Creamy Enchiladas with Chicken, Tomatoes and Green Chili
If I want to make Jim’s day, anything Mexican will do the trick. He loves tacos, nachos, tostadas…and enchiladas. I have a green enchilada recipe (see my Chicken and Poblano Enchiladas with Avocado Spinach Sauce and Pomegranate Salsa) that is always a hit in our house.
But to finish the month of May and the Rick Bayless cookbook that we’ve been working with, ‘Mexico, One Plate at a Time’, I decided to pick a classic. The Creamy Enchiladas with Chicken, Tomatoes and Green Chili. I’m so glad I did. It’s a lovely recipe to follow, and produces the bestest red enchilada sauce I’ve had in ages. The process involves roasting the tomatoes and chili peppers in the oven to char the skin, which adds such a depth of flavour.
I used creme fraiche that I prepare using kefir for the the creamy portion of this episode. Oh how creamy the sauce became! The rest is really assembly work. But the final product is a lovely, classic enchilada recipe that everyone should have in their repertoire.
I did add a few pickled jalapeños for extra kick. Cuz this will make Jim even happier. And my sister makes the best pickled jalapeños, so why wouldn’t I take advantage of the jar she gifted me!?
What’s great about this recipe, is that you could actually make the sauce (pre adding the cream) in advance and even freeze it. And if you roast a chicken or purchase a rotisserie chicken, you can shred it and pre-portion into freezer bags. Grate some cheese and freeze it. Then when the mood strikes, you could actually pull everything out, warm up the tortillas according to the directions below, and follow the rest of the recipe. Ready to go in minutes. I know that I’ll be doing this for those evenings when I’m kinda brain dead!
- Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 3 serranos or 2 jalapeños), stemmed
- 1 medium white onion, chopped
- 2 cups chicken broth, plus a little extra if needed
- 1/2 cup homemade crema, crème fraiche or heavy (whipping) cream
- 3 pounds (about 20 medium plum or 6 medium-large round) ripe tomatoes OR 2 28-ounce cans good-quality whole tomatoes in juice, drained
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or rich-tasting pork lard, plus a little oil for brushing or spraying the tortillas
- About 2 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken, preferably grilled, roasted or rotisserie chicken
- 2/3 cup shredded Mexican melting cheese (Chihuahua, quesadilla, asadero or the like) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
- 12 corn tortillas
- For fresh tomatoes: Roast the tomatoes and chiles on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, until they're darkly roasted (they'll be blacked in spots, about 6 minutes. Do other side. Cool)
- For canned tomatoes: In a small dry skillet, roast the chiles over medium heat, turning regularly, until they're soft and splotchy-black, about 5 minutes. Place in a blender or food processor along with the drained canned tomatoes. Blend to a smooth puree.
- In a medium-size (4- or 5-quart) pot (preferably a Dutch oven or Mexican cazuela), heat the oil or lard over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until golden, about 7 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, and, when noticeably hotter, stir in the tomato puree. Cook, stirring, until darker in color and thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the broth, partially cover and simmer 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. The sauce should be a slightly soupy consistency—not as thick as spaghetti sauce. If it is too thick, stir in a little additional broth. Keep warm over low heat.
- Other preliminaries. Stir the crema (or one of its stand-ins) into the sauce. Put the chicken in a bowl and stir 1/2 cup of the sauce mixture into it. Taste and season with additional salt if you think it needs it. Have the cheese at the ready.
- Heat the oven to 350°. Smear about 1/4 cup of the sauce over the bottom of 4 to 6 nine-inch individual ovenproof baking/serving dishes or smear about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish. Lay the tortillas out on a baking sheet (2 sheets if you have them, for more even heating), and lightly brush or spray both sides of the tortillas with oil. Bake just to warm through and soften, about 3 minutes. Stack the tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm.
- Working quickly so the tortillas stay hot and pliable, roll a portion of the chicken into each tortilla, then line them all up in the baking dishes. Douse evenly with the remaining sauce, then sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until the enchiladas are hot through (the cheese will have begun to brown), about 15 minutes. Garnish with onion rings and cilantro sprigs. These are best served piping hot from the oven.
- The sauce can be made a day or two ahead; refrigerate covered. Once the tortillas have been heated in the oven, you need to work quickly and steadily toward serving in order to preserve their beautiful texture. Once out of the oven, the finished dish softens to near mush over a period of 15 to 20 minutes.