We’ve all heard the phrase “The Whole Enchilada,” but have you ever wondered where it originated? After spending more than two hours last week chopping poblanos, shredding chicken and dipping tortillas in salsa verde to make enchiladas, I think I can confidently say it comes from the slew of steps involved in making enchiladas. It can be a lot of work.
Why all the effort to make enchiladas from scratch when I can buy ready-made enchiladas at Trader Joe’s or eat them in a restaurant? By conquering enchiladas in my own kitchen, I can have them just the way I like them: moist shreds of chicken encased in a tender corn tortilla, smothered with tangy tomatillo salsa, not too saucy or cheesy.
As I looked for the ultimate enchilada recipe, I realized the recipes range from very simple—rotisserie chicken, jarred salsa and tortillas layered in casserole form—to more complex, like this Roasted Green Chile Chicken Enchilada recipe from Tyler Florence. My strategy for finding the ultimate Enchiladas Verde recipe was to start with a complex recipe, allowing me to (hopefully) taste enchiladas at their full potential. I knew this recipe would take a lot of work, but I wanted to use it as a starting point. The next time I could simplify the recipe, taking shortcuts where they wouldn’t be missed.
What’s the verdict on Enchiladas Verde, Take 1? Read on.
Pros: The salsa verde was easy to make and tasted fresher than jarred salsa. The enchiladas were pretty lean, considering only ½ pound of cheese was used for 12 enchiladas. Nonetheless, the enchiladas were rich and filling, thanks to the roux made with flour and chicken stock. For two people, a 9×13” pan provided many lunches and dinners (almost too many…there can be too much of a good thing).
Cons: Making these enchiladas took two hours; add another two if you roast and bone your chicken from scratch. The “Roasted Green Chiles” referred to in the title of the recipe were virtually indistinguishable in the finished dish—a good step to cut out in the future. The saucy filling made this dish more of a casserole than a simple rolled enchilada. If I make enchiladas with a filling this saucy again, I will skip rolling the tortillas and layer them in the pan like a casserole.
Game plan for Enchiladas Verde, Take 2: Make the Salsa Verde from this recipe. Skip the roasted poblanos. Roll the tortillas with plain, un-sauced chicken. Will the chicken dry out if there’s no sauce or will the salsa be sufficient to keep the chicken moist?
And lastly, I leave you with the recipe for Tyler Florence’s formidable Roasted Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas:
12 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed
1 onion, quartered
Splash white vinegar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ bunch fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
2 limes, juiced
3 poblano peppers
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
¼ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 roasted chicken, about 3 pounds, boned, meat shredded
Leaves from ½ bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 large corn tortillas
½ pound Monterey jack cheese, shredded
Guacamole and sour cream to garnish
Make the Enchiladas
Put the tomatillos, jalapenos, and onion in a saucepan with the vinegar and water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and poach until the tomatillos are soft, about 10 minutes. Drain. Put the vegetables in a blender, add the cumin, and puree. Add the cilantro, lime juice, and salt, and pulse to combine. Set aside.
Meanwhile, place the poblano peppers directly over the flame on a gas stove and cook, turning with tongs, until the skin is charred and blackened. (Or, if you have an electric stove, put the chiles on a baking sheet and broil, turning with tongs, until the skin is blackened.) Skin the peppers; then seed, core, and dice them.
Heat a 2-count of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in the cumin and cook 1 minute. Then sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring, 1 more minute. Gradually pour in the stock, stirring constantly. Bring to a simmer, stirring to make sure the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan; the liquid will thicken. Fold in the chicken, diced peppers, and cilantro, and season well with salt and pepper.
To assemble the dish: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Get yourself a large baking dish (9×13”). Dip a tortilla into the tomatilla salsa and put it on a cutting board. Put a big scoop of the chicken mixture in the center, sprinkle with a little of the cheese, and roll the tortilla like a cigar to enclose the filling. Use a spatula to place it seam side down in the baking dish. Continue to fill all of the tortillas and put them in the baking dish. Pour the remaining tomatilla salsa over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes until bubbly and cracked on top. Serve hot with the guacamole and sour cream.
Recipe from The Food Network website: Tyler Florence’s “Roasted Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas”