Thursday, November 18, 2010


I’m not going to beat around the bush here: The salsa in this recipe (from Tyler Florence at the Food Network site, via My Husband Hates Veggies) is effing amazing. Also? Effing amazingly easy to make. I’d never even bought tomatillos before (and once I’d gotten them home, had to launch into lengthy Internet research to figure out how to store them, which let me tell you, there’s no consensus between “in a wire basket on the counter” and “in a paper bag in the fridge”; I ended up doing the former for a few days and then switching to the latter after two went bad, although that might have been a fluke), but all you do is peel them and throw them on a baking sheet with onions and garlic and jalapenos, then puree them into yumminess with cumin and salt and cilantro and lime. I was highly suspicious of this whole method—No oil to roast the veggies? Only 12 minutes in the oven? Wouldn’t they stick to the baking sheet or be too crunchy to puree in my crappy blender? How could this possibly work? But when I took them out (granted, I let them cook a few more minutes due to said suspicions) they were hot and smooshy and turned instantly to liquid when blended. As soon as I tasted it, I was instantly delighted that I’d taken the commenters’ advice and made more than the recipe called for—actually, I tried to make a double recipe, but after a few of my tomatillos rotted I only had enough for 1.5 times the recipe, though I did accidentally use the full double amounts of the cilantro and lime, a very wise decision on my part because cilantro and lime make everything better. (I will definitely follow this exact method next time; the quantities I used are noted below.) The salsa was refreshingly green, zippy, with exactly the right amount of spice; I could easily see myself making a big vat of it and just devouring it with chips, if I didn’t want to bother with the whole enchilada thing. However, chicken and cheese enchiladas both filled with and blanketed in magical green sauce are a worthy endeavor, and not difficult to assemble. A called this the best recipe I’ve made in months, and while it certainly has some tough competition (Fish tacos! Hob Nobs! Magic juice! Pumpkin ice cream!), I don’t necessarily disagree.

I've never made a Tyler Florence recipe before, so I don’t know if I should blame him or the Food Network site, but this one was really poorly written, and it annoyed me. I’ve cooked enough that I could extrapolate what to do when the recipe got vague, but I still like to have detailed instructions the first time I make something and appreciate precision (even if, as in Cooking Light recipes, I roll my eyes at it and end up rebelling against it), plus not everyone is so experienced. I think of Food Network shows and recipes as being for general audiences, so even if Florence wrote the recipe this way (and although I didn’t watch the episode, some commenters noted that the written directions deviated from it), why not have a recipe writer test and clarify it? As everyone noted, it needed more salsa, and the salsa is then added to the recipe in four different stages, but the recipe never tells you how much to use each time, just “some.” (Based on the amount of salsa I ended up making, I figured out quantities that seemed reasonable to me and noted them in the recipe below.) I would also have preferred a precise measurement for the chicken meat rather than just “one 3-pound deli roasted chicken”; I already had deboned chicken meat in my freezer that I wanted to use (left over from roasted chicken or making chicken stock) and had to totally guesstimate how much to use. (I went with 1 pound and that seemed to be plenty; we even had enchilada filling left over, which is hardly a curse because it makes a great nacho or quesadilla topping later—or, hell, just a dip for chips.) Not to mention the shoddy editing throughout (“Garnish, cilantro and tomato”). Boo! Still, the end result is so incredibly delicious it’s hard to complain. But I do think my instructions below represent a vast improvement.

One final note: The original recipe included sub-recipes for black beans and yellow rice, but I skipped them; the enchiladas were a full meal in themselves (we were utterly stuffed after two). I also left out the suggested toppings of sour cream and guacamole, which seemed like gilding the lily, but you might disagree.

1½ pounds tomatillos, husked
1½ medium onions, peeled and quartered
6 garlic cloves, peeled
3 jalapenos
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1½ teaspoons salt
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 deli roasted chicken (about 3 pounds), boned, meat shredded (I used about 1 pound shredded chicken)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
10 large flour tortillas
½ pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (I used pepper Jack)
Chopped tomatoes and cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. To make the salsa, roast tomatillos, onion, garlic, and jalapenos on a baking sheet for 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the roasted vegetables and any juices on the bottom of the tray to a food processor or blender. Add the cumin, salt, cilantro, and lime juice and pulse mixture until well combined but still chunky. (This should yield about 5 cups of salsa.)

3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin, then cook for 1 minute more. Sprinkle on the flour and stir to ensure that the flour doesn't burn, then gradually add the chicken stock. Continue stirring over a low simmer until the flour cooks and the liquid thickens. Turn off the heat, add about 1½ cups of the roasted tomatillo chile salsa, and fold in the shredded chicken meat. Season, to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Change the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees. Take a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish and smear the bottom with about 1½ cups of the salsa. Briefly warm the flour tortillas one by one in the oven so they are pliable. Place about 1 cup of the salsa in a shallow bowl and coat both sides of each tortilla lightly with it. Put a scoop of the shredded chicken mixture on top of each tortilla, followed by a sprinkle of the shredded cheese. Fold the tortilla over the filling and roll up enclose it. Place the tortilla in the baking dish and repeat with remaining tortillas. Finally, pour about 1 cup of salsa over the enchiladas and top with the remaining shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes until bubbly and browned on top. Garnish with cilantro and tomato.

Serves: 5
Time: 2 hours
Leftover potential: Good.

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