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Pumpkin Enchilada Casserole with Red Chile Sauce and Poblano-Pepita Salsa

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Serves 6 to 8

  • by Jeanne Kelley from Fine Cooking
    Issue 107

If you need a vegetarian “star” for the Thanksgiving table, this is it. (But if you have leftover cooked turkey on hand, it also makes a delicious addition to the filling.)

For the Sauce
  • 3 oz. dried California chiles (about 10)
  • 3/4 oz. dried ancho chiles (about 2)
  • 6 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. light brown sugar
  • Kosher salt
For the Filling
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into small dice
  • 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 3 cups 1/2-inch-diced peeled, seeded pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup lower-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups diced leftover skinless roast turkey or rotisserie chicken (optional)
  • Kosher salt
For Assembly
  • Olive oil
  • Ten 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 3 cups packed grated Monterey Jack cheese (3/4 lb.)
  • 1 recipe Poblano-Pepita Salsa 
  • Crema Mexicana or sour cream, for serving
Make the sauce

Stem, seed, and rinse the chiles. Put the chiles, garlic, oregano, and 3 cups water in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chiles and garlic are very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. Purée in a blender.

Heat the olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until it begins to color, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully stir in the chile mixture—it will spatter—and bring to a boil. Stir in the sugar and 2 tsp. salt. Keep warm.

Make the Filling

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over mediumhigh heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until nicely browned, about 11 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin and stir to coat. Lower the heat to medium, add the broth, cover, and simmer until the pumpkin is just tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the turkey (if using) and season to taste with salt. asse mble

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 9x13-inch baking dish with olive oil. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce evenly over the bottom of the dish. Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and brush lightly with oil. One at a time, heat 5 tortillas until softened and pliable, about 1 minute per side. Arrange the griddled tortillas over the sauce in the pan (you can cut them to fit if necessary). Spread 1/2 cup sauce over the tortillas. Spoon the filling evenly over the sauce and top with 1 cup cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of the sauce over the cheese. Heat the remaining tortillas on the griddle. Arrange the tortillas evenly over the sauce, filling, and cheese. Spread the remaining sauce over the tortillas and sprinkle withthe remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese bubbles and the casserole is heated through, 30 to 35 minutes. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving with the salsa and crema.

Serving Suggestions

Serve Cold Avocado Soup with Chile-Lime Pepitas or Chunky Guacamole with Homemade Tortilla Chips while the casserole is cooling. Gorditas de Piloncillo (Sweet Fried Masa Cakes) with Mexican Hot Chocolate make for a sweet finish.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 500; Fat (g): 24; Fat Calories (kcal): 220; Saturated Fat (g): 10; Protein (g): 30; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 10; Carbohydrates (g): 42; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2.5; Sodium (mg): 1100; Cholesterol (mg): 70; Fiber (g): 7;

Photo: Scott Phillips

The sauce for this recipe completely overwhelms the flavor of the pumpkin mixture and is lacking any depth of flavor. The sauce was very bitter and definitely needed something to round it out. The salsa that is recommended was very good and did help in covering up the bitterness of the sauce but not enough.

I made this recipe without the poultry. I believe turkey or chicken should not be "optional" given the results I had. I purchased a proper pumpkin for cooking and made sure not to overcook. The texture of the casserole was too soft even when served with the poblano-pepita salsa. It might be better to sprinkle whole pepitas on top of the casserole rather than chop them in food processor and incorporate in the salsa. I agree with other reviewers who found the vegetarian version to lack flavor.

I made this with chicken. It was labor intensive, with plenty of clean-up while it is in the oven, but it was totally worth it. I consider this a dinner party worthy recipe. My one quibble is that you should strain the skin and stray seeds out of the sauce. When you do this you are then short on the sauce. The sauce needs to be at least 1.5 times to 2 times the written recipe. You will have to do it in batches in the blender. Don't forget the margaritas!

As a uncompromising carnivore, I can understand how this recipe can be underwhelming without chicken or turkey. WITH it, however, I am very happy with the results! Despite a solid recipe I'm thinking the dish is missing something, although I'm still not sure of what it is... I DO appreciate Fine Cooking's observance of texture with the crunch of pumpkin seeds from the salsa, the soft pumpkin and onion chunks, crisp shell of the tortillas, etc... I topped mine with shredded lettuce and pico de gallo in addition to the sour cream and poblano-pepita salsa recommended. *NOTE: Not sure what Dianasaurus is talking about with the "exhausting" work in preparing a pie pumpkin. Simply chop the top and bottom off, half, scoop out the seeds, slice, and then chop off the excess pumpkin peel (like you would citrus). In addition, my friends, I subscribe to Fine Cooking BECAUSE it asks for that extra step(s) that take it beyond common cooking practice. This is what makes the magazine unique and fit the niche of those who explore beyond the average home cook.

I served this casserole, along the Poblano-Pepita salsa and some crema on the side for those who needed to cut the heat of the chiles, to a group of meat and potato eaters, who scoff at the idea of a vegetarian main course. All of them were unanimous in their opinion that it was delicious and they all wanted the recipe for themselves. It was a big hit. Thanks so much for the recipe.

I really liked this dish but it was a bit labor intensive to make. There was a nice balance of sweet, smoky, and spicy without being overwhelmingly hot from all of the chiles. I am only giving it 3 stars for two reasons. First the work involved in the dish. I don't mind a labor intensive dish when it is a "WOW" dish but this was not the case. While tasty and satisfying, it was not knock your socks off. Also my kids who love enchiladas and are adventurous eaters and my husband did not love the end result. While we all ate it except one son who made himself a PB&J, none of them enjoyed it as much as I did so I will likely not repeat it again. We did all like the salsa quite a bit and it used alot of tomatillos and peppers from our garden.

I'd been excited about making this for weeks-- literally. We went shopping on Sunday and then I got home from work today and started making this. There are a couple problems with the way this recipe is written: 1) It does not tell you what you should do with the light brown sugar for the sauce. In fact, it's left out of the instructions entirely. When should I put this in? Before or after I puree? If you're not paying attention, you might forget it completely. It would have been nice if the instructions had a simple "season with salt to taste" for the sauce, but alas, no. 2) The instructions do not tell you to cover your saucepan when simmering the chilis. As a result, the liquid will reduce and when you puree it, there will not be enough sauce for your casserole. Peeling a raw pumpkin is exhausting work. This recipe did not taste nearly delicious enough to warrant wrestling around with a little pumpkin, scooping, peeling, etc. Not to mention dealing with those chilis for an hour. The final result was, as my boyfriend says, "underwhelming." Save your energy for something worth the time and trouble.

This was amazing! Big hit with my vegetarian family!! Will definitely make again!

This was amazing! Big hit with my vegetarian family!! Will definitely make again!

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