Casseroles Provide Cozy Comfort on Winter Nights

When chilly winter days turn into cold nights, hearty, hot-from-the-oven casseroles can provide much-needed cozy comfort. One of my favorites is chicken enchiladas. For this popular recipe, corn tortillas cradle a filling of shredded chicken, chopped onion, and grated cheese, then are rolled, placed in a casserole dish, and topped with a spicy sauce and additional grated cheese.

Sauces generally range from chile con carne to ranchero, tomatillo, or sour cream sauce. 

I crave the layered flavor imparted by roasted peppers, so I prefer topping my enchiladas with creamy poblano sauce. Unlike hatch chiles, available only in the early fall, poblano peppers are readily available in supermarkets year-round. When selecting peppers, choose ones that are dark green and firm.

Roasting peppers is as easy as your backyard grill. Place peppers on a hot grill, turning them over when the skin blisters and begins to blacken. When a grill isn’t handy, or the weather doesn’t cooperate, an oven broiler works just as well. After roasting the peppers, place them in a large plastic zipper bag, close the bag, and allow them to steam. Steaming facilitates removing the pepper’s tough skin.

To make the sauce, I sauté chopped, seeded, roasted peppers with onion and garlic, then stir in chicken or vegetable stock, oregano, and ground cumin. After simmering, I add fresh cilantro and puree the mixture with an immersion blender before stirring in heavy cream. Because peppers vary in their degree of heat, tasting the finished sauce is an important step to ensure it conforms to your palate. Add more stock or cream if the sauce is too spicy. At this point, the sauce may be reheated or chilled overnight.

Start the year with comfort food that tingles your tastebuds while it chases away the chill. Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Creamy poblano sauce


1 tablespoon canola oil

3 poblano peppers, rinsed

¾ cup sweet onion, peeled and chopped

3 large cloves garlic

1 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

¾ cup heavy cream


Roast peppers under the broiler or on the grill until the skin has blackened. Transfer to a plastic zipper bag, close, and steam 10 minutes. Remove peppers, peel off the skin, and discard. Remove the stem, slice the pepper open, remove seeds, and discard them. Coarsely chop the peppers.

Preheat a medium saucepan over medium heat, add oil, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add peppers and onion, and saute several minutes until the onion has softened. Add garlic and saute 1 minute more. Stir in stock, oregano, and cumin. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro.

Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until it is smooth. Alternately, cool the mixture until it is lukewarm and puree in a blender. (Hot liquids create pressure in a blender and can explode, resulting in burns.) Transfer the sauce to a clean saucepan; stir in cream. Add a bit more broth or cream if the sauce is too spicy. 

Reheat but do not allow it to boil.

Chicken Enchiladas


8 to 10 corn tortillas

Canola oil

1 large boneless chicken breast half, poached, shredded

2 cups cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated

1/3 cup sweet onion, peeled and diced

1 recipe Creamy Poblano Sauce

Additional cheese, for garnish

Sour cream, for garnish


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Preheat a large skillet over medium heat, add two tablespoons of oil, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat each tortilla in oil until they soften, flip and heat other side, then transfer to paper towels. Lightly grease a large casserole dish. Place a tortilla on a large plate and add chicken, cheese, and onion. Roll up the tortilla and transfer, seam side down, to the casserole. Fill and roll remaining tortillas. Spoon sauce over tortillas, top with cheese, cover, and bake 45 minutes or until hot. Garnish with sour cream, if desired.

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Christy Rost

Public television chef Christy Rost is the author of three cookbooks and a longtime resident of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. For additional recipes and entertaining tips, please visit or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @ChristyRost.

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