Spicy Tortilla Casserole with Roasted Poblanos


Serves 6, or 4 to 5 generously


* 1 1/2 pounds white potatoes, peeled

* 1 pound poblano chiles ( about 4 large chiles )

* 1 small white onion, minced

* 1 ( 28 ounce ) can diced tomatoes

* 2 to 3 serrano or jalapeno chiles, stemmed seeded ( if less heat is desired ) and chopped

* 2 cloves garlic, chopped

* 1 tsp ground cumin

* 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano

* 1/2 tsp salt

* 2 Tb peanut oil

* 1 cup vegetable broth

* 1 pound corn tortilla, preferably a few days old ( 14 to 16 tortillas )

* 1 recipe Pine Nut Crema ( See Below )

* 2 Tb pumpkin seeds or pine nuts


1. Roughly chop the potatoes, place them in a large saucepan, and fill with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, partially cover, and cook for 14 to 16 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, press into large crumbles.

2. Meanwhile, over a gas burner, roast each whole, intact poblano chile. Use metal tongs to turn the chile several times over the flame until its skin is blackened, sizzling, and blistered, 3 to 5 minutes. Place the roasted chile into a tightly covered container or a sealed paper bag. Repeat with the remaining chiles. Alternatively, you can roast all the chiles on a rimmed baking sheet at 450 F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until their skin is blackened and the chiles have collapsed. Allow the chiles to cool enough to be handled. Gently remove their skin, split open, cut away the stem and seed base, and remove any excess seeds. Chop the chiles into 1/2 inch strips and set aside.

3. Make the tomato sauce : In a blender jar, pulse together the onion, diced tomatoes with their juice, chopped serrano chiles, garlic, cumin, oregano, and salt, to blend an almost smooth salsa ( some fine chunks are okay ). In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and carefully pour in the salsa. It may splatter a little but that's all right, just keep stirring. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the vegetable broth and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, preheat the oven to 375 F and have ready a 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan and a sheet of foil large enough to tightly cover the pan.

4. Assemble the casserole : Pour 1/2 cup of the sauce into the bottom of the pan and tilt it to spread it around. Using tongs, dip a tortilla into the pot of sauce and place it on the bottom of the pan. Continue with five more tortillas, dipping them in the sauce and overlapping them, spreading their edges a little up on the sides of the pan. Top with about half the crumbled potatoes and sliced poblanos, then ladle another 1/2 cup of sauce on top. Dip another tortilla in the sauce, layer it on top of the potatoes, and continue as before with five more tortillas. Finally, sprinkle the remaining potatoes and poblano strips on top. Tear any remaining tortilla into thick strips, dip them into the sauce, and spread them on top of the casserole. Pour any remaining sauce evenly over the casserole and cover with foil, crimping the edges tightly. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and take off the foil. Increase the oven temperature to 400 F.

5. Spread dollops of the Pine Nut Crema over the top of the steaming hot casserole. You don't have to be even about it; a few bits of the casserole showing underneath are fine. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds over the crema. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the top of the crema is golden and the seeds are toasted. If desired, broil the casserole for 4 to 5 minutes to continue browning spots of the crema, but watch carefully as not the burn the seeds.

Pine Nut Crema

Makes about 1 1/2 cups crema


* 12 ounces soft silken tofu

* 1/2 cup pine nuts

* 2 Tb lime juice

* 1 Tb olive or peanut oil

* 2 tsp cornstarch

* 1 clove garlic, grated

* 1 tsp salt


1. In a blender jar, pulse together the tofu, pine nuts, lime juice, olive oil, cornstarch, garlic and salt until smooth and creamy, scraping down the mixture several times with a rubber spatula. Taste and adjust the flavor with more salt and lime juice if desired.