Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mike's Saucy Enchiladas

The first time I had an enchilada, I was a kid growing up in southern California where good Mexican food could be found with ease in our quiet little beach community. It was from some hole-in-the-wall takeout place, and it was spicy, oozing with greasy cheese and very saucy. Now let’s take this trip down memory lane over to a valley in northern Utah where my husband was growing up with a Texan mom who has been a Spanish teacher for most of her life. Mike learned a few things about Mexican food from her, most notably how to make amazing fajitas with fresh guacamole and pico de gallo (not surprisingly, he learned how to make the margaritas that go with them from his Irish dad). Recently, Mike also demonstrated that he can make some very fine enchiladas.

Mike’s taste for Mexican flavors is really wonderful considering the obstacles he had to overcome growing up in Utah. When Mike had an assignment to bring a dish to share with his 7th grade Spanish class, there was no place to buy fresh poblanos where he lived, so they substituted canned peppers for their chiles rellenos. Mike got to experience some truly authentic Mexican food when he studied in Puebla, located 110 km southeast of Mexico City, during college. Even though he was warned not to eat the food from the street vendors (strange foreign contamination and whatnot), Mike dined almost exclusively from their carts and sampled the best tacos in town.

When Mike said he wanted to make enchiladas for us, I had (only!) one request: they must be saucy. I railed on and on about the pitfalls of enchilada making – stringy meat, too much goopy cheese and dry, under-sauced tortillas. We must have none of that! I looked at an otherwise fine recipe that he found online and said, “Sounds good, but you’ll have to add twice as much sauce.”

One look at these saucy babies, and you can see that Mike knows what I like. The poached chicken breast filling was moist and not petrified in clumps of cheese; the salsa verde added an insidiously spicy flavor; and the tortillas were soft and positively saucy.

Not saucy yet, but wait for it...

That's what we like to see!

Mike's Saucy Enchiladas
Inspired by this recipe from Zachary Smith, via Food Network. Poaching the chicken ahead of time (or using the meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken) lets you assemble this dish quickly. You can also refrigerate the enchiladas for 24 hours before baking. Salsa verde is added to plain tomato sauce to create a quick enchilada sauce. Use any salsa and heat level you like. Salsa verde is sold in cans in the ethnic food section or in jars with the other salsas. Red salsa is fine too, but smoother varieties work better than chunky. Be sure the heat level of the salsa is okay before you add it to your tomato sauce. Cotija is crumbly, salty Mexican cheese that can be found in Latin markets and many grocery stores. Other Mexican or Spanish hard cheeses can be substituted. Makes enough for a dozen enchiladas. You will have plenty of leftover sauce for serving, or for another use.

1.5 lbs chicken breast, poached in water seasoned with salt and pepper and shredded

For the enchiladas:
3 (7-ounce) cans salsa verde (Mike used Sabores Aztecas brand from Whole Foods Market)
1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can black beans
salt (or substitute adobo seasoning)
freshly ground pepper
1/3 pound pepper jack cheese, grated
1 (7-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained
1 dozen whole wheat flour tortillas
queso cotija, a few ounces for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine salsa verde and tomato sauce. Drain the beans and season with salt (or adobo seasoning) and pepper. Add a thin layer of sauce to bottom of a very large or two smaller baking dishes (we filled a 9x13 and an 8x8 dish). Put some chicken, beans, pepper jack cheese, a little sauce and some green chiles in a tortilla. Roll up and place in dish. Repeat until dish is filled. Cover with sauce. Sprinkle remainder of chiles and crumbled queso cotija on top.

Cover dishes with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from oven when sauce is bubbly. Let rest for 5-10 minutes and serve.

Cook until the sauce is bubbling and the top is blistered.


Ivonne said...

You are very lucky to be married to a man who can make a mean enchilada!

They're fantastic and my mouth is watering!

Julie said...

Those enchiladas look delicious! It looks like Mike was not held back at all by growing up in an enchilada-deprived part of the country.

Anonymous said...

Enchiladas are some of my favorite things to eat! I didnt have them for a while but recently we started making avocado enchiladas that are so delicious. Yum.

Yours look fantastic!

Ari (Baking and Books)

Lis said...

I love enchiladas! These look fabulous =) Way to go, Mike!

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