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Tortilla pie

(styling by karoline boehm goodnick; photo by yoon s. byun/globe staff)
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March 5, 2008

Serves 6

With its layers of corn tortillas baked with cheese and crushed tomatoes, you might think of this tortilla pie as a lasagna, instead of grouping it with other Mexican mainstays. Also known as sopa seca, or dry soup (although it's really neither), variations of this casserole are made throughout Mexico and served as the pasta course would be in Italy, writes Mexican cooking authority Diana Kennedy in "The Essential Cuisines of Mexico." Sopa seca is often layered with noodles or tortilla strips softened in oil. To streamline Kennedy's recipe and give it main course heft, we left the tortillas whole and added more of them. Heat up the tomato sauce with extra chili peppers or a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. The upfront preparation takes about 35 minutes; then, while the dish bakes, you can clean up. Ah, the beauty of a casserole - whatever the flavor profile.

4 tablespoons canola oil
18corn tortillas
1 large link chorizo sausage (about 1 1/2 cups crumbled)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, crushed in a bowl
2 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups crumbled queso fresco (or use feta cheese or grated Parmesan)
1/2 cup hot water or chicken stock
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, cut into six wedges

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Line a plate with paper towels; have more ready.

2. In a large, heavy skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add 3 tortillas to the skillet and cook for about 30 seconds on each side or until they curl at the edges but do not brown. Transfer 1 tortilla to the paper towels; stack the rest with paper towels. Using 1 tablespoon of oil for every 6 tortillas, continue heating the tortillas in oil and layering them with paper towels. Don't let the oil smoke.

3. In the same skillet, over medium heat, brown the chorizo, stirring, for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Cook the onion over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the cumin and cook for 1 minute.

5. Add tomatoes, chili peppers, salt, and black pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

6. Overlap 6 tortillas in the baking dish. Spread with 1/3 of the tomato mixture and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of chorizo and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat the process 2 more times, ending with cheese.

7. Pour the water or stock over the casserole, cover with foil, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

8. Cut into squares and garnish with sour cream, cilantro, and a lime wedge. Leigh Belanger

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