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Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

July 28, 2010

by Elizabeth

When we go out for tex-mex, which is practically every other time we go out to eat, I never, ever order chicken enchiladas. I always go for cheese with chile con carne sauce, or better yet – soft cheese tacos. And I swear it’s not (entirely) because I’m a cheese addict. It’s because a lot of chicken enchiladas are not good. You can’t just throw some bland, over cooked chicken in a tortilla and call it a day, people.

So when I received a jar of authentic New Mexico green chiles from Taos recently (thanks, Tad!) – I decided that it was time to stop boycotting the chicken enchiladas. Surely I could find a recipe that didn’t involve blah, dry chicken. The problem is 99% of enchilada recipes (and casserole and chicken salad recipes for that matter) begin with “2 1/2 cups cooked chicken.” Well thanks for that, genius recipe writer, but could you please tell me how I’m supposed to cook the chicken, considering it’s the main ingredient?

I haven’t had very good luck with poaching (although people swear by it for moist chicken, so I’m sure I’m just doing it wrong), so I baked mine until it was just barely done. I also drenched it with a heavy dose of olive oil, salt and pepper, and smoked paprika first so it would be infused with flavor from the beginning – extra points if you plan ahead and have time to marinate your chicken for a few hours. Then I found The Pioneer Woman’s recipe (who is a genius btw), and she added some chicken broth and cream to the chicken so that it would most definitely NOT be dry. The sauce is tangy and spicy, but not too rich. The whole dish was perfect. If only I could go out and pay someone to make these for me once a week, I might be able to get over my soft cheese taco addiction.

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

adapted from The Pioneer Woman

For the Chicken:
3 chicken breasts (or 2 1/2 cups cooked, shredded chicken from a rotisserie chicken)
3 teaspoons olive oil
3 teaspoons smoked paprika
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/2 heaping cup green chiles from a can or jar (you might want more or less depending on your brand – mine were from New Mexico and very spicy)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup sour cream

For the Enchiladas:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 heaping cup green chiles
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated Monterrey Jack cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
12 corn tortillas
Optional Garnish: Chopped cilantro and salsa

Cut each chicken breast in half, vertically, so that you have 6 equal size chunks of chicken. (I do this so they cook more quickly and evenly, avoiding the dreaded tough edges/ raw center chicken phenomenon). Toss the chicken with the olive oil, then sprinkle with smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Don’t skimp on the seasonings. Place in an 8 x 8 baking dish and bake at 375˙ for about 20 minutes. Watch them carefully and don’t overcook! Use your finger, your meat thermometer, sixth sense, whatever, to figure out when they are just barely done. You’re going to cook the chicken more in a minute so don’t worry too much.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat using two forks. You should end up with about 2.5 cups of cooked chicken. In a skillet or small dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for three minutes, until they are softened but not yet beginning to brown. Add the chicken, a heaping 1/2 cup of green chiles, and the remaining smoked paprika. Cook for just a minute. Add the 1/2 cup chicken broth, then add the 1/4 cup sour cream. Stir and make sure it’s all heated through. Turn off the heat and set aside.

In another skillet, heat the canola or vegetable oil until very hot but not smoking. Lightly fry each tortilla, one or two at a time, for 10 seconds on each side. You just want them to get soft and pliable, they shouldn’t begin to crisp. I use tongs to flip mine. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Dispose of the excess oil, and melt the butter over medium heat in the same skillet. Add the flour and whisk together to form a roux. Let it cook for a minute or two. Pour in the 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, and whisk until the sauce is smooth and there are no lumps of flour. Cook for another minute or two. Add the remaining green chiles. Reduce the heat and add the sour cream (don’t let it get too hot or it will separate). Add 1 1/2 cups of cheese a little bit at a time, stirring to make sure it’s melted and not clumping before you add more. Salt and pepper the sauce to taste.

When you’re ready to assemble the tortillas, grease a 9 1/2 x 11 casserole dish. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of chicken in each tortilla and top with a little cheese. Roll up and place seam side down in the dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas (I had enough filling and sauce to make more than 12 enchiladas, but it will depend on the size of your tortillas). Pour the sour cream sauce all over the enchiladas, then bake at 350˙ for 30 minutes. Serve with cilantro and salsa if desired, but I found these were plenty spicy.

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