Friday, January 10, 2014

Chicken Enchiladas With Three Peppers & A Homemade Enchilada Sauce


The winter weather left me feeling dilapidated and a bit despondent these past couple weeks. I felt myself shuffling around  in a haze, not really knowing why I was feeling so low but not entirely sure how to snap out of it. So this past weekend I did what I usually do when I'm feeling down, and I made comfort food. And not just any comfort food, but Mexican comfort food; the richest, freshest comfort food there is. I did it in hopes that the vibrant colors and warm spicy flavors would bring a little ray of sunshine into my gloomy scape, and they did manage to cheer me up quite a bit, at the very least while I was in the process of making and eating them.


This was my first time making enchiladas, and I was a bit nervous about the corn tortillas falling apart as I'd read horror stories about this online, so I tried the trick of dipping the tortilla in the enchilada sauce before adding the filling and folding it, and it worked out fine. The enchilada sauce keeps the fairly dry corn tortillas moist and supple so they won't tear when you fold the flaps over the filling. I also heard that you can dip them in the enchilada sauce and then quickly pan fry them in oil, but that seemed a bit messy and the idea of handing a hot tortilla right out of the frying pan intimidated me slightly, so I stuck with the simple dipping method. If any of you have tried this dip then fry method, though, I would love to hear how it works for you.


I used two dried chile pepper varieties as the base for the enchilada sauce, arbol chilies and ancho chilies. Arbol chilies are verrrry spicy, small, and deeply crimson. Cayenne peppers can be substituted for arbol chilies, if you have a hard time finding them. Ancho chilies (aka dried poblano peppers) pack some heat too, but are not quite as spicy as arbol chilies and have a warm and almost chocolately flavor to them. New Mexico chilies can be substituted for the Ancho chilies, too. You can find these and a wide variety of other dried chilies in the Mexican foods section of most grocery stores. They're always in these little plastic bags that look like this and are usually hanging in rows. (They also sell cinnamon sticks and whole cloves in this section on the cheap, fyi.)


For the filling, I used spice-rubbed chicken breasts, bell peppers, and some crumbled queso fresco. For those of you unfamiliar with it, queso fresco is a Mexican cheese that crumbles easily like feta, but has a flavor very close to mozzarella, making it perfect for incorporating into fillings. You could also easily make this dish vegetarian by substituting black beans for the chicken breasts, just make sure you still incorporate the spices into the bean mixture to keep that nice cumin-y flavor in the dish.

Also, since making the enchilada sauce is the most time consuming part of this recipe, I'd recommend doubling or tripling it and then freezing the extra batches of the sauce in a freezer-safe container. That way you can make enchiladas again much more quickly the next time around!



And just some updates about what I've been up to in the world the past few months. In the late fall I was able to do some product photography for Addiction Mixology which was a blast. Larrian, the owner, left me with a few jars of their wine-complementing jams which I thoroughly enjoyed, especially since I didn't realize I loved tarragon so much until I had it in a jam (seriously, craaaaaazy good.) I also did another post over at One Kings Lane last month for their style blog. I made an elegant-yet-simple Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with a Pomegranate Glaze, the tart yogurt paired really well with the sweet, fruity glaze and I loved the way the glaze drizzled down the sides into little candy cane-like stripes. Quite festive, indeed.


Ingredients:


Note: Makes about 14 enchiladas

Enchilada Sauce (adapted from All Recipes)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
3 dried arbol chilies or cayenne peppers
11 dried ancho (aka poblano) or new mexico chilies
5 cups water
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 and 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Chicken & Bell Pepper Enchilada Filling

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup crumbled queso fresco
1 red bell pepper, diced

Wrapping~Topping

14 corn tortillas
1 cup crumbled queso fresco
1 red onion, diced
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, diced


Begin by making the enchilada sauce. Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, dried arbol, and dried ancho chilies and stir so that they're coated in the oil. Allow to continue to cook in the oil until the onions become translucent and the peppers soften, about 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Stir in the water, tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasonings. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer until the tomato chunks have mostly disintegrated, about 45 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and puree the mixture in a blender or food processor. Pour the enchilada sauce back into the pot and set aside.

