Enchiladas Rojas for 15 Hungry Dancers

It’s dress rehearsal time again for my daughter’s dance company, and the parents are assigned to bring food for each meal. Sonia told me they needed a break from pasta, so we decided on enchiladas.

I made 21 enchiladas in a ¼ sheet baking pan. I made 10 more for the vegetarians, using pepper jack slices crumbled into Frijoles pintos along with the vegetables. You can make the broth below without the chicken for a vegetarian sauce.  I topped them with the heated sauce, more pepper jack, fresh cilantro leaves and olives after baking.

Broth ingredients:

16 cups (1 gallon) of water
2 chopped onions
8 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. chipotle powder
3 Tb cumin powder (comino)
2 Tb. dried oregano
2 cups diced Roma (plum) tomatoes or 15 oz can diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice)
1 sliced bell pepper
2 Tb. salt to taste
8 each pasilla and California chilies
6 – oz can tomato paste
1 whole chicken
 
Vegetables:
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
3 large red potatoes, peeled and chopped  in bite-size chunks
3 large chayote, peeled, seed area removed, and chopped in bite-size chunks

2 Tb flour

Non-stick spray

21 corn tortillas for chicken enchiladas, plus 10 more for bean and cheese ones

1 can black olives

1 cup cotija cheese

1 bunch fresh cilantro

Avocados to garnish

Ideally the best way to make this is to make the chicken first, then let it cool enough to handle. Pour the broth into a container and refrigerate it until the fat congeals, then remove it. Make the sauce from the defatted broth. I didn’t have the time to do this, so made it all in one day. I used a fat separator cup to de-fat the broth. This nifty little gadget pours out the broth from the bottom of the cup as the grease rises; I then discard the fat.

Making the chicken: For this batch, I boiled a whole chicken with the spices, onions and other ingredients above.  Toast the chilies on a comal or heavy skillet first to maximize their flavor. Reserve 2 Tb of tomato paste for the sauce. I used pretty much the same recipe I used for Tamales de pollo Chicken  Tamales. It’s true you have to watch out for the chicken bones and you will get the grease, but the broth will be richer and  it’s more economical than boneless breasts, especially if the chicken is on sale!

After 40 minutes, I add the carrots, potatoes and chayote. After the chicken has cooked an hour, I turn off the heat and pull the chicken out of the broth into a large bowl. Since I was running out of time, I set the bowl inside a larger bowl (actually the bottom of my salad spinner) that I filled with a layer of ice cubes, to cool down the chicken. Using a fork and knife, I pulled the meat off the bones until it’s cool enough to handle.

I discard the skin, gristle and bones, and use my hands to shred the chicken. I then pour a cup or two of broth into the chicken, mixing it with my hands, so that the shredded chicken can absorb the flavors. You can cook it in a frying pan for 15 minutes to help it absorb the broth. Save the leftover broth to make sauce and   or Cocido de Res – Mexican Beef Stew

Mix some beans (Frijoles pintos) and the vegetables (carrots, potatoes and chayote) into the shredded chicken.

Making the sauce: This will make a nice spicy sauce. Pour about 4 cups of broth into a fat separator cup. Pour the defatted broth into a blender and discard the fat.  Add 2 Tb flour and 2 Tb tomato paste. Fish out the chili peppers and bell peppers from the pot and add them to the sauce. Whir in the blender a few minutes until smooth. I don’t peel the chili pods or discard the seeds. They just go into the sauce. If you don’t want such spicy sauce, you can discard the seeds and you can add more tomato paste. But remember, the sauce will taste hotter alone than it will be over the enchiladas. The tortillas are bland, as is the cheese, and the cilantro and avocado will cool it down a bit too. Heat the sauce in a medium saucepan for about 20 minutes, stirring until thickened. Adjust salt and let cool enough to handle.

Assembling the enchiladas: Preheat oven to 375’ and grease a large pan with nonstick spray. Pour a few inches of sauce into a shallow flat-bottomed bowl. Place a large plate nearby. Heat a comal or heavy griddle or skillet and place one or two tortillas on it until they are hot and softened, and barely crisp. Take out one of the tortillas and briefly immerse each side in the sauce until it is coated with the sauce, then place it on the plate.

Take a few tablespoons of the chicken mixture (double-check with your fingers that you have removed all the little rib bones) and place it inside the tortilla. Then roll it up and place it seam side down on the greased pan. Repeat. It’s nice to have a partner place the tortillas on the comal for you. When the pan is full, place it in the oven for 20 minutes, until the tortillas begin to dry out.

