Don’t deny yourself these hunger busters
Try baked chicken enchiladas with Mexican salsa verde as a fantastic midweek meal.
SERVES: 4 – 6
PREP TIME: 15 mins
COOKING TIME: 20 mins
IDEAL FOR: family meal, easy meal, crowd-pleaser
It’s all in the sauce
You may have noticed (or not) that I’ve been researching and trying out lots of different dry rubs and sauces.
My most recent favourite was Jonathan Waxman’s salsa verde which you generously pour over a roast chicken.
But I’ve also had a go at some classic Mexican dishes and their sauces.
And this brings me to the baked chicken enchiladas.
They are a bit of a revelation for me and I have to say another firm favourite for the hungry family.
The biggest difference between the standard enchilada and the baked…
LOTS of delicious, smothering sauce.
And, cheese! Melted cheese.
Enchilada fast facts
So, as usual, I like to dig around a bit and find out if there is any interesting historical or cultural food facts to a dish.
And it turns out, the origins of the enchilada go pretty far back.
- Enchiladas originate in Mexico
- Typically a corn tortilla rolled around a filling and covered with a chili pepper sauce including meat, cheese, beans, potatoes, vegetables, seafood or combinations.
- They date back to at least to Aztec times (possibly Mayan)
- Were highly prized by the Aztec nobility but also enjoyed by the common people bought in markets throughout the Empire
- In Spanish, ‘enchilar’ means to “season with chilli”
- Spanish conquistador, Bernal Díaz del Castillo (a soldier under Hernán Cortés) documented a feast enjoyed by Europeans, hosted by Hernán Cortés in Coyoacán, in which enchiladas were served
- Hernán Cortés led the expedition that brought down the Aztec Empire
- The enchilada gets it’s first mention in Mexico’s first cookbook in 1831
- May 5th is National Enchilada Day!
From Aztec to ‘Mexican’
The enchilada began to change as the Spanish adapted them to include cheese, pork and chicken.
They used spicy sauces instead of the chilli paste which was in the original Aztec version.
And when Mexico became a fully-fledged colony – as the Viceroyalty of New Spain – this hybrid enchilada became an integral part of its culinary culture.
So, by the time independence was eventually declared in 1821, enchiladas were no longer seen as Spanish or Aztec.
And they became ‘Mexican’ and the closest thing this new country had to a ‘national’ dish.
Which eventually found its way into American culture and the term ‘Tex-Mex’ cuisine was born.
Burrito vs enchilada vs taco
The corn tortilla separates burritos from enchiladas.
And the wrapping of the ingredients.
Plus, chillies – ‘enchilar’, ‘to season with chillies’, smothers the enchilada.
The difference between a taco and enchilada.
An enchilada is baked with the ingredients and chilli sauce in the corn tortilla.
Whereas a taco’s ingredients are cooked separately, then you make up the taco… and they don’t have to have chilli sauce.
Green salsa verde
There are different takes on the sauces and what’s an ‘authentic’ Mexican sauce.
The two, I know and are ‘authentic’ are:
El mole (pron. ‘mo-lay’) – a stunning dark red-brown sauce, made from a base of dry chillies, chocolate, and spices.
Its flavours are amazing
Mexican salsa verde – the secret ingredients are tomatillos (Mexican husk tomato) and jalapeno’s.
(*you can get tomatillos online but if you are struggling, try and sub them with green tomatoes)
Baked chicken enchiladas with Mexican salsa verde
Give it a go, these delicious enchiladas are easy to make and the salsa verdes is next level.
Baked Enchiladas Verdes
For the chicken
- 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
- 1/4 onion
- 55 g cream cheese (you could sub in natural yoghurt)
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
For the salsa verde
- 8 – 10 tomatillos (sub green tomatoes but you can buy them online)
- 1 – 6 jalapeno (depends on how hot you want the sauce. If you want a real kick add serrano chillies)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup onion
- 1/4 cup fresh coriander
- 1/4 cup chicken stock (sub 1/4 cup of the tomatillo cooking liquid)
- salt and pepper to season
For the enchiladas
- 12 corn tortillas
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese or cheddar
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- coriander and onion, chopped for garnish
For the chicken
- Poach the chicken by putting them a saucepan and cover with water.Add the garlic, 1/4 of an onion, and 2 teaspoons of salt to the water and bring to a simmer.Lower the heat a little and cook, uncovered for 10-15 mins.Remove chicken and let cool.
For the salsa verde
- You can do this while the chicken is cooking.Put the tomatillos and jalapeno's into a saucepan and cover them with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and until the tomatillos are cooked, and have changed color approx 5 mins.
- Now, place the tomatillos and jalapeno's into a blender. Add 1/4 cup chicken stock (or if you don't have any, use 1/4 cup of the tomatillo cooking liquid) to the blender plus 2 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup of chopped onion, 1/2 cup of chopped coriander and a teaspoon of salt and pepper.Purée until blended. Taste for heat and seasoning and add accordingly (*If not spicy enough add another chilli pepper or chilli flakes).
The chicken filling and building the enchilada
- Shred chicken with two forks in the bowl and mix with approx 1/2 cup of the salsa verde: Taste the chicken and add seasoning if necessary.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180CHeat the tortillas on both sides in a frying pan with a tablespoon of oil (you're not frying them just warming)Coat each tortilla in the salsa verde by dipping in the salsa verde (it can get a little messy) and stack them on a plate.Now, fill each tortilla with the chicken filling and roll. Place the rolled tortilla seam side down in a casserole dish and repeat with all of the tortillas.Cover with the remaining salsa verde, and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.Top with coriander, chopped onion and sour cream.