allrecipes Allstar sponsor was Sargento Cheese.  As has been said, there’s no such thing as too much cheese, and we use it abundantly in our household.  In fact, I am often surprised to go to the refrigerator to find that, although I have recently stocked up, there is no cheese left.
Each Allstar was also given a “Life’s Special Moment” to create a recipe around, using the cheese.  My moment was the first day of school, either for your children or yourself.  I am finishing my bachelor’s degree, and Hubby is a teacher, so sometimes, the first day of school falls on the same day for all of us.  Even if not on the same day, often in the same week.  As I thought about what would be a good way to create a special moment out of returning to school, I considered the feelings involved. Excitement, anxiety, and often, for all of us an overwhelming amount of work.  So what could make this event into a special moment? Comfort food.  But it would have to be something simple, not anything that would add to the amount of preparation and work involved with the day.  So I decided on something I could pre-make, freeze, and just pop in the oven at the end of the day, and about 40 minutes to an hour later, have dinner on the table.
Comfort food is different for everyone. Some things are similar across the regions of the United States, but I didn’t want to do something that would be general, I wanted to focus on something that is comfort food where I’m from, New Mexico.  And the first thing that sprang to mind was New Mexico Red Chile Enchiladas.  My family has always made a stacked version of this dish, but for the first day of school, I wanted to make a casserole, and freeze it.
But before I go into all the sitch on the recipe, let me share a little info about my home and family here in New Mexico.  Did you know that Hatch, New Mexico is the Chile capital of the world?  Perhaps you did, as Hatch Chile is a common name.  My family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico when I was 9 years old, so, for the most part, I was raised here. All of my life, my Uncle was a chile farmer in Hatch.  He farmed other things as well, cotton, onions, I even remember him farming lettuce once or twice, but chile was always the staple. Toward the end of the summer, the “Hatch Chile Festival” is held, and my family would often make the 3-4 hour drive down, and return with ground red chile, roasted green chilie, and onions from my uncle’s farm.   The ground red chile is the center of this recipe.  It is like a gravy, but instead of using meat drippings after making the rue, you use ground chile powder.  Many people even grind their own chile powder as well.  Nowadays, my uncle is retired from farming, so we get our ground chile powder at the store.  It is located in the “Hispanic foods” aisle, and is usually available in hot or mild varieties, as well as varying quantities.  Please don’t mistake it for the chili powder you find in the spice aisle, that is a different thing entirely.
If you’re interested in the stacked version of this recipe, it can be found in my personal recipe box at: http://allrecipes.com/personalrecipe/63326556/stacked-new-mexico-red-chile-enchiladas/detail.aspx<
Go here for the casserole version:
http://allrecipes.com/personalrecipe/63588193/red-chile-enchilada-casserole/detail.aspx<
If you make the casserole version with the intention of freezing it, please freeze carefully so that it doesn’t get freezer burn.  Freezing directions are included in the notes of the recipe. You can also divide baked casserole into individual servings and freeze that way.
Here’s the whole recipe for you:

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef, shredded beef, ground or shredded chicken or ground or shredded turkey
1 onion
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste
6 tsp. butter
6 tsp. flour
2-3 oz. red chile powder (to taste, adjust as you go)
1 - 1 1/2 c. milk
3 7.5 oz. bags Sargento Cheese, either 4 Cheese Mexican, or 4 State Cheddar
18 corn tortillas
1 dozen eggs
1 head of iceberg lettuce, shredded (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Brown ground meat as you normally would, using onion, garlic and salt and pepper to season.  If using pre-cooked shredded meat, simply sauté onion and garlic and add to meat.
For the sauce:
Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat.
Add flour and cook for about 30 seconds, or until raw flour taste is cooked out, and rue is bubbling slightly.
Slowly alternate adding red chile powder and cold milk, and stir thoroughly to avoid lumping, continue this process until gravy is desired consistency, and to desired taste.  If the chile is too spicy, but the gravy too runny, add flour to thicken gravy, stirring or whisking to avoid lumps.   If the chile is not spicy enough, add more chile powder, adding milk as you go to retain desired consistency.  The consistency should be that of a thin gravy.  Here’s how mine looked:
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Begin casserole assembly with ¼  - 1/3 cup red chile sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 pan.  Be sure that the sauce covers the bottom of the pan evenly.
Layer 6 corn tortillas on top of the sauce, they will overlap slightly.
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Top the tortillas with another ¼ to 1/3 cup red chile sauce.
Add 1/3 of meat mixture.
Top with 1 bag of cheese.
Continue by layering 6 tortillas, sauce, meat mixture and cheese, 2 more times, ending with cheese on the top.
Bake in preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until cheese on top is brown and bubbly.  If freezing, 
when the casserole is cooked, cover with aluminum foil and cool for 10 minutes (minimum) at room temperature. 

