Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Growing up in New England, we weren't exactly surrounded by a wealth of Mexican food options. It was basically Taco Bell and that was it. Surprisingly I found a great Mexican restaurant in Westport, CT, where my college roommates and I would go for margaritas and tasty food. It was there that I first fell in love with enchiladas. I have yet to return to that little Mexican restaurants since moving to SoCal, so I am not sure if their enchiladas would still compare the wealth of tasty options I have here.
As enchiladas remain one of my favorite Mexican dishes, I decided to attempt making them for the second time ever. My first attempt was a Tyler Florence recipe, that was quite good but I wanted to try something that was a little more traditional and also wanted to make my own chile sauce. I found this recipe on the Simply Recipes blog and liked the sound of it because it was very straight forward and had a recipe for red chile sauce. While the blogger made it clear that you could use the store bought version, everyone who knows me, knows I am all about making things from scratch. I made a few tweaks along the way and they are noted in red in the recipe below.
Mom's Chicken Enchilada Recipe
from Elise at Simply Recipes
1 small onion, chopped (about a cup) (I doubled the sauce so used approx 2 cups of onion)
Vegetable oil - grapeseed or olive
2 small cloves garlic, minced (3 large cloves of garlic)
1 14.5-ounce can tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted if you can get it (29 oz can of tomato puree)
2 Tbsp red chili powder (I ended up using upwards of 3 Tbsps, probably would have used more if I hadn't run out)
1 teaspoon sugar (2 tsp)
1/2 cup to a cup of water
12 corn tortillas
Grapeseed oil, peanut oil or canola oil - a high smoke point vegetable oil
2-3 cups of cooked chicken, shredded or chopped (I roasted boneless chicken breast on a baking sheet with oil, garlic salt and pepper at 350F for approx 3o mins and then shredded it)
2 cups grated cheese (about 1/3 lb)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. (Once heated I put the chicken in to cook while I prepared the sauce)
2. Prepare the sauce. Coat a large skillet with oil and sauté the onions on medium heat until translucent, a few minutes. Add the garlic for a minute more. While the onions are cooking, purée the canned tomatoes in a blender. (I skipped this step as I had bought tomato puree) Add the tomatoes to the onions and garlic. Bring to a low simmer. Start adding the chili powder, one teaspoon at a time, tasting after each addition, until you get to the desired level of heat and chili flavor. For us that's around 2 Tablespoons. (As noted above I used approx 3 Tbsp and the flavor was very good, but I definitely would have used at least a Tbsp more for some added heat) But it depends on your taste and how strong the chili powder is that you are using. Note that the tortillas and chicken will absorb some of the heat, so allow for that and let it be a little bit spicier than what you want in the finished dish. Add a teaspoon of sugar if necessary to cut down on the acid from the tomatoes. (I'm not sure if was the because I used tomato puree instead of pureeing my own tomatoes, but this step was definitely necessary to neutralize the acid and strong tomato flavor) You want more of the taste of the chili and less of the tomatoes for this sauce. As the sauce simmers, dilute it with water to keep it from getting to thick as it simmers. (This step was also very necessary, I don't think I used enough water because my sauce was still a bit too think, but I was concerned about watering it down too much and losing the spice of the chile) Remove from heat. Alternatively, use a prepared canned enchilada sauce, which can be perfectly fine.
3. Mix in 1/4 cup of the sauce with the cooked chicken, and a 1/4 cup of the cheese. Sprinkle with a little salt. Set aside.
4. Prepare the tortillas. There are 2 basic ways to prepare the tortillas - the traditional way of dipping them in the sauce and heating them individually, and my mom's way when she is trying to cut down on the fat.
First the traditional way. Heat a small light skillet on med-high heat. Add a teaspoon of oil (high smoke point oil as indicated above, we use grapeseed oil) to coat the pan. Dip a tortilla in the sauce to coat the tortilla with sauce on both sides. Place the tortilla in the skillet and heat for a few seconds, until the tortilla begin to show some air bubbles. Use a metal spatula to flip to the other side for a few more seconds. Set aside on a plate. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Proceed to the step 5. (I used the traditional way)
For my mom's low-fat method of heating up the tortillas, she places a small amount of oil in the skillet to coat the pan. Add a tortilla, flip it to its other side. Then add another tortilla on top of the first to soak up some of the excess oil. Flip them both together and add yet another tortilla. Keep adding them wherever there seems to be some excess oil. The idea is to heat the tortillas and soften them with the minimum amount of oil. As the tortillas become soft and heated, remove them to a paper towel to soak up even more excess oil. If you find you need more oil in the pan, add it. With this method, you do NOT get the chili flavor infused in the tortillas.
5. Assemble the enchiladas. Use an 8x12 inch pyrex baking dish. Place a couple spoonfuls of the chicken mixture in the center of a tortilla and roll it up. Place in the baking dish and repeat until all dozen of your tortillas are neatly placed in rows in the casserole dish. Cover the tortillas rolls with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.
6. Place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly. Use a metal spatula to serve. Serve with thinly sliced iceberg lettuce that has been seasoned with vinegar and salt (no oil), guacamole or avocado slices, and sour cream. Garnish with cilantro.
As noted above my chile sauce was a bit thick, this made dunking and frying the tortilla's a bit more messy than I think it should be. I really liked the flavor of the chile sauce and would make it again, first making sure I have enough chile powder and then continually adding water to thin it out. I also think if you follow the recipe and use canned whole tomatoes and puree then yourself the sauce will start out thinner than mine did. I also would mix a bit more sauce with the chicken as everything was a bit dry, but again I think alot of this can be attributed to the thickness of the sauce.
I served the enchiladas with vegetarian refried black beans. I love refried beans and I always do the same thing with them. I put a can of refried beans in a pot over medium heat and as they start to heat up I add between 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of salsa to add flavor. I will often add cheese too, but didn't last night as there was plenty on the enchiladas.
Overall this was a tasty meal that I will try to make again, taking into account what I learned this time. Until I am more proficient at enchiladas, I think it will be relegated to a weekend meal as it took a little longer than I normally like for a weeknight meal. For me to make everything it took just over an hour which isn't too bad but when I get home from work between 7:30p and 8p, it puts dinner a bit late. If I use canned sauce and leftover chicken it will come together alot more quickly.