Red Chicken Enchiladas captures a little of the taste of summer–yet is still a comfort food. You can buy enchilada sauce–and I do for my Chicken Tortilla Soup–however, what makes this recipe stand out from others is the homemade enchilada sauce.
When you buy canned enchilada sauce, read the labels. As you can see these two sauces are going to taste very different–the one on the left more tomato-y, and the one on the right more like red chilies. There isn’t a “right” choice, I just wanted to point out that not all bought enchilada sauces are going to taste the same.
Please oh please, feel free to use canned enchilada sauce on other recipes, but NOT on this one. This recipe is ALL about the sauce!
This recipe takes about two hours to make, so do yourself a favour and double or triple it for some night when the kiddos come home from soccer wet and muddy, and you come home