Now you can begin preparing the filling. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Rub the spices and herbs onto the two chicken breasts, coating them in spices. Place the chicken breasts in the pan and pan fry until cooked through, (about 10 minutes on each side, but cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the chicken breast). Once completely cooked, remove from the pan and allow to cool until it's warm enough to handle. Then tear the chicken breasts into small strips and toss them with the queso fresco and red bell pepper. Set aside.

This is the part where it gets a little messy, and that's totally okay. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour enough enchilada sauce into (2) pans to just cover the bottom of the pan (there should be about 1/2 inch of sauce at the bottom). Take a tortilla and dip it in the enchilada sauce so that it is completed coated, then lay it flat on a working surface. Lay a small handful of the chicken filling in a line that goes down the middle of the tortilla. Gently fold the flap on each side over the filling, flip the enchilada over (taking care not to spill the filling out the ends) and set it in the baking pan. Continue this process until all of the enchiladas have been assembled. Then, pour the remaining enchilada sauce over both pans and sprinkle the queso fresco over the tops of the enchiladas. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove and allow to cool for 15 minutes before plating. Garnish with the red onion and cilantro and serve immediately.


39 comments:

  1. this looks so delicious and colorful! dipping the tortillas in the sauce before rolling is a great idea!

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    1. Thank you so much Sarah!!! Dipping the tortillas really helped keep them nice and flexible, plus it added abbot extra enchilada flavor :)

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  2. This looks so yummy, but I am afraid here in Europe we don't have mexican food sections in our grocery stores :(

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    1. Oh yes! I studied abroad in Germany for a semester and missed Mexican food terribly during that time. You can order them online on amazon if they deliver to your area, you can see the listings here http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=ancho+chilies and here http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=arbol+chilies&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Aarbol+chilies

      Hope this helps and thank you for your kind words!!

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  3. I love your whole dish but especially the homemade enchilada sauce. I don't like the canned variety. Great idea to make extra. Beautiful photos; always an inspiration to me. Hope the gloomy weather has lifted.

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    1. Thank you so much Penny!!! The homemade sauce makes all the difference, so flavorful and healthy. All vegan and no preservatives or chemicals. And the weather and myself are feeling much better :)

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  4. Love your enchiladas. I do red chile enchiladas, too and always dip first. The other key is to bake them right away so they don't fall apart. I don't let mine sit in the fridge and then bake for later! My pictures are not even close to yours but they sure taste good. Can't wait to try your version. Hope you are out of the winter doldrums!

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    1. Good thinking, I could definitely see how letting them sit in the sauce in the fridge would make them too soggy and more fragile. Such a delicate balance between the right amount of moisture in those corn tortillas with the sauce! But when you get that balance right....the flavors make it SO worth it :D And thank you so much for your sweet compliments!! I am feeling much better m'lady :)

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  5. This looks and sounds insanely delicious!! I LOVE enchilladas! =) and now I have an immediate craving for them.... uh, oh! ;)

    (Oh! and... you're not the only one in the January funk! ;) )

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    1. Haha, glad I'm not the only one!! Man this weather can really get you down sometimes, I just want to be able to work out in the yard with the sun beating down on my back and eat some fresh tomatoes from the garden, but I need to be patient since thats several months away now :) And thank you!!

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  6. This so sounds like something that would cheer me up! It's a beautiful recipe. I hope things are a bit sunnier for you these days :) We make enchiladas once in a while. Kevin quickly fries the tortillas, then I fill them and roll them. They become soft and pliable, and I let them cool for a few seconds before I touch them. It works great! We don't dip them in sauce before we roll, but that sounds like something we should try. We're making green chile enchiladas tonight. I'm super excited, but now we're real low on Hatch green chiles. It will be a sad day when we take the last bag out of our freezer.

