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Paleo Hatch Chile Casserole

Boy howdy, am I excited to share this recipe with you. By the way, do people still say ‘boy howdy’ …? They should. It reminds me of my Papa {my Dad’s Dad} and he was the best. If Papa threw out a boy howdy, you knew something awesome just happened.

What on earth is involved in this Hatch Chile Casserole? Hold onto your seat. Are you ready? There are three parts:

  1. The filling: shredded boneless chicken thighs, perfectly crisped breakfast sausage, and two whole pounds of roasted Hatch chiles. Do I have your attention yet? I’ll keep going.
  2. The gravy: green salsa {salsa verde}, full-fat coconut milk, lime juice, Mexican seasonings, and arrowroot powder {a paleo-friendly thickener}.
  3. The topping: crushed crispy pork rinds {chicharrones, y’all} and tons of chopped fresh cilantro.

I know. That just blew your mind. Don’t stress. You’re not too far from having your own casserole.

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You know, I used to make and deliver healthy casseroles for friends …they’d call them cassYroles. I thought it was hilarious. I digress.

Casseroles fall into the same category as slow cookers, in my book. They’re pretty low-maintenance {sometimes}, you can make HUGE quantities, not have to worry about side-dishes, and they taste even better as leftovers. What’s not to love?

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Austin {mah man} is in the middle of his very 1st 30 days of paleo. We’re working through a 90/10 paleo plan. I didn’t want to completely shock his system with a 100% paleo detox but nixing the massive amounts of tortillas and refried beans the man consumes was on my list. I think he’s enjoying it. At least he doesn’t have to cook for himself. Lucky dude.

Anyways, because I am now feeding a guy + myself + the occasional table scrap for Gus, I’m on the prowl for LARGE dishes to satisfy his enormous appetite. He freaking loved this dish. He said it was one of the best things I’ve made him. And then he went out of town for approximately 10 hours and I ate all the leftovers. Whoops.

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Let’s talk about making a casserole!

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It starts with butter. Anything that starts with butter must be good, right?

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Throw a dollop {about 1 Tbl} of butter into pot or frying pan. Turn the heat to medium/high.

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I chose boneless chicken thighs for this recipe because they’re delicious and on the cheap. We’re going to give them some browning color and flavor in butter {but leave them under cooked} then cover in water and simmer so that they’re tender and easy to tear apart.

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Wash, pat dry, and sprinkle one side of the thighs with kosher salt.

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Then dust with fresh black pepper.

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Now that the butter is melted and smelling amazing, place your chicken thighs seasoned-side down.

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Wiggle them all in the pan so you have one layer of chickie.

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Now it’s time to season the other side! Dust with kosher salt and black pepper again.

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After the chicken has cooked for about 2-3 minutes on one side, flip them over.

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After 2-3 more minutes of cooking on the other side, the chicken is done browning. It should have this light tan color.

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Next, grab about 4 cups of room temperature water.

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With the temperature on medium/low, pour the water over the chicken.

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Make sure you have enough to cover the chicken like this.

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Cover with a lid, leave a little room for steam to escape, and let it simmer on low for about 18-20 minutes.

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Now’s a good time to give your fur friend some love. Gus is DYING to go for a “w.a.l.k.” to the “place where we get letters.” We have to talk in code around him. The slight mention of walk, leash, ride, or mail gets his little heart so excited. He has no patience for us finding shoes, leashes, or sun glasses. He’s got people to see, bushes to sniff, and letters to pick up, people!!

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When you come back from the “place where we get letters,” the chicken should be done. Mmmm…

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Using your tongs, scoop the chicken out of the pot.

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And place them in a bowl. Steamy!

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Using two forks, start to roughly shred the chicken.

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Still on a high from his “w.a.l.k.,” my fluffy muffin is attached at my hip. He’s “here!” you know, “just in case you need something!” … “happy to taste test!”

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Do your best to ignore those adorable puppy dog eyes and finish shredding the chicken. No need to get too thorough here, I think the chunky shred texture is best with this casserole.

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Chicken is Gus approved! I’m such a sucker.

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Sausage time! Sure, there are better breakfast sausage options out there {Whole Foods bulk}, but Jimmy Dean All Natural is a good choice too. I usually have a few rolls on hand.

