When faced with making decisions, I’m the sort who waffles if there are too many choices. For instance, if you take me to a restaurant that I’ve never been to before, I will spend at least 20 minutes looking at the menu and agonizing over what to order. People are patient, but it’s still hard for me to settle on one thing.
With Tex-Mex, however, I always know exactly what I want. Even if I’m at a place I’ve never visited, there are certain items that will always get my approval. Enchiladas verdes is one of them, as are tacos al carbon, chile con queso, and a loaded combination plate that is stacked with every single Tex-Mex greatest hit.
When I was growing up in Houston, there was a restaurant that specialized in enchiladas verdes stuffed with pork instead of the usual chicken or cheese. The sauce was rich and tangy from green chiles and tomatillos, and each enchilada was topped with a blanket of melted Monterey Jack and sour cream.
These enchiladas verdes have been calling my name the past few days. After a week of eating leftover black-eyed peas and collard greens (mind you, I’m not complaining) I figured that I’d been virtuous enough for the beginning of a new year. That said, instead of taking the time to make traditional rolled enchiladas, I opted for a quicker route and threw everything into a casserole instead.
For the sauce, I roasted some poblano chiles, jalapeños, garlic, and tomatillos under my broiler. This made quick and easy work of making everything soft and I like the extra flavor that came from charring the tomatillos and garlic. As for the pork, I braised some pork shoulder for a couple of hours, then shredded the meat when it was tender. The meat was flavorful enough as there had been garlic and lime juice in the cooking liquid, but I also stirred in some of the poblano salsa verde for an extra boost.
Assembling the pork enchilada casserole takes little effort, as I simply layered the pork and salsa with corn tortillas, cheese, and some diced red onions and cilantro for an additional pop. As the casserole bakes, the ingredients fuse into a cheesy, tangy dish, which has all of the pleasures of enchiladas without any of the fuss. Likewise, to save time, both the pork and the salsa verde can be made a couple of days before. Or if you prefer, the whole casserole can even be made in advance, as it reheats quite well.
Right now I’m still trying to decide my plans for the new year. For instance, I’ve been thinking about a new cookbook (and if there are any particular recipes you’d like to see, please let me know). Though on one thing I’m certain—this pork enchilada verde casserole is a new favorite dish of mine. And if you love the combination of salsa verde, pork, cheese, and tortillas it will become a favorite dish of yours, too.
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Pork enchilada verde casserole
Ingredients for the poblano salsa verde:
- 3 poblano chiles
- 2 jalapeño chiles
- 1 pound tomatillos, husks removed
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Ingredients for the casserole:
- 2 pounds pork butt, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 12 corn tortillas
- 2 1/2 cups 12 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 1/4 medium red onion, about 1/4 cup, diced
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for serving
- Sour cream, for serving
To make the poblano salsa verde, turn on the broiler and place a rack 5 inches away from heating element. Line a cast-iron skillet or baking sheet with foil and place the poblano chiles, jalapeños, tomatillos, and garlic on the skillet. Cook under the broiler for 5 minutes, and then remove the skillet from the oven. Remove the garlic from the skillet and place into a blender. Turn over the poblano chiles, jalapeños, and tomatillos, and return the skillet to the oven.
Continue to broil the chiles and tomatillos for 5 to 7 more minutes or until they are nicely charred. After this time, remove the skillet from the oven. Place the tomatillos in the blender, and put the chiles into a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes.
Pour the 1/2 cup of water into the foil-lined skillet, swirl it around, and then pour this into the blender.
After the chiles have steamed, remove from the bag and rub off the skin. Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles and add them to the blender, along with the cilantro. Blend until smooth. You should have about 3 cups of salsa. Stir in the salt, taste and add more salt if you like.
Meanwhile, to cook the pork, place it in a Dutch oven and barely cover with water. Add the garlic, lime juice, and salt, bring the pot to a boil, and then turn the heat down to low and simmer uncovered for 2-2 1/2 hours or until the meat is fork tender.
Once the meat is done, remove it from the pot and place into a wide mixing-bowl. With 2 forks, shred the meat and stir in 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid (reserving the rest for another use, if you like) and 1/4 cup of the poblano salsa verde. Taste and add salt if needed. (Both the pork and salsa verde can be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated for 3 days.)
To make the casserole, preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a skillet, heat up the vegetable oil on low heat. One at a time, heat up the tortillas in the skilet until soft and pliant. After cooking, wrap in a cloth to keep warm. (It’s fine if you want to skip this step but note that the tortillas may get super soggy when they bake.)
To assemble the casserole, ladle 1/2 cup of the poblano salsa verde into a 9-inch square pan or a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Place 4 of the tortillas in the pan, tearing in pieces to fill in any gaps.
Evenly top the tortillas with half the pork, 1/2 cup of shredded Monterey Jack, half the diced red onions, half the chopped cilantro, and 1/2 cup of the salsa. Top that layer with 4 more tortillas and then add the rest of the pork, 1/2 cup of the cheese, the rest of the onions, cilantro, and 1/2 cup of the salsa.
For the final layer, top with the remaining 4 tortillas. Evenly pour over them the rest of the salsa and then top evenly with the rest of the cheese.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until the casserole is lightly browned and bubbling. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm topped with sour cream and cilantro.