Chile Relleno Casserole and Calabacitas

We have been making some version or another of this casserole in my family for as long as I can remember. My Grandmother (whose recipe this is) called it chill-y re-lenno  casserole despite spending her entire life in southern California and being immersed in the cultural mix. Of course, it sounds a bit better pronounced a bit more closely to the correct version – chee-le ruh-yey-noh. No matter how you pronounce it, however, it’s delicious.

This is one of three or four different casseroles that I make that are generally similar. One had chiles filled with sage-cheese, another that’s puffy and has sour cream. All are good, but this is really the classic. We’ve made this dish for holiday brunches forever, and I often will make this for dinner (as I did here).

Chile Relleno Casserole

2  7-oz cans whole green chiles, drained
1 lb each, jack and cheddar cheese
2-3 T all-purpose flour
8 eggs, beaten
1 small can tomato sauce, or salsa (optional)

I happened to have  fresh roasted green chiles, but you can also use canned (which I’ve noted in the recipe). How many you use, if using fresh will also be determined by the heat level of the chiles, and how many you have on hand. I’m planning on 3 layers of my chiles and cheese, so it really just depends.

In a 9×13 baking pan, layer 1/3 of your chile strips. Just like if you were making any other layered dish, you want to make sure that each serving will have a similar amount.

Next, 1/3 of the shredded cheese is layered on top. I took the easy way out and just used a mix of cheeses already shredded and combined from the store (so easy), but I’ve often done my own at the time. This is pretty adaptable. Once that’s done, sprinkle 1/2 of the flour over the top pretty evenly.

Once you’ve completed your first layer, continue layering – you’ll notice that for the top layer, I won’t have the flour (we split it half and half with the first two layers). That’s because then I don’t have to worry about it getting moistened. I’ve been known to forget about the flour altogether and that works just fine. The original recipe has double the flour. I find that this is enough to hold it together so you can cut it in nice squares, but not so much as to make it too stiff. It’s kind of a preference thing (one of my brothers combines the flour with the eggs… ).

Then the eggs get poured over the top. Don’t worry if it seems like there aren’t enough. Just do your best to generally get it covered. The eggs will soak in and when the cheese melts, it all seems to work out.

The casserole is baked at 330 degrees. Overall time is about an hour. I cover it with foil for the first 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake 20 minutes longer. Then I spoon the tomato sauce over the top, and finish baking it uncovered for another 20 minutes or so. It can still be a bit jiggly in the middle, but you definitely don’t want any raw egg left.

This can be put together in advance (and even frozen), minus the eggs (and sauce), which makes it a great do-ahead dish for holidays or other get-togethers. Since you can go the spectrum from canned chiles and a bag of cheese, to freshly roasted chiles, and a favorite combination of cheeses you grate at the moment, this is super-adaptable.

This can also be served hot out of the oven, or it can be patient and wait a bit. Leftovers are good too.  For dinner, I served this alongside Calabacitas – which is really just a saute of fresh corn, zucchini, onions and bell peppers. You can add garlic or cilantro (or some more chiles – including serranos or jalapenos) if you want to jazz it up a bit. This is one one of my favorite summer dishes, and goes perfectly with the rellenos.

2 thoughts on “Chile Relleno Casserole and Calabacitas

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