I learned a few things today…
- I like enchiladas
- Enchiladas are hard to photograph. Mexican food is notoriously sloppy (and by that I mean delicious) but seriously hard to make look as appetizing as it tastes.
Let me tell you about my enchilada experience so far in life. It has consisted of soggy, flavorless piles of mush that someone called enchiladas. I have also had a few encounters with enchiladas doused in “enchilada sauce” by Ortega or some other not very authentic Mexican brand, that was not delicious at all (confession: I do love Ortega’s taco sauce on soft tacos, it’s what we ate growing up and it just makes homemade soft tacos taste right). So anyway, maybe I have had a few decent (maybe even good) enchiladas along the way. One of these experiences was in Santa Fe, at a food stand outside a flea market. The sauces were amazing, and the enchilada served as the vehicle to shovel them into my mouth. This was the first time I ever really took enchiladas seriously….and it was all because of the sauce. Santa Fe cuisine is defined by two kinds of sauce, specifically red and green chili. Now- this recipe is not for green chili, or even red chili, but those will come later. What this recipe does have, is two sauces. One is made from tomatillos and one is made from fire roasted tomatoes.
If you have never eaten or cooked with tomatillos you are missing out. They are not to be confused with green tomatoes, even though they look a little like it. They are small and covered with a thin paper-like husk, they are tangy and absolutely delicious. When picking out tomatillos, you want to look for small firm ones, they are the sweetest. The husks are also an indication of freshness, they should look light green even a little brownish, but they should not be shriveled or dried up.
Now, on to the recipe; I used Rick Bayless as a resource for my sauces. He is an authority on Mexican food, and if you haven’t heard of him you should look him up and then immediately buy one of his cookbooks. The book I have is “Mexican Everyday”. He has a number of enchilada recipes, and after Santa Fe I loved the idea of layering sauces, so I combined a few of his recipes into one. The corn tortillas held up beautifully, the flavor of the chicken and the cheese came through and the sauces were EXCELLENT! The sauces stood powerfully alone, and were formidable together. A little bit of sour cream and a couple slices of avocado…and I think I have found my favorite Mexican dish ever.
Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas with Tomatillo sauce, and Tomato Jalapeno Sauce
Tomatillo sauce ingredients:
10-12 small to medium tomatillos, removed of their husks and quartered
3 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeno, cut into quarters (keeping the seeds and ribs! don’t be a wuss)
¾ cup loosely packed cilantro
1 ½ Tbs oil (vegetable or olive oil)
2 cups chicken broth
3 Tbs sour cream*
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar (optional)
In a food processor or blender, drop in the garlic and the jalapeno and pulse until they are finely chopped. Add the tomatillos and cilantro and process until smooth. Heat 1 ½ Tbs oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat, add the puree and cook until the mixture has reduced to the consistency of a thick tomato sauce (the more you cook it down, the sweeter the tomatillos will be). Add the chicken broth and cook over medium heat for an additional 10 minutes. Add sour cream and salt. Taste the sauce, add a little sugar if the sauce is too tangy for you ( I didn’t use it) add more salt if needed also. Reduce to low to keep warm.
Tomato and Jalapeno sauce ingredients:
2 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeno, quartered (I seeded this one, because I wanted to have a balance between the sauces)
One 28-oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 ½ Tbs vegetable oil
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp salt.
In a food processor or blender, drop in the garlic and the jalapeno and pulse until they are finely chopped. Add the tomatoes and process until smooth. Heat 1 ½ Tbs oil in a medium sauce pan on medium heat, add the puree and cook to the consistency of a thick tomato sauce (about 7 minutes). Add the broth and simmer over medium heat for 10 additional minutes. Add salt, add more if needed. Reduce to low to keep warm
1 ½ cups shredded chicken- I bought rotisserie chicken*
Oil for brushing
½ (or more) cups grated Monterrey jack cheese*
A few Tbs. of the red sauce from above
12 corn tortillas
Mix the shredded chicken with a few Tbs of sauce (about 3 or 4) until they are lightly coated. Heat over medium heat until just warmed.
Heat the oven to 350. Brush each side of the tortilla lightly with oil and place on a baking sheet (you can stack them in twos). Bake for 3 minutes until the corn tortillas are soft and pliable. When you remove them from the oven cover with a kitchen towel to keep them warm.
For the assembly: holding a warm tortilla by one edge, dip most of it into the tomatillo sauce, then lay it on a dinner plate. Place a small amount of chicken and cheese in the middle of the tortilla and fold the sides up. Place the completed enchilada in a 9X13 baking dish. Repeat until you have completed all 12 enchiladas.
Drizzle the finished enchiladas with a few more spoonfuls of the tomatillo sauce, and the ladle a large portion of the red sauce over the center. Top with cheese and return to the oven for about 10 minutes to melt the cheese. Serve with additional sauce, sour cream, and sliced avocado.
A few notes:
- If you noticed there are only 4 enchiladas in the picture of them before they are baked- you are right. Because of my fear of soggy enchiladas I only made 4 (two each for the boyfriend and I). If you choose to do this, just bake them in an 8×8 dish. Save the rest of the sauce and filling for later and assemble when you are ready to eat them.
* This was my first time buying rotisserie chicken. It was delicious and convenient and everything that everyone says about it. I roast chicken often so I generally have some in my fridge (for soup and what not). But I will not overlook this option in the future.
* I used Monterrey Jack cheese because it melts nicely and has a mild flavor. You could use any cheese you like, specifically a Mexican cheese like cotija. Cotija doesn’t melt quite as smoothly as Monterrey jack, but the flavor is tangy and delightful (like a mild feta). I think next time I make this I will put the Monterrey jack cheese in the enchiladas and top it with the cotija.
- Speaking of other Mexican ingredients, the original recipe calls for Mexican crema instead of sour cream. Mexican crema is essentially a thinned out sour cream. I decided not thin out my sour cream, but if you did want to, the ratio would be ¼ cup sour cream to 1 Tbs milk.