Enough salads. Time for comfort food!
While paging through this month’s Cooking Light, I came across a recipe for chicken black-bean enchiladas and instantly craved them—which is odd, because I spent many years avoiding traditional red-sauce enchiladas during my corn-tortilla-aversion days. They amplified what I hated about corn tortillas, seeming somehow both dry and soggy at the same time. (Now, of course, I love a good salsa-logged tortilla.)
This…is not that recipe. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that once the idea had been sparked, I closed the magazine and opened the Internet. Cooking Light can be great, but for my first standard-enchilada foray I wanted something more definitive, authoritative. I would say “more authentic,” except that the recipe I eventually chose, from America’s Test Kitchen via Serious Eats, admits outright that it is neither authentically Mexican nor authentically Tex-Mex (for that, see chili gravy). It is, however, what many Americans (including me) would think of as a basic enchilada, and it is thoroughly tasty. It’s also streamlined—no frying the tortillas or dipping them one by one into the sauce, two steps that always put me off enchilada-making.
It seems to be versatile, too, with Serious Eats noting that you can swap out the chicken for an equal amount of just about anything, including pulled pork or beans and greens. I only had about a pound of shredded chicken on hand, so I also added a can of black beans, bringing the dish closer to its original inspiration. I really liked the combo of textures and will probably repeat it again in the future—I did end up with a bit of extra filling, but threw it in the freezer on the assumption that it will make a great quesadilla filling for an emergency dinner someday.
The original recipe only called for cheddar, but I mixed in Monterey Jack as well, for kicks (and vague notions of authenticity). I used 14 five-inch tortillas. (By the way, have you tried TortillaLand tortillas? They’re refrigerated dough rounds that you cook fresh on a dry skillet for a few minutes just before using them, and they’re brilliant—simple ingredients with no preservatives, the next best thing to making your own. This isn’t a sponsored statement; I’ve just been completely hooked on them ever since I discovered them. The corn ones aren’t quite as good as our local Mexican market’s, but much better than mainstream grocery-store brands. The flour ones are the best I’ve ever had. Total game-changer.) I would maybe add a bit more sauce next time, because I found them just a touch dry, but the flavor was tremendous and they fed my craving exactly.
A helpful hint for my future self, as well as for you: There are a lot of variations on this recipe online, and one (I found it at Annie's Eats, which credits Pink Parsley, which credits Tide and Thyme) makes the interesting innovation of cooking the chicken in the sauce. Part of the impetus for me making enchiladas in the first place was that I had some precooked chicken in the freezer I wanted to use up, but if you don't happen to have some on hand and are starting with raw chicken, this technique is a good way to kill two birds with one stone.
Easy enchilada sauce:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chili powder
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons sugar
16 ounces tomato sauce
½ cup water
3 cups (1½ pounds) shredded cooked chicken
12 ounces (3 cups) shredded Monterey Jack and/or sharp orange cheddar cheese (I recommend a mixture)
2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chiles, drained (I used a combo of hot and mild)
½ cup minced fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
12 to 14 (6-inch) corn tortillas
- To make the sauce, heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, garlic, cumin, and sugar. Cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Makes about 2½ cups; any extra can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or frozen for several months.)
- Combine the chicken, 2 cups of the cheese, ½ cup of the enchilada sauce, chiles, and cilantro in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Stack the tortillas on a plate, cover with a damp paper towel, and microwave until warm and pliable, 40 to 60 seconds.
- Lightly coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Spread 1/3 cup filling evenly down the center of each tortilla. Tightly roll the tortilla around the filling and lay seam-side-down in the baking dish.
- Lightly spray the enchiladas with vegetable oil spray. Pour 1 to 1½ cups of sauce all over the enchiladas so that they are thoroughly coated. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheese over the top. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the enchiladas are heated through, 20-25 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake until the cheese browns slightly, about 5 minutes more.
- Remove from oven, let cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and serve garnished with extra cilantro.
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.