Finish cooling casserole completely either in the refrigerator or in an ice bath. 

Wrap casserole thoroughly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. 

"Par-freeze" casserole for 2 hours in the freezer. Remove casserole, foil and all from the pan. Wrap casserole again in non-stick aluminum foil or foil that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. 

Return casserole to freezer to complete freezing. 

Casserole should keep for up to 3 months. 

When ready to prepare, place casserole, foil and all, back in the original dish and bake as directed.
5-10 minutes before casserole comes out of the oven, start preparing eggs, sunny side up, 1 for each serving. 
Garnish with shredded iceberg lettuce if desired.
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I hope this recipe will help make things easier on the first day of school, or any other day when time is of the essence.  On a special occasion, or just a day with plenty of spare time (when will that ever happen, right?) I hope you’ll try the stacked version.
Until Next Time. . .

Disclaimer

I am an Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador (a voluntary position) and I’m not compensated for my work with Allrecipes.com.  

Products received from advertiser are only used for experienced-based reviews on Mommasangelbaby. The reviews, content and opinions expressed in this blog are purely the sole opinions of Cheryl King - Mommasangelbaby.
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Comments
Deb C 
Aug. 2, 2013 5:28 am
I agree, there’s no such thing as too much cheese, and I’d love to go to a chile festival! Because I’m from a different region of the country and my comfort food is different, I’d love to try this. Congrats on finishing your bachelor’s degree!
 
Aug. 2, 2013 11:36 am
Being a North-Easterner, I am just now learning to appreciate the nuances to the regional preparations of the same dish. Red enchilada sauce was never explained this clearly to me before. Hatch chilies I am familiar with, but just the green ones in a can, so now I have to locate the ground red chili powder. Thanks for a very informative blog.
 
Aug. 2, 2013 3:30 pm
Deb C, I hope you give it a try. It's a bit labor intensive in the beginning, but well worth it to have a quick easy casserole in the oven if you freeze it. Thanks for the encouragement about school, I just keep plugging along with it. :-)
 
Aug. 2, 2013 3:32 pm
BigShotsMom, I do hope you can locate the red chile powder. I've never looked for it anywhere but here, so I don't know about nation wide availability. If you are able to locate it, I hope you will give this recipe a try! And once you've tried the powder, play around with adding it to other recipes as well!
 
Lela 
Aug. 3, 2013 7:55 am
Momma-sounds delish! Sounds like the Enchiladas Tejanas I can get here in restaurants in Co. Looks Delish! I love living in the Southwest because of the the great green chile we can get here. I live in Pueblo West, Co. and we have a great green chile called the Pueblo Chile. Nothing beats the red chile powders from New Mexico. I get a lot of red chile at the Farmer's Market from New Mexico. Hatches, I can get in a can or the freezer section. Another question-you live at high altitude like I do. Do you find baking a challenge? If you have any great baking recipes-cakes, etc. please let me know. Even a pancake recipe. Thanks!
 
Aug. 3, 2013 5:58 pm
Lela, thanks for your comments, and yes, I do sometimes find baking a challenge. Especially baking from scratch. I have read that baking at a slightly reduced temperature helps. I also asked a cupcake baking friend about it, and she said to add a Tablespoon or two of extra flour to batters before baking. I can't say I've really tried these techniques enough to say they're tried and true, but those are the tips I've heard.
 
 
 
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Cheryl King

Living In
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Member Since
Apr. 2012

Cooking Level
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Cooking Interests
Baking, Vegetarian, Dessert, Kids, Quick & Easy

Hobbies
Scrapbooking, Reading Books, Music

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About Me
About the ONLY thing I don't like about cooking is the HEAT!! I'm not sure why, but I get very easily overheated. I usually sit while cooking, and have a fan blowing directly on me if available. I've been thinking about renaming myself - thehotchef - lol. It's a little better in winter, but I live in Albuquerque, NM - it never gets REALLY cold here, and my body just seems to want to overheat when I get busy in the kitchen! That's one of the reasons I like to divide my kitchen work into 2 or 3 parts at a time. One day I chop the veggies, the next day I roast the veggies, and the 3rd day I put together the lasagna and bake, for example.
My favorite things to cook
Bread, black bottom banana cream pie, fruit salad, beef stroganoff. I like to try something new for Thanksgiving every year.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Mom's tea ring, macoroni/potato salad, bread, BRINING the Thanksgiving turkey.
My cooking triumphs
Best pies ever!
My cooking tragedies
My husband likes his own cooking better than mine! So much so that he is willing to make dinner for our family everyday - that's just fine with me!
 
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