I make a lot of lasagna. See? We love the stuff in our house. But the recipe I'm sharing with you today is our absolute favorite, even more so than my traditional version, which Joe loves. It's chicken fajita lasagna, and it. is. delicious.
Years ago (literally years -- I think it was in 2004), I saw Emeril Lagasse make enchilada suiza lasagna on his show, and that's where the inspiration for this lasagna came from. Emeril's looked so good that I knew I had to make my own version of it. But I was at the very beginning of my cooking life, and thus I had to simplify it a little bit...or a lot. I didn't even know what a poblano pepper was, let alone have access to queso anejo cheese! I doubt I even knew how to pronounce the name of that cheese then.
Needless to say, I've come a long way, baby. Over the years, my adaptation of the recipe has become known as "chicken fajita lasagna" in our house, and it's a family favorite. Joe would be happy if I made this every single week. Sometimes I use a combination of red and green bell peppers, sometimes I use poblanos; sometimes I top it with freshly chopped tomatoes, sometimes I leave them off. Sometimes I use a shredded Mexican blend cheese, and sometimes I use Monterey jack. But one thing remains constant: This lasagna is always delicious. It makes enough to feed an army, but trust me: You'll be glad you have leftovers of this. It is amazing.
Chicken Fajita Lasagna
source: Cassie, inspired long ago by Emeril Lagasse
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 poblano peppers, seeded and thinly sliced (or 2 large bell peppers, any color, thinly sliced)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups cooked shredded chicken
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
6 burrito size flour tortillas
3 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese (or Mexican blend cheese)
Chopped fresh tomatoes, if desired
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnishing, if desired
Sour cream and salsa or pico de gallo for serving, if desired
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish.
2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk, little by little, until thoroughly combined. Add the chicken stock and bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thickened and flavorful, about 10 minutes. Add the pepper jack and stir until melted. Season with the salt and remove from the heat. Set aside, covered, while you assemble the remaining ingredients.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add vegetable oil, peppers and onions to skillet. Give the vegetables a minute to cook without stirring them -- you want them to sear a little bit, like in a fajita. When vegetables are crisp-tender, add garlic; cook and stir one minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste and reduce heat to low. Add chicken, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Remove from heat and keep warm.
4. Spoon 1 cup of the sauce onto the bottom of the casserole dish. Top with 2 of the tortillas, or as many as needed to form a complete layer. Top with half of the chicken and pepper mixture, 1 1/2 cups of the sauce, and 1/3 of the shredded Monterey jack. Make another layer in exactly the same way: tortillas, the remaining chicken and peppers, 1 1/2 cups of the sauce, and 1/3 of the shredded Monterey jack. Top with the remaining tortillas, remaining sauce, remaining Monterey jack, and tomatoes and/or cilantro if desired.
5. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for about 15 minutes longer, or until the lasagna is bubbly and light golden brown on top.
6. Serve immediately, garnished with a dollop of sour cream, chopped cilantro, and a spoonful of salsa or pico de gallo, if desired.