Saturday, May 16, 2015

Chicken Enchiladas from Easy to Complex at Whim

Yesterday I spent all morning researching Enchiladas, then I sat with ideas and fleshed them out, till I had a recipe I thought was do-able, then walked to the grocery for the things I was missing and spent the next couple of hours implementing and refining the recipe. All in all, I am very happy with the recipe. I believe the only thing I would do differently next time is to make a whole batch of my Red Enchilada Sauce. At minimum I wanted the equivalent of a can, usually 10-ounces, but all I had left was one cup, just barely full. And then at another time, I would like to try these with my Green Sauce (Salsa Verde - see recipe here), and have them more in the line of Enchiladas Suizas.

Chicken Enchiladas
There was nothing wrong with the recipe as I made it. They were really good, and I am looking forward hungrily to leftovers for dinner this evening. A few things I did are things not everyone may have the ability to duplicate, depending on where you live and what sort of grocery stores are available. I am relatively fortunate in that, even up in northern South Dakota we have a really great grocery store; Kessler's. Kessler's is not an inexpensive place to shop, but they really do have an amazing selection of foods. But even in Kessler's it is sometimes chancy whether a certain thing will be available, so I just try to go with the flow and get what is available.

Tortillas, and then Tortillas

I had totally and completely fallen in love with the La Tortilla Factory brand green chile corn and wheat four tortillas. I bought them over and over again over a period of time . . . and then suddenly Kessler's stopped carrying them! If I had access to these tortillas, I would absolutely have used these for this Enchilada recipe. As it happens, Kessler's and even Wal-Mart, have been carrying ever-changing versions of corn and flour tortillas. For preference, I want corn tortillas. I learned to eat corn tortillas in Guatemala, where at the time, they were made fresh, from hominy that was just cooked, ground and skillfully hand-patted and baked on a comal into tender, flexible, amazingly-flavored rounds of goodness. And then, to come back to the States, only to find that any corn (or flour, for that matter) tortilla has been pressed out into perfectly round, perfectly flat and brittle things that bear so little resemblance to the real thing that aside from some little corn flavor, well, there is just no resemblance.
Excuse my rant, there. My husband will only eat flour tortillas. To me, wheat can be had anywhere, all the time. We have far too much wheat in our diets as it is. A critical difference of opinion, but that is par for the course, with us. So when one day I was wandering in Kessler's, and found these La Tortilla Factory corn and wheat tortillas, I was at first taken with the look and feel of them. Even through the bag they were in, I could tell they did not have that friable quality most store-bought corn tortillas have. The look and feel was similar to real hand-patted corn tortillas. There was enough flavor of corn to satisfy, and obviously enough flour to make them pliable and differently textured.

Inside my Enchiladas
. . . And then they stopped carrying them. I was really frustrated. No other brand, to date, even comes close to the flavor of La Tortilla Factory brand. One other brand, which I was lucky enough to find at Kessler's yesterday (they are not there all the time, by any means) is Don Pancho. The biggest difference with the Don Pancho brand of corn and wheat tortillas is that they are the larger sized ones, about 8-inches in diameter, rather then the smaller normal corn tortilla size of about 6-inches.

On to the Enchiladas

This brings me to the recipe and why it may not be a completely simple "follow-the-directions" sort of recipe for some. If one makes this recipe using flour tortillas, there are flour tortillas in the 8-inch size, readily available in most places. However, if an 8-inch corn and flour tortilla is not available, you might have to resort to the little 6-inch corn tortillas, and that way this recipe will make a whole lot more than the 10 large enchiladas from my recipe. I would venture to say that the recipe might be doubled (in amount of tortillas used), if using the small ones.

If perchance you are using all-corn tortillas, you will absolutely have to first pass them briefly through a small bit of hot oil to make them:
  1. more pliable and
  2. less apt to burn in the oven
I did this step anyway, just in order to have the tortillas less prone to dryness and burning at the edges. All that is needed is a tiny amount of oil in a hot skillet large enough to accommodate the tortilla. It takes maybe a minute or so per side. They don't need to really brown, but they become far more pliable and easy to work with. As each one came from the skillet, I filled and rolled it, then set into the casserole dish.

Chicken Enchiladas, fresh from the oven

The Mixture for Enchiladas

I am in no way Mexican, and have only Guatemalan cooking background. There were no such things as "enchiladas" in Guatemala in the '70s that I ever saw or heard of. With that in mind, I used things in the filling for my enchiladas that seemed right to me. I used black beans, because I prefer them. I added cream cheese, in the belief that it would melt well and make the insides nice and gooey with cheese. Chopped green chilies from a can were used because I love them and the flavor they give. A store-bought rotisserie chicken was used in the interest of time savings! Of course, cooking up a little bit of chicken ahead and shredding is also an option.

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas

makes 10 large

2 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
8 ounces (2 cups) shredded cheddar Jack 
   cheese, divided
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and 
   rinsed, divided
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided
1/2 cup chopped scallions, divided
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies
8 ounces cream cheese or neuchatel
10 (8-inch) corn/flour tortillas
oil, as needed for frying tortillas
1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce
1 cup favorite salsa
cilantro leaves for garnish
sour cream and/or avocado to serve

In a large mixing bowl, combine the shredded chicken, half each of the shredded cheese,  cilantro and scallions, and the green chilies. Set 1/4 cup of the black beans aside and add remainder to the bowl. Cut cream cheese in small chunks, or just break off small pieces into the chicken mixture and toss to distribute. 

In a separate bowl, stir together the enchilada sauce, salsa and remaining half of chopped cilantro.

chicken mixture     |    reserved beans & scallions  |  sauce mixture  |  fried tortillas rolled with filling    |     sauce added 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium high heat and add in a teaspoon or so of oil. Fry each tortilla briefly. It will take longer for the first side, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Flip the tortilla and fry for another minute. They should not be too browned or hard, but very pliable. Once fried, measure out about 2/3 cup or so of the chicken mixture onto the tortilla and roll tightly. Set the roll in a casserole dish, flap down. Continue with all the tortillas, frying, filling, rolling and placing in the casserole or casseroles, as needed. 

Bake the enchiladas without sauce for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then remove from oven. Reduce heat to 375 degrees. Divide the sauce mixture between casseroles and spread to cover. Top with the remaining shredded cheese. Cover the casserole(s) with foil and seal the edges. Bake at the reduced temperature for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, until bubbling and the cheese is nicely melted. Toss the remaining black beans and scallions over top of the casserole(s), then garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve with sour cream and/or avocado. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.