While enchiladas are baking, crumble cotija cheese in a small bowl, and add a few handfuls of cilantro leaves. Open a can of black olives and drain it. Heat remaining sauce to boiling. When enchiladas have baked, pour a line of sauce down the middle of the enchiladas. Sprinkle the cotija cheese – cilantro mix over them and place a black olive in the middle of each enchilada. Nice served with soft sliced avocados.

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Enchiladas Verdes

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When tangy tomatillos ripen at the end of summer, I get a hankering for Enchiladas Verdes (green enchiladas) . I used to think that tomatillos were little green tomatoes, but I found out they are actually not tomatoes at all, but related to the gooseberry. The ancient Aztecs grew them and gave them the name miltomatl. Best eaten when green, they come wrapped in a papery husk, which must be removed before cooking. They are high in pectin, which helps thicken sauces. Roasting the tomatillos, chilies and garlic enhances their flavor.

Makes 8 enchiladas

Salsa Verde

10 large tomatillos (about ½ pound), husks removed

1 ½ small spring onions or 1 small white onion, peeled

3 large garlic cloves, peeled

2 poblano chilies

2 jalapeño peppers and 4 Serrano chili peppers (This will make a spicy sauce. Use less chilies if you want a milder sauce)

1 ½ tea. salt (to taste)

juice of one lime

1 cup cilantro leaves, plus a few for garnish.

1/3 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)

1 tea. minced fresh oregano leaves (or ½ tea. dried oregano)

1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken broth Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup

Enchiladas

8 corn tortillas

3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (1 large whole breast). See Roast Chicken

OR one pound ground turkey

½ cup reduced fat shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Olive oil cooking spray

You can make the sauce and filling ahead of time, then assemble and heat right before serving.

Preheat oven to 425’ Spray a baking pan with non-stick olive oil spray. Place tomatillos, chilies, garlic, and onion on baking pan.

Bake for 10 minutes, remove garlic and tomatillos, and flip other vegetables. Bake 10 minutes more, until chilies are charred and soft and onions begin to brown. Remove from oven and let cool in a bowl or container. You can do this part a day ahead and pop the container in the fridge.

Toast pepitas on a comal or heavy frying pan over medium heat until they begin to pop. Let them cool, then grind them in a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder. If you don’t have a grinder, you can run them in a food processor. Reserve a few whole pepitas for garnish.

Remove stems and seed pod from chilies. Keep some seeds in for extra spicyness.

removing seeds from chilies

Remove stems from tomatillos over container or blender container since they will make a mess. Add roasted vegetables and liquid from them, ground pepitas, lime juice, oregano, cilantro, salt and 1 cup chicken soup and blend until smooth.

Bring sauce to boil in a saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes, then let simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce is thick and coats the spoon. If it is too thick, add up to 1/2 cup more broth.

While sauce is cooking, shred the chicken breast. Stir in about 1 1/4 cups of sauce to the chicken breast and reserve the rest. Heat sauce and chicken in the saucepan over medium heat until the sauce permeates the chicken, about 10 minutes. Let it cool until you can handle it. Again, you can do this part ahead of time.

chicken for enchiladas verdes

You can also make this dish using ground turkey. Brown one lb turkey and drain fat. Add 1/2 cup sauce to turkey and let it cook 5 minutes until sauce permeates it.

Assembling the enchiladas: preheat oven to 350’

Traditionally tortillas are dipped in hot oil before coating with enchilada sauce. I use olive oil spray to cut down on the fat. I only bake with some of the sauce, so the enchiladas won’t get soggy. I pour heated sauce on the enchiladas just before serving.

Pour half the warm sauce into a shallow bowl. Lightly spray each tortilla with olive oil spray before heating briefly on the comal or heavy frying pan. When tortilla is hot and soft, dip it into the sauce so that it coats the tortilla on both sides.

Place tortilla on a plate and place a few tablespoons of the chicken or turkey inside the tortilla

then roll it up.

Place seam side down on a baking pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Continue with all tortillas. Spoon the sauce that’s left in the bowl over the enchiladas (about ¼ cup).

Bake at 350’ for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle grated cheese over enchiladas.

Put back in oven for 5 minutes so that cheese will melt.

Heat remaining sauce until hot. When you remove the enchiladas from the oven the second time, pour hot sauce on and around the enchiladas. Garnish with cilantro leaves and whole roasted pepitas.