When I went to visit my sister last fall I bought a magazine at the airport that she later made fun of me for buying, a Cast Iron Cooking magazine! Of course she had reason to poke fun. I should’ve bought some beauty, design or gossip mag like normal women do. But this magazine has already produced two very tasty meals, so I don’t mind so much.
They call this a “twist on taco salad” which is a great description and makes this a meal that doesn’t really require a side dish since it’s the main dish and the veggie side.
You don’t need to do too much prep, just some chopping of vegetables. And everything is done in one skillet. You can shred the cheese, or buy pre-shredded. The recipe calls for shredded rotisserie chicken, but if you have leftover cooked chicken that would be perfect, or you could poach chicken breasts if you have the time. A can of tomatoes and green chile is on the ingredients list, but if you want to skip the green chile or can’t find it a partially drained can of diced tomatoes will do just fine.
The dressing is something quite close to Chuy’s creamy jalapeno so be sure to save whatever it left over and use it as a dip for tortilla chips!
The recipe uses a blend of mozzarella and cheddar. Any cheese you’d use for tacos or fajitas would work, monterery jack, colby, cheddar, or the Mexican cheese blend they sell in bags.
The cornbread base has tortilla chips baked in. I had some very thin tortilla chips that weren’t the best in this situation, they lost their crunch. A nice thick corn chip would be better here and hold up nicely. I’ll definitely be sure to do that next time. And there will be a next time because there is so much room for modification here. Adding in black beans or corn, using ground beef instead of chicken, or leftover fajita meat which we often have after cooking up fajitas for friends…we always overbuy!
Chicken Taco Cornbread
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup salsa verde
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 -1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chiles OR 1 can diced tomatoes and a couple tablespoons diced green chiles
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 7-ounce package of cornbread mix
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup crushed tortilla chips
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
2-3 heads of romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes
Combine cilantro, ranch dressing and salsa in a food processor and mix until well blended. Cover and chill until ready to use.
Heat oil over medium heat in a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
Cook onion, bell pepper and jalapeno until softened. Stor in chicken, tomatoes, cilantro and seasonings. Cook for about 5 minutes, taste and season more if needed.
Transfer filling to a bowl, wipe out skillet and grease with crisco.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
In a bowl beat egg, milk and cornbread mix just until combined.
Put chips in the greased skillet, then pour batter over the chips.
Spoon chicken mixture over the cornbread batter and sprinkle with cheeses.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, let cool briefly before cutting in to slices.
Top slices of cornbread with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and cilantro.
A special thanks to Andrea who introduced me to this dish and the cookbook it came from! She made this for Ben and me when we went to visit Boston and stayed with them for a night. After a day of traveling it was so nice to be in someone’s home for dinner and to have such a satisfying and delicious meal.
What originally attracted me to the recipe, before I’d even tasted it, was that everything is made in one pan! No boiling pasta separately and adding it to another pan where you’ve made the sauce. You get to do it all together and only have one pan to clean. This makes me very happy (and Ben, too since he’s the one who usually does the dishes after dinner).
This recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen Family Recipes, a cookbook I bought on Amazon the same night I had this pasta. I love the Test Kitchen. I think I’ve mentioned this before. The recipes are reliably good and they include tips on ingredients and methods to use in the kitchen. They also give you the whys and hows of cooking and baking. Included in this large ring-bound cookbook are tons of recipes for all kinds of things, appetizers to desserts. Inside the front cover you’ll find some emergency substitutions, and inside the back cover are temps for cooking meat, equivalent measurements and conversions for baking. Inside you’ll not only find recipes but cookware tips and food safety. I often find myself pulling out my phone to remind myself how many tablespoons are in 1/4 cup or what temperature my pork should be, but this book has it easily accessible and I won’t get flour on my phone! Have I sufficiently plugged the cookbook? I should be getting paid for this…
This pasta dish is delicious and comforting, but not heavy. There is some heavy cream and Parmesan which makes the dish just rich enough without making you feel like you’re over indulging. You can use hot, sweet or mild Italian sausage in this dish. The spinach and sun-dried tomatoes are the perfect additions.
To prep ahead you can cut the onion and garlic and store them separately. If you have sun-dried tomato halves you can slice them and store them as well. You can grate the Parmesan unless you bought it already grated. I didn’t try making this completely ahead, but did have some reheated the next day for lunch and it was terrific.
Sausage, Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes with Penne
1 tablespoon olive oil or reserved oil from sun-dried tomatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
1 pound Italian turkey sausage
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped or sliced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, oil drained and reserved
8 ounces penne or ziti
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 6-ounce bag baby spinach
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until they begin to soften.
Add the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks, until it is no longer pink, 4-5 minutes.
Stir in the garlic, then scatter the tomatoes and penne on top of the sausage. Add the broth and the cream then cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes until pasta is al dente.
Add the spinach and cover for 1 minute. Remove the lid and stir together to fully wilt the spinach.
Add in the Parmesan, stir and season with salt and pepper.