BBQs are a huge part of summer in Sacramento. Sometimes this strikes me as a little ironic, standing in the blazing heat over a blazing fire, but who am I to buck tradition? But sometimes the BBQ doesn’t go exactly as planned. Maybe your mother buys enough food for 50 people when only 20 show, or maybe your brother-in-law chars 15 pounds of chicken… The question becomes: now what?
Repurposing is a modern word used in context with paper bags and glass jars, but it can also refer to leftovers. A little innovation goes a long way. You needn’t be forced to eat leftovers ad nauseum just to avoid waste. Instead, create a new meal with a new flavor out of the surplus ingredients. A casserole is an easy and versatile tool for this endeavor. It’s also a nice dish for those days when you want to eat but don’t want to go outside.
I took my brother-in-laws chicken disaster and turned it into a savory cornbread casserole. First, I peeled the blackened skin off the chicken and threw it away. If you have leftovers that weren’t destroyed in the fire, go ahead and skip this step. Next I pulled the chicken off the bone in strips (a la jerk chicken). While pulling the chicken off the bones remove any undesirable parts and all the bones.
Put the chicken into a sauté pan with green chilies and salsa. I used a tomatillo salsa, but choose any salsa you prefer, hot or mild to suit your taste buds. Sauté the chicken on low heat to let the flavors soak in (and in my case, to fully cook the chicken). This recipe can also be made with other meats, whatever leftovers you may have around. Let the chicken simmer while preparing the cornmeal.
Combine the cornmeal, water, milk, and corn niblets in a sauce pan. If you have leftover corn on the cob, even better, slice some off and add that to the mix in exchange for the can of niblets. Cook over medium heat (so as not to scorch the milk) for about seven minutes, just until the mixture thickens. Then pour two-thirds into a greased baking pan. Bake the cornmeal for about 30 minutes at 325 degrees. Remove the cornbread, pour the chicken mixture on top then top with shredded cheese and the last of the cornmeal on top. Bake again, for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the casserole is heated throughout.
Serve garnished with chives, jalapenos, sour cream, salsa, or even more cheese. Save extra servings in single-serve Tupperware for awesome lunches on the go. Make the casserole on Sunday and eat all week long. Avoid the heat and get great use out of leftovers.