Chicken Enchiladas

Every weekend we get together with some friends of ours for a movie night, complete with dinner and dessert.  The entree and dessert responsibilities are on a rotation, so that each week one person brings dinner, one brings dessert, and the other gets to take a week off.  For last night’s gathering, the responsibility for the entree fell to me.  I had been browsing my foodgawker RSS feed earlier in the week, searching for recipe candidates, and this recipe for chicken enchiladas popped up at least three times in different food blogs.  That’s usually a good sign!  The amazing photographs at Pink Parsley got my mouth watering, and I decided that I had to make these enchiladas.

I did make a few tweaks to the recipe, to suit my tastes.  I ended up only getting 10 enchiladas out of the recipe, instead of twelve.  Perhaps I was a little overzealous in my filling measurements. Instead of two jalapenos, I used one jalapeno and one red fresno chili pepper.  The resulting sauce was flavorful but very very mild, great for those who do not like spicy food.  I imagine you could increase the heat to your taste by experimenting with different types of chili peppers.  I also increased the garlic to four cloves, because, well…you can never have too much garlic!  Finally, instead of using the cheddar/jack cheese blend in the original recipe, I used a blend of Monterey jack, mild cheddar, queso quesadilla and asadero cheeses.  Again, you could use whatever cheese strikes your fancy.  For example, if you wanted to add some more heat, you could try some pepper jack cheese instead!

These enchiladas were absolutely fantastic.  The sauce was rich and flavorful, and the filling was the perfect texture.  Prebaking the enchiladas without the sauce for the first 7 minutes is optional, but I highly recommend it!  Prebaking crisps up the tortillas somewhat, so they can stand up to the enchilada sauce without becoming soggy.  They fed five hungry movie watchers, with a garden salad on the side.  Everyone raved about them, and everyone had seconds!  This recipe has definitely earned a place in my regular meal rotation at home.

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce
adapted from Pink Parsley, who adapted from Tide and Thyme, orginally from America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients:
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine
1 fresno chili pepper, seeded and chopped fine
1 teaspoon canola oil
4 medim cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons sugar
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 large beefsteak tomato, seeded and chopped
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 large breasts)
2 cups shredded cheese
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
10 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas
cooking spray
salt and ground black pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425F.

Combine the onion, chili peppers, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and oil in a large saucepan. cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions and peppers have softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar, and cook until fragrant, less than 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce, water, and chopped tomato. Bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, 5 minutes.

Nestle the chicken into the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through (thickest part reaches 160 degrees), about 27 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside to cool.

Strain the sauce through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing the onion mixture to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer the onions to a large bowl and set aside. Season sauce with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to the onion mixture, and add 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce, 1 cup  of the cheese, and the cilantro. Toss to combine.

Stack the tortillas on a plate and cover with plastic wrap; Microwave on high until warm and pliable, 40-60 seconds. Spread the tortillas on a clean work surface, and spoon 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of each. Tightly roll each tortilla and lay seam-side down in a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.  Work quickly, as the tortillas are more likely to crack as they cool down.

Lightly spray the tops of the enchiladas with cooking spray. Place in the oven, uncovered, for about 7 minutes, or until the tortillas start to brown slightly (skip this step if you don’t like the crunch).

Reduce heat to 400. Remove enchiladas and pour sauce evenly on top. Top with the remaining cheese. Cover dish with foil, and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes, until cheese browns. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, additional cilantro, etc.

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