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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Best Chicken Enchiladas

Enchiladas are one of Baldy's favorite foods.  But those slimly green chiles floating in cream of chicken soup type of enchiladas totally turned me off to enchiladas for a long time.  I've tried TONS of recipes trying to find the REAL enchilada.  As I explored I realized that I prefer a simple filling mostly chicken and cheese.  I found that the sauce was one of my least favorite things--not liking green or red canned sauces.  I also discovered that a good sauce uses chili powder to get the color not just tomatoes.  And then I found recipe.  And I tried it.  And I knew my search was over.  These were the most amazing enchiladas to both an enchilada affecionado and an enchilada skeptic.  And do yourself a favor--make the sauce.  It's sooooooo worth it!  Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

 The Best Chicken Enchiladas
3 cups finely shredded or chopped cooked chicken (about 1.5 pounds)
12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
2 ½ cups fast enchilada sauce*  (or use 20 oz canned)
1 can chopped green chiles, drained (for extra heat use 2 cans!)
12/ cup minced fresh cilantro
12 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the chicken, 2 cups of the cheese, ½ cup of the enchilada sauce, the green chiles, and cilantro in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2.  Stack the corn tortillas on a microwave-safe plate, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high until warm and pliable, 45-60 seconds.

3.  Spread the warm tortillas out on a clean counter.  Place 1/3 cup of the chicken mixtures evenly down the center of each tortilla.  Tightly roll the tortilla around the filling, then lay seam-side down in a 9x13 baking dish lightly coated with vegetable oil spray.  (Note: you may need to lay 4 of the enchiladas on top if you’re making all 12.   *I usually make only half in an 8x8 pan and freeze the other 6 for another dinner).

4.  Lightly spray the enchiladas with vegetable oil spray.  Spread 1 cup of sauce over enchiladas to coat thoroughly.  Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of cheese down the center.  Cover with foil and bake until heated through 20-25 minutes.  

5.  Remove foil and continue to bake until the cheese starts to brown about 5 more minutes.  Serve with any remaining sauce, lime wedges, sour cream, diced avocado, shredded lettuce, and salsa.

Fast Enchilada Sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chili powder
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons sugar
2 (8oz) cans tomato sauce
½ cup water

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the chili powder, garlic, cumin, and sugar.  Cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.  Stir in the tomato sauce and water.  Bring to simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 4-5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  (Note we love the sauce like this, but for a more authentic sauce that’s smooth, you’ll need to strain it through a fine mesh strainer first).

*To Make Ahead.  Assemble the enchiladas through 3, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days (or freeze by adding another layer of foil).  Let thaw if frozen at least 24 hours in the fridge.  Then top with sauce and cheese and baking as directed in steps 4 and 5.