(Recipe) Easy, Delicious Chicken Enchiladas

mom-enchiladas

I fondly recall an enchilada dish my mom made that was notable for the colorful inclusion of black olives (the tasteless canned, sliced kind — she was busy) and sliced scallions.  Compared to the gloppy enchiladas in Mexican restaurants swimming in mud-colored sauce, hers was a pretty change of pace even though it probably relied on canned tomatoes and other convenient ingredients popular with her generation. So I set out to do a version with better ingredients.  Given that this is completely made up, I apologize for not having succinct amounts and detailed instructions. But enchiladas aren’t very hard to make so this should be easily put together. Note my alternative approach for the usual frying of tortillas called for in making enchiladas.

Filling:

Chicken (can use breast or thigh or both), cooked, boneless and skinless.  For 12 enchiladas, use maybe a couple of pounds of chicken.  Can use more — or less. I roasted pieces in the oven first but you can cook it however (microwave is ok) or even use rotisserie chicken from the market. An excellent place to get cooked chicken is Trader Joe’s, which sells skinless grilled chicken breast that’s quite good. Cut it in bite-sized pieces.

1 large onion, peeled and diced (can use more; I prefer the sweet onions, fyi)

3 garlic cloves, minced (can use more)

Canned whole tomatoes, maybe 2 large cans or more.  I used local tomatoes I roasted and froze  but the Muir Glen brand of tomatoes is good (Whole Foods carries it). Even better are the San Marzano tomatoes that are both imported (from Italy) as well as domestic (that terrific tomato variety is grown here, too.) Or use another brand.

Olive oil

Chili powder seasoning or the equivalent (cumin and hot pepper at the minimum) plus salt and pepper to taste

(optional) crème fraîche or sour cream or cream (see below)

Instructions:

Heat oil in a large skillet and brown onions. Add tomatoes and spices until bubbling. Add pieces of chicken, stirring and heating. Add the garlic at the end.  I had some leftover crème fraîche so I added it and a little dairy adds a nice element to the filling but can be left out (an alternative is sour cream). Use at least 1/2 cup but you can add more. If the tomato taste isn’t intense enough, add some tomato paste (I had some of that left over, too).  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Accompaniments:

Corn tortillas (I vastly prefer these to the tasteless flour kind and they’re gluten free, too.)  Get larger ones. They typically come 12 to a package.

Shredded jack cheese (at least 1 cup but can use more)

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I use the shredding disc on my food processor to shred cheese and it’s a super-fast method)- at least 3/4 cup but can use more

Sliced black olives – from the salad bar; I prefer kalamata and niçoise but your favorite black olives will do.  Get a healthy amount and slice them. Or you can use the tasteless sliced black olives in cans if you must.

1 bunch scallions (or more), trimmed & sliced

(optional)  cubed fresh tomato for garnish (see photo)

(optional) cilantro for garnish

Instructions:

Have the cheeses, filling and garnishes ready.  The “proper” way to soften tortillas for dishes like this is to fry them in oil for a little while.  This is a pain and messes up a pan so try this instead:  Spray both sides of each tortilla lightly with olive oil cooking spray and layer them on a cookie sheet or whatever, warming them at 250 degrees or so in the oven for about 12 minutes or longer.   A steam oven does a great job here. After removing from oven, keep a towel over them during prep so they’ll stay soft.

Have a large rectangular pan ready, sprayed with non-stick spray.  Put a warm tortilla on one end of the pan, fill with some chicken concoction, jack cheese and a little bit of olive and scallion. wrap up the enchilada and make the next one.  When done, spread any leftover sauce over the top and sprinkle cheddar cheese, olives and scallions on as well. Some cubed tomato would look good, too.  Freeze or bake at 350 for 25 minutes until the cheese is bubbly.  Can garnish with cilantro.

Ideas:

– Want it spicy? Just add ground chile or whatever.  Or put diced fresh chiles with seeds in the filling when cooking.

– You can use other meats besides chicken. Ground turkey, ground beef, shredded pork, skinned prawns, etc. Or make it meatless by using more cheeses, olives and scallions. Maybe include lots of diced tomato in that version.  Or tofu?

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