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

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Good Monday morning y’all from the Hungry Southern Belle house!  Fall is definitely in the air.  Leaves are changing colors.  The mornings are getting cooler and cooler.  Everything pumpkin is in the stores.  Ha!  I mean literally y’all…if there is something that can be made into a pumpkin flavor, it’s being done.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love pumpkin but there comes a point where there’s too much of a good thing!  In the case of the recipe that I made for family dinner last night however, the fresh pumpkin was AMAZING in the Pumpkin Enchilada Casserole.  The natural sweetness of the pumpkin blended perfectly with the heat and richness of the red chili sauce.  Top all of that off with a fresh and slightly spicy poblano salsa that included a nice crunch from the pepita’s and you have a dish that is DELICIOUS!!!  This recipe would be a great addition for your Thanksgiving table or perfect for a weekend dinner by adding shredded turkey or chicken.  Word of warning though for my fans that don’t like to spend a lot of time prepping – this recipe was quite labor intensive in terms of the number of steps.  In fairness, the sauce and salsa could be made in advance and not all have to be done at the same time.  In my case, I made everything all in one evening.  The outcome was DEFINITELY worth the effort but in the vein of full disclosure, I thought I would prepare you for all of the steps.  Enjoy y’all!!!

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

(recipe courtesy of Jeanne Kelley from Fine Cooking Issue 107)

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
For the Poblano-Pepita Salsa:
  • 2 medium poblano chiles
  • 1 lb. tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, roasted, hulled pepitas
  • 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh cilantro
  • Kosher salt
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.

 

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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.

 

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Make the Filling:

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high 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.

 

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Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 9×13-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 with the 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.

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Make the salsa:

Char the chiles over a gas burner or under a broiler until blackened on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic, and cool. Peel, stem, seed, and finely chop the chiles.

 

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Heat a griddle or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the tomatillos, turning occasionally, until dark brown in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

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Coarsely chop the pepitas in a food processor; transfer to a medium bowl. Without washing the food processor, add the tomatillos and process to the consistency of a chunky sauce. Transfer to the bowl with the pepitas. Stir in the chiles, cilantro, and salt to taste.

 

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Make Ahead Tips

The sauce may be made 3 days ahead, the filling 2 days ahead, and the salsa 1 day ahead. Refrigerate separately. Return the salsa to room temperature for serving.

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