I love Mexican food. Living in Southern California gives me the chance to shop at various Mexican markets, eat at restaurants my Mexican friends have introduced me to because what’s served in these hole in the wall eateries reminds them of the authentic food they grew up with; eat tacos and other goodies from street food vendors, food trucks, etc. While Mexican restaurants and markets are found all over the United States, Southern California and especially the areas around Los Angeles offer some of the best tasting and authentic Mexican food and some of the best markets, in my opinion.
Today I want to introduce you to my version of a Mexican dish loved by many, simple to prepare and great for taking to a potluck or for serving a bunch of guests. The dish can be prepared in advance while waiting for your guests to arrive or the day before and reheated. Plate the reheated enchiladas, garnish them with some Mexican sour cream, shredded lettuce, chopped cilantro, diced tomato, onion and queso fresco cheese; your guests will love them.
You can also decide to customize the dish to your liking by adding more chilis to the sauce if you like more heat or not removing the seeds as I did. I’m the type of person who likes a hint of piquantness but not mouth searing heat. I used mozzarella cheese but you can choose any type of melting cheese of your choice. Want even more heat? Use a good melting pepper cheese like pepper jack.
You can also choose to roast your peppers, tomatillos, onion and garlic to create your salsa verde as this will enhance the flavor of the sauce a lot more than just boiling the ingredients. Add more tomatillos and stock to the blender when creating the sauce if you want more of it and thicken it with a little xanthan gum for a better texture. It’s all up to you so feel free to have fun, be creative and modify the dish to your liking. In this episode of “Cooking with John”, I present to you a simple version of this dish. Enjoy!
For your salsa verde you will need:
1 lb tomatillos
3 serrano chilis (whole or deseeded with stems removed)
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
3-4 sprigs of cilantro
1/4 cup of chicken stock
To prepare your enchiladas:
2 skinless chicken breasts
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
3-4 cups chicken stock or enough to cover the chicken breasts
8 corn tortillas
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
To garnish your enchiladas:
Thinly sliced onion
Mexican sour cream
Crumbled queso fresco cheese
Preheat your oven at 350F
Start by placing your chicken breasts in a pot and pour in enough chicken stock to cover them approximately 1-2 inches. Add 3 garlic cloves, 1/4 onion, 2 bay leaves. Bring to a boil and drop to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and allow to cool enough to be handled. Shred the chicken breasts and set aside. Do not throw away the stock, it can be used for another recipe and we will be using a small amount in our salsa verde.
To prepare your salsa verde, add the tomatillos, chilis and onion to a pot. Add water to cover the ingredients and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes or until the tomatillos have changed color and are nice and soft. Remove the cooked vegetables and add to a blender together with 3-4 sprigs of cilantro, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 cup of the stock we cooked the chicken in, 3 cloves of garlic and blend until smooth. Add salt to taste and I recommend doing so by tasting your sauce, adding a small amount of salt, blending and gradually adding more until you’re satisfied with the flavor.
Season your shredded chicken at this point with salt and pepper to taste, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (optional), and 2 tbsp of salsa verde. Toss well, taste, add more seasoning if needed and set aside.
We are now going to prepare the tortillas for our enchiladas. In a small pan over medium high heat, add enough vegetable oil to cover a tortilla. Fry each tortilla 10 seconds, remove from the oil and set on a rack or some paper towels to drain. Don’t fry the tortillas too crispy; they need to be golden brown but still pliable.
In a 9×13 casserole dish, pour in some salsa verde and spread out to cover the bottom evenly. Start rolling your enchiladas by adding some shredded chicken to the middle of a tortilla and roll it up. Place the rolled tortilla seam side down in the casserole dish starting at one end. Do the same with all of the tortillas until you’ve filled up the whole dish by placing each enchilada next to each other.
Pour some salsa verde over the enchiladas and spread it out to give them all a good coating. Cover the top of the enchiladas with shredded mozzarella cheese and place in the oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese has become bubbly and lightly browned.
When finished cooking, plate your enchiladas, pour more salsa verde on top and garnish with crumbled queso fresco, Mexican sour cream, shredded lettuce, chopped cilantro, diced tomato and sliced onion. The amount and types of garnish depend on you.
If you have leftover shredded chicken, store it in the fridge to use in another recipe. It’s great for a chicken salad, a fried rice dish, more enchiladas and many other dishes.