Chicken Chili Casserole

13October 2021

Evenings are definitely cooler and you can tell the Fall rains are right around the corner. That means it is time to preheat the oven and start back with casseroles for a dining experience.

One of the nice things about casseroles is how easily they can be customized. Instead of one large 3 quart baking dish, bake in individual 10 ounce ramekins to accommodate individual tastes or food allergies.

As an example, if grits is not to your liking, substitute cornbread from a mix or your own concoction. You could also use biscuits. If grain in general is a problem, try cauliflower rice or finely ground any hard vegetable like broccoli or carrots.

Poblano pepper
“Poblano Peppers” by Garrett Heath is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you don’t happen to have a poblano, you can easily substitute a serrano, ancho chile, green chili, banana, habanero, or cubanelle. Just a couple more things about chiles. Most of the heat is in the ribs and seeds, so you can control the amount of spice you want. Second, when working with chiles, be sure to wear disposable gloves or wash your hands very thoroughly before touching any part of your body, especially the face, eyes, or other sensitive areas.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken
  • 2 poblano chiles, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups)
  • 3 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked yellow stone-ground grits
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Directions

Saute chicken, poblano chiles, onion, and garlic in a over medium-high until meat crumbles and is no longer pink, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, chili powder, and cumin, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Stir in black beans, tomatoes, and chicken stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes.

Stir in squash, and cook until squash is just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper. Transfer chili to 6 lightly greased 10 oz. ramekins (or a 3-quart baking dish).

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Bring water and 1 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high; whisk in grits, and cook, stirring often, until tender and thickened, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat, and whisk in cheese and cilantro. Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Gradually stir about one-fourth of grits mixture into eggs; add egg mixture to remaining hot grits mixture, stirring constantly. Spoon hot grits mixture over chili.

Bake in preheated oven until crust is set and golden, 22 to 25 minutes for ramekins or 30 to 35 minutes for baking dish. Let stand 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired.

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