The Whole Enchilada
Maybe you're looking for a last-minute Cinco de Mayo supper idea, or maybe, like me, you've always been curious about making your own enchiladas but were afraid to ask.
I had longed steered clear of the enchilada (the past participle of the Spanish word enchilar, which means to season with chiles) because I had it in my head they'd be cumbersome to prepare and disappointing compared to anything I'd encounter in a Mexican restaurant. It was a mental block that I hoped one day would melt away.
And then one day last spring, I met Chico, a Atzec fire-eating friend of a friend who was visiting from San Francisco, and lo and behold, he was fixing chicken enchiladas for supper. Would I care to join him -- and perhaps give him a hand? I thought I had died and gone to kitchen heaven.
Life is all about timing, and within the span of an hour, I learned first hand that chicken enchiladas are the furthest thing from rocket science; rather it's a sum of many parts, which require proper seasoning and assembly, but nothing tricky.
I highly recommend getting your hands on fresh tomatillos because their flavor is brighter than those from a can, but don't worry yourself silly if the fresh stuff is not in the cards. You can still pull off this dinner trick, even on a weeknight, particularly if you've got a helper nearby.
And if you're an enchilada veteran of sorts, please share your tips and tricks in the comments area. Vegetarian fillings welcomed and wanted, please.
P.S. Have you got a kitchen or food-related story to share about your mother, grandmother or maternal figures in your life? Send 'em my way at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than Wednesday, May 7. In the subject line of your e-mail, type "MOM" and in your note, please include your age, city and state, and where you grew up, size of your family. I'll select a handful of entries for a blog-stravaganza that will be published on May 9. Oh -- and if you've got a cool pic of Mom, send that along too.
Chico's Chicken Enchiladas
2 chicken breasts and thighs, or 1 whole chicken, cut up
Soft corn tortillas (estimate 2 per person)
Vegetable oil of choice
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed (Alternatively, 1 13-ounce can tomatillos, drained. Sauce also available commercially in jars.)
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (use a serrano for less spicy results)
4 scallions, cleaned, green tops only
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
2/3 cup chicken stock
Salt to taste
1/2 to 1 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded or queso fresco or cotija, crumbled
1 cup shredded lettuce
Sour cream for garnish (optional)
Bring a deep pot of water to a boil, add 1 teaspoon of salt and chicken parts. Lower heat and cook over medium heat, until meat is cooked all the way through, about 30 minutes.
With a pair of tongs, remove chicken from pot and allow to cool. Remove skin. With a fork, pull chicken away from bone and shred into strips. Set aside.
In a saucepan, bring some water to a boil and add tomatillos. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove and drain. Place in a blender or food processor, and add the chilies, scallions, cilantro and lime juice. Pulse and begin to puree. Gradually add stock, until you have a fairly thin consistency. Add salt to taste. Pour into a small saucepan and keep on very low heat to warm.
In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until warm but not smoking and add tortillas, one by one, cooking on each side for about 10 seconds. Remove with tongs and allow to drain on paper towels. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lay tortillas on a flat surface, one at a time. Place just enough chicken to cover center of tortilla from left to right. Add two tablespoons enchilada sauce, followed by a small amount of cheese. Beginning at end closest to you, roll tortilla and tighten slightly as you near the middle.
Place seam side down into a baking dish. When all tortillas are rolled and fit snugly into dish, pour sauce over entire surface and finish off with remaining cheese.
Place dish into oven and bake for 10 minutes. Serve piping hot.
Makes six servings.
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