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Heat up a frying pan and throw the sausage in. Break it up with a spoon and let it get a good char.

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It’s done! I like bigger chunks of sausage for this dish, so don’t worry about breaking it up into tiny bits. Now’s the real test of this recipe …I dare you not to start snacking on the crispy sausage bits. I dare you.

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I’m ready for a bevi. You too? I was recently talked into this Green Hills Chardonnay at my local grocery store. It’s made by a sustainable California winery and is really, really tasty when nice and cold. It also pairs really well with crispy sausage bits. Just saying.

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I’m a lucky girl. I realize this. I’m a lucky girl who lives in Texas across the street from a thoughtfully stocked, affordable grocery store {HEB}. Every year during Hatch Chile Season, HEB places a massive order from Hatch, New Mexico for chiles. They roast them right outside their store and sell the charred goodies in various sized boxes. If you don’t have an HEB around the corner where you can pick up roasted chile peppers, check out my post on the Paleo Chile Relleno. I provide detailed instructions on how to roast and prepare peppers.

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Know that you don’t have to use Hatch chile peppers for this recipe …but they’re the best. They have a great flavor, mild spice, and awesome texture. If Hatch chile peppers aren’t in season, use poblano. They’ll work well.

Now let’s prepare the roasted peppers. Off with their heads!

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I like to do the rest of my prep in the sink with a faucet running in the background – just in case I need a little extra help peeling. This little tip would probably infuriate my mother. She hates waste. I like ease. Sometimes we meet in the middle – like when we’re peeling shrimp.

Split the pepper down one side using your fingers. Like you’re fileting! Also using your fingers, pull the membrane and all seeds off and discard {down the drain}.

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Next, peel the charred skin off the soft pepper meat. It should come off pretty easy.

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If it doesn’t, solicit help from your nearest running faucet.

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Ta-daa! Peppers are done.

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That was hard work {not really}. Time for more chardonnay.

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Chop the peppers into large ~1” chunks.

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Pour them into a large mixing bowl.

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Now add the shredded chicken.

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Next, add the crispy breakfast sausage! {… at least whatever’s left of it.}

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Got all three ingredients in there?

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Stir it up.

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Pour it into a large casserole dish.

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Spread it out evenly.

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Now it’s gravy time. Mexican paleo gravy time. You game?

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You’re going to need some kind of green salsa. Again, because I’m a lucky girl who lives across the street from a thoughtfully stocked grocery store that makes their own Hatch chile salsa, I have this tasty stuff. You may use any salsa verde you can get your hands on.

Measure out 1.5 cups of it into a bowl. Oh, now’s a good time to also preheat your oven to 350 F.

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Shake and then open a can of full-fat organic coconut milk. This is my favorite, most accessible brand.

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Pour the whole can over the salsa.

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Squeeze two large limes into the sauce {about 4 Tbl of juice}.

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Add ½ tsp of kosher salt.

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Add 1 tsp of ground cumin.

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Then add 1 tsp of chili powder.

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See where we’re going with this?

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Whisk it all together.

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Time to turn this sauce into Mexican paleo gravy heaven. Add 2 Tbl of arrowroot powder, an all-natural paleo-friendly thickener. Whisk it into the sauce.

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This is going to happen.

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It’s happening! Pour the sauce over the chicken/breakfast sausage/chile pepper filling!

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Press the sauce into all corners of the casserole.

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Isn’t it just beautiful?

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Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and seal it tight. Bake the casserole at 350 F for 30 minutes.

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Time to make the fresh crumble topping! Did you know that chicharrones are paleo? They are! Really! Just read the ingredients: pork skin and salt. Boom. Paleo {as long as you avoid the flavored varieties}. Grab a bag of fresh pork rinds and try not to eat them all. Mac’s is one of my favorite brands.

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Measure out 2 cups.

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Using either a knife + a lot of patience {and wine} ~or~ your food processor {if you’re a smart person, unlike me}, chop up the pork rinds until they’re coarsely smashed.

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Grab a whole head of fresh cilantro.

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Give it a through chopping.

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Pour the crushed pork rinds and cilantro into a bowl and stir them up.

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CassYrole is done!

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B.E.A.utiful. I bet you’re thinking you could eat it just like this. Don’t. It gets better.

