Saturday, January 19, 2013

Easy Enchiladas

Published in The Sanford Herald on October 31, 2012

Having grown up in South Texas, there is no food more comforting or satisfying than Mexican: a big, steaming bowl of homemade pinto beans with cornbread has the same effect on me as a two-hour nap.  Okay, sometimes it induces a two-hour nap, but nonetheless when I am eating Mexican food lovingly prepared, I am at home, wherever I happen to be.  One of my favorite dishes to make is incredibly simple and packed with spicy flavor: roasted tomatillo and chicken enchiladas.  Tomatillos are those mutant-looking green tomatoes that have a papery skin on the outside.  What is said for books can also be said for these little gems: don’t judge by its cover.  Once peeled and roasted with spices, they become sweet, while still retaining their characteristic tang that is just heavenly in an enchilada sauce.  Before you know it, you’ll be intentionally picking up ugly-covered books and cooking Mexican food at home like this lil’ Texan transplant.

Roasted Tomatillo and Chicken Enchiladas
Serves four.
10 corn tortillas
2 bone-in chicken breasts, rubbed with extra-virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and roasted at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or ½ of a cooked rotisserie chicken (give yourself a break), shredded into bite-sized pieces
8-10 tomatillos, peeled of papery skin, rinsed and chopped in fourths
2 cloves garlic, chopped in half
½ a medium onion, chopped largely
1 jalapeno, stem discarded, seeds removed and chopped largely
2 tablespoons of cumin
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 cup of chicken stock, warmed in microwave
4 tablespoons of canola or other light cooking oil (olive oil has too strong a flavor for this dish)
4 ounces of sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
cilantro, for garnish, if desired

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss tomatillos, garlic, onions, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper with 2 tablespoons of the oil and roast for 20-25 minutes, until completely tender and brown at edges.  (Do not be alarmed if they look, well, slimy.  They’ll puree into spicy sauce perfection, I promise!)  Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a shallow pan on medium-high heat until it begins to ripple.  Working quickly, dip tortillas in oil for a few seconds on each side to soften.  Drain on paper towels if desired.  If you skip this step, they will fall apart when you try to roll them.  Fill each tortilla with 2 tablespoons of chicken and ¼ cup of cheese and roll, placing seam-side down in an oiled 1½ quart baking dish.  Reserve some chicken and cheese to top enchiladas.  Puree roasted tomatillo mixture in a food processor or blender with chicken stock, until smooth, adjusting salt and pepper as needed.  Pour enchilada sauce over filled tortillas, and top with a line of shredded chicken and cheese down the middle.  Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees until bubbling and heated through.  Uncover and cook 5 more minutes to crisp chicken on top.  Top with sour cream.  If you’d like to be fancy (we do eat with our eyes first, y’all) put sour cream in a plastic food storage bag, snip the end off and pipe onto enchiladas in a zig zag pattern.  Top with cilantro if desired.  The combination of spicy, tangy sauce, hearty chicken and cooling sour cream is ¡muy delicioso!

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