Chicken Enchiladas (with homemade sauce)

What makes my enchilada’s extra good according to some of my regular dinner guests, is a few minor difference in ingredients and technique.

First thing to do is run down to Costco and buy a rotisserie chicken for five bucks.  The combination of white and tender dark meat is way-y-y better than just cutting up some chicken breasts.  It’s a bit of a mess, but you can minimize that by placing the chicken on a large cutting board along with a big bowl to place the chicken pieces in.  It is also optimal to do this when the chicken is warm, but not too hot to handle.  Put you knife away–the is manual labor.  Tear off the legs and rub off the skin, which won’t be going into the enchilada mix.  To remove the chicken from the bone, simply press to separate and then strip it off.  Make sure to discard pieces of tendon and cartilage, which isn’t hard since the chicken is well-cooked.  Next, tear the wings off and perform the same operation.  Now put you hands inside the cavity and rip the chicken in two, separating the breasts from the back.  Pick off the flesh from the back, especially the ‘oysters’ just above where the legs used to attach (these never make it into the chicken pile–I eat ’em on the spot ;-).  Finally, pull the breasts away from the rib cage and breast bone (that shark fin-like think that runs down the middle of the rib cage.  Pull this apart into bite size pieces.  Discard the carcass or save for soup.

One rotisserie chick makes a lot of enchiladas–two full pans.  Make the whole recipe and then freeze a pan for future consumption.You are going to make two components at this time–the sauce and the filling.  The ingredient list is as follows:

(t = teaspoon, T = tablespoon, c = cup)

Filling:

Shredded chicken meat from one rotisserie chicken
3/4 c enchilada sauce (see sauce recipe below)
1-1/2 c. thinly sliced green onion (a couple of bunches as sold at the grocery)
3 c. shredded cheese.  (I use a blend of various Mexican and traditional American cheeses available here in the southwest, but any mild-tasting melting cheese that isn’t Velveta will do fine.)
1-1/2 c. shredded cheese set aside for topping the pan…
3/4 c sour cream (fat-free is perfectly acceptable)
3/4 c (three 2 oz cans) diced green chiles
1 bunch cilantro chopped moderately fine.
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Sauce:

6 T. Canola oil
6 T. all-purpose flour
6 T. chili powder (ground Ancho chilies)
3 t. ground cumin (freshly ground is preferred)
42 oz chicken broth (3-14 oz cans)
24 oz tomato sauce (3-8 oz cans)
3 t. kosher salt (2 t. table salt)
1 t. garlic powder

You will also need about 30 corn tortillas or a portion thereof if you are planning a mix of flour and corn tortillas.  A word about the flour tortillas–precooked flour tortillas are an abomination.  Here on the west coast, we can get commercially-available raw tortilla rounds that must be cooked before use.  They are not bad, but still vastly inferior to hand-made tortillas, preferably by small Mexican ladies who have learned the craft at their mother’s knee.  Corn tortillas on the other hand, lend themselves well to commercial preparation.  The bottom line is, if you can’t get acceptable flour tortillas, use corn. 

Step 1: Make the sauce, because it’s incorporated in the filling and is required before actually cooking the enchiladas.  Introduce the oil into a sauce pan and heat to medium-high.  When it’s suitably hot, add the flour and chili powder and cook for a minute or two until bubbling and thickening to a paste.  Stir in the broth so that you are evenly dissolving the paste and then introduce the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Step 2: Make the filling. In a large bowl, mix the chicken, green onion, 3 cups of shredded cheese, sour cream, green chiles and cilantra.  Mix in 3/4 cup of enchilada sauce, the salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed.

Step 3:  Construction:  Take out a baking pan and light coat with some enchilada sauce.  Heat up a pan (preferably a cast iron tortilla pan) to medium-low heat.  This will take some experimentation on your part because stoves vary considerably in performance.  Ideally the tortilla should cook at a moderate pace and certainly shouldn’t have any char on it.  Corn tortillas need to be fried to develop the proper flavor and flexibility (for rolling).  I spray each side with cooking spray and then place them in the pan, cooking each side until I see a little browning.  As one (or two) come off the pan, place one (or two) more on the pan and start rolling enchiladas!For corn tortillas, about two tablespoons of filling is satisfactory.  Fill, the roll them up and place seam-side down in the pan.  It’s important to do this as the tortillas are coming off the pan because they lose their flexibility when the cool.  Cracked tortillas are not ideal.  Flour tortillas the size of typical corn tortillas are often hard to come by, so just use the larger ones and 3-4 Tbsp of filling each.  Remember to cook the raw flour tortillas if you bought packaged raw flats (same process as the corn, but ‘bake’ them–no oil).

If you are freezing the enchilada rolls, omit the underlying sauce and place them on a cookie sheet;  then freeze the whole cookie sheet.  After a few hours, retrieve the cookie sheet, knock off the frozen enchiladas and place them in a gallon ziplock bag, the return the bag to the freezer.  When you want to eat, lay them out as described below, but increase the initial cooking time by ten minutes to accommodate thawing.  Enchilada sauce will keep quite well in the refrigerate for some time. 

Step 4: Place in the oven (to desiccate the tortillas…).  After ten minutes, retrieve the pan and coat with enchilada sauce and then the reserved shredded cheese.  Return to the oven for another ten minutes, or until the cheese is thoroughly melted. 

Step 5: Serve with warm enchilada sauce, sour cream and cilantro garnish.  Optionally, you can provide a pico de gallo fresh salsa, sliced black olives or whatever you prefer.

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