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Oh yes. We’re going to add a fresh, crunch, salty topping that will send your taste buds on an adventure.

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Sprinkle the cilantro pork rind topping over the casserole in an even, thick layer.

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It’s. Finally. Done!

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Spoon out a big ol’ portion {because you deserve it} and enjoy.

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Boy howdy.

Paleo Hatch Chile Casserole

Makes 4 BIG Servings

Ingredients:

Filling:

1 Tbl Grass-Fed Butter {coconut oil or bacon fat work too}

Kosher Salt & Cracked Black Pepper – for seasoning the chicken.

1.5 lbs Organic Boneless Chicken Thighs

4 cups Room-Temp Water

1 lb All Natural Breakfast Sausage {Jimmy Dean}

2 lbs Cooked Hatch Chile Peppers

Gravy:

1.5 cups Salsa Verde

1 can Organic Full-Fat Coconut Milk

2 Large Limes Juiced {~4 Tbl juice}

½ tsp Kosher Salt

1 tsp Ground Cumin

1 tsp Chili Powder

2 Tbl Arrowroot Powder

Topping:

2 cups Fried Pork Skins {Chicharrones}

1 cup Packed Fresh Cilantro

Directions:

Filling:

Melt the butter in a frying pan over high heat. Season one side of the thighs with salt and pepper. Lay them seasoned-side down in the hot buttered pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on one side. Season the up-facing side with salt and pepper. Flip them over after the time is done, cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, then cover with 4 cups of water. Cover the pan and simmer on low for 18-20 minutes. When finished, move drained chicken to a bowl and roughly shred with two forks.

Brown the sausage in a large frying pan into large bite-sized pieces. Set aside when finished.

Roast, clean, and chop the Hatch chiles into 1” pieces and place into a large mixing bowl. Add the shredded chicken and sausage to the bowl and stir together. Pour the entire filling into a large casserole dish and set aside.

Gravy:

Combine the salsa, coconut milk, salt, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, and arrowroot in a bowl. Whisk until smooth. Pour the gravy over the filling.

Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.

Topping:

Crush the pork rinds into a rough powder. Chop the cilantro and add to the pork rinds. Stir together.

When the casserole is finished in the oven, remove aluminum foil, sprinkle with the pork rind and cilantro topping, and enjoy!

Time: 1.5 hours {inc. 30 minute cook time}

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14 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love your instructions! They are amazing! I feel like I can make the same dish just by looking at your pictures xx

    August 16, 2013
  2. Ooooh loooks so pretty and yummy! I wish I could get hatch chiles easy where I live. I have to order them 😦

    August 16, 2013
    • Bummer! Remember poblano peppers will work too 🙂

      August 16, 2013
  3. Sierra #

    Amazing! I just got back from HEB with a big ‘ol bag of hatch-love myself. This recipe looks like a good application for them. Long live hatch chile season!

    August 24, 2013
  4. So hey. I’m in the middle of making this and *now* I notice a confusion in the cooking time. Above it says cook for 30 minutes, then put the topping on it, but you mention at total cooking time of 50 minutes. I just took a peek after 30 mins and it’s still soupy so I’m assuming that the 30 minutes is a typo? But the taste I just took was yummy!

    October 13, 2013
    • It totally was a typo! Thank you! 30 minutes is all it needs to bake for. The gravy is a little thin …but sets more as it cools. Hope you loved it!

      December 2, 2013
  5. Flannery #

    My husband is from New Mexico, so even though we live in Ohio, we keep bags of NM green chiles in our freezer. When I sent him this recipe, he immediately defrosted the chiles. We used to make a green chile casserole with all kinds of cheese and tortillas, so we’re quite excited about a paleo version! Can’t wait to try it tonight.

    October 26, 2013
  6. I made this tonight after drooling over this recipe last night. My husband has a hatch green chili connection in NM so our freezer had a supply ready to go.

    O_M_G!!!! This was FABULOUS!!!! My hubby loved it and we have PLENTY left over to pack for lunches for a couple days. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!! It was INCREDIBLE!! 🙂

    November 24, 2013
    • Haha I’m so glad you both liked it!! It’s one of my absolute favorites – I too have bags of peppers in my freezer ready for when I get a craving of this dish 🙂

      November 25, 2013

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