February 18, 2007

Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas

Friday was my daughter's 16th birthday. So naturally, she got to choose what she wanted for dinner. Ever the California girl that she is, she wanted Chicken Enchiladas and Artichokes. I told her the enchiladas we could do, for sure. The artichokes were a bit iffy. But she did spot some nice-looking artichokes at the grocery, so she had her California birthday dinner after all. In this post, however, I thought I'd cover the Enchiladas.
Enchiladas are amazingly easy to make, and very versatile. They do take some time, but you can make them ahead, and just pop them in the oven when you're ready. The filling can be whatever you like. Chicken, beef, pork, and cheese are all common, and I've seen shrimp and fish enchiladas too. Various places serve enchiladas with a red or a green sauce. My daughter likes the red sauce, which you can make yourself, or make from a seasoning blend, or simply pour from a can. (her favorite is the canned sauce.) And it's the sauce that provides almost all the flavor. We don't season the chicken at all, (although you certainly could) we just let the sauce season everything.
Another thing about enchiladas, you have to cook the tortillas. I've seen some folks try to make them without frying the tortillas first, and it's not a pretty result.
Now my daughter just likes chicken and cheese in her enchiladas, but if I were making these for myself, there would also be some diced chiles and sliced black olives mixed in with the chicken. Maybe some onions too. But following is how we did it for my eldest's sweet sixteenth.

2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless Chicken breasts
20-25 corn tortillas
1 - 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar & monterey jack works well)
1 19 oz can of enchilada sauce. (Better to have too much than too little of this)
Vegetable oil.

We start by boiling the chicken breasts until they're cooked through. Then put them in a bowl and run some cold water over them. When they're cool enough to handle, shred the chicken by hand. (As an alternative, we've been known to put them in chunks in the KitchenAid with the paddle, and let it mangle the chicken.)

When your chicken is shredded, set it close to your workspace. We tend to set up an assembly line. From left to right: a stack of corn tortillas on the left side of the stove, Oil on the left front burner, enchilada sauce on the right front burner, casserole pan next to the stove, chicken and cheese next to the casserole pan.
Get your oil and enchilada sauce heating in a deep skillet. About 1 1/2 inches of oil, and however much enchilada sauce you're using, the whole can for sure, more if you choose.

When the oil's hot, take one tortilla, and put it in the oil, as soon as it floats, turn it over, then transfer it to the enchilada sauce, turn it over so both sides are coated, then transfer it to the casserole pan. Put your chicken and cheese down the middle of the tortilla, and fold one side over, then fold the other side over that. I should mention, I suppose, that the best way I've found of transferring the tortillas from oil to sauce to pan, is by using two forks. The tortillas get pretty soft by the time you get them to the pan, and sometimes tear. So if you end up throwing 2-4 of them away, don't be discouraged. We always allow for some of them to be tossed.
Once the pan is full, set it aside, and if you have more, start over with a new pan. We usually get 18-20 enchiladas, so I usually use two pans. Once they're all made, pour whatever remaining sauce you have down the middle of the enchiladas, and sprinkle some more cheese on top, along with some sliced black olives, or whatever you like for garnish. Then put them in the oven at about 375 long enough to let the cheese melt. If you made them ahead, you'll want to go a little longer in order to let everything get up to temperature, probably 10-15 minutes should do it.


Mimi said...

I have never made enchiladas and it's time I did. I'll keep this one in mind — I've tasted something very similar and loved it.

Kathy Mathews said...

Hi Chuck! Very interesting and informative!! Keep up the good work!

Charles said...

mimi, -- I think you'll like these. The beauty of enchiladas, like burritos, omelettes, etc... is that you can be as creative with them as you like.

kathy -- Hey Sis!, since you've had the chance to try most of these recipes, you should go through and mark which ones are good, and which ones are duds. I like all of them, but I'm not terribly objective. ;)