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    1. Ohhhh, now I want to try the frying method!! Maybe I will do half one way and half the other next time and compare them. Either way though, thew sauce is key, as along as that's done right the enchiladas will taste amazing :D And verde ones!!!! I will have to try making those. My favorite tamales are tamales verdes with chicken, I'll have to try making enchiladas verdes. Do you incorporate avocados into your verde sauce? I've heard that that's an awesome way to make the verde a bit creamer and help make the heat of the sauce more subtle. And hatch chiles!!! Just googled them and they sound DELICIOUS. Definitely going on my summer seed order for this year :)

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  7. What a great project! The final result is so cute. because you have described about Enchilada Sauce. I'd love it if you'd share this project at the After School Linky Party. I want to talk you about Culinary schools. One of the significant reasons so many individuals are so harmful right now and the being overweight epidemic carries on growing is because individuals think that harmful foods is the only harmful foods. Unfortunately, most of those microwaveable and heat-and-eat foods are finish of additives and lack the healthy supplements your human demands to optimally perform day-to-day activities. Get Cooking school

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  8. I love your amazing photos! When I make enchiladas, I always heat the all the tortillas I plan to use on a "comal", then slightly fry them all, then I dip them in the sauce and stuff & top them with goodies!

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    1. Ohhhh nice!! We have a comal for making quesadillas, I never would have thought to use it for prepping the enchilada tortillas, though! I am DEIFINITELY trying that next time, I love they way it toasts up the tortillas *just* the right amount. And thank you for being so kind as to share!

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  9. Love your blog, so beautiful! Those enchiladas look amazing. Happy New Year!

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    1. Thank you so very much, Jen!!! You are so sweet, and happy new year to you as well!!

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  10. This looks so delicious, so I can't wait to try it. The photos are just perfect!

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    1. Awww thank you!!! Let me know how it comes out for you if you do :)

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  11. Oh I love cooking and I love your post so much it makes me inspire to be a private chef in austin texas. Thanks for sharing. :)

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  12. This looks delicious!!! My hubby will love it...
    Blessings,
    Cindy

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  13. what a coincidence--i just made enchiladas for me and my boyfriend! i used about 75% fewer ingredients, but they were still pretty good. :)

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  14. My Mom would soften them in hot oil--too many calories for me. I now spray both sides with cooking spray and warm in the oven to soften. Most of the time I don't dip in sauce before rolling.
    Just read somewhere about sliding the tortillas for a quick dip into a skillet of hot water and I am goijg to try that next batch of enchiladas.
    Anyway--wonderful photos of my favorite food.

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  16. Replies
    1. From the mild to hot scale of spicy, I would grade these at a medium.

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  17. Recipe definitely worth trying!!! I am big fan of spicy food so this meal look just right for me.
    I am gonna make it tonight for sure:)

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    1. Thank you!! et me know how they came out for you :)

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  18. This summer I had tomatillos coming out of my ears which resulted in weekly batches of salsa verde (simply roasted them in sheets in the oven with some quartered onions, whole garlic cloves, and whichever chile peppers I had and then put in the food processor once roasted and blended up with cilantro and lime juice). I didn't even bake them as I simply dipped them in the sauce, fried them, filled them with the hot filling (chicken and cheese), rolled them up, plated them, then drizzled a bit more of the sauce over top and a bit of cheese. Will have to try your sauce for sure as I've got a ton of dried chiles from my garden that would go well in there.

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    1. Oh my Lord, that sounds AMAZING. I have never tried growing tomatillos, but I bet the climate here in southern California would be perfect for them. Definitely going to try making this per your description in the summer when I can get them at the farmer's markets. It sounds so fresh and wonderful! :)

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  19. Is there any way I can make a mild version of this? I can't handle spicy unfortunately!

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  20. Hi Eva! Thinking about making these as a takeover gift for an elderly couple. Do you know if they freeze well as a whole entity? I know you mention freezing the sauce, but I'd need to freeze the entire dish.

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    1. Hi Madeline! I think that they would freeze just fine, just make sure to cover them well with plastic wrap and then place them in a freezer-safe bag so they don't get freezer burned. Let me know how it turns out for you! :)

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  21. Hi Eva,

    Is there any way I can make a mild version of this? I can't handle spicy unfortunately!
    Thanks!



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    1. Hi Joy! Instead of using the dried chile peppers you could always use fresh red bell pepper that's chopped, just simmer the sauce for a bit longer at the end since the fresh bell peppers will have a lot more moisture than the dried peppers and you'll want to evaporate more of that water out of there to keep the sauce a bit thick :) Let me know how it comes out for you!

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  22. I've got all the peppers and I am trying this right now. Can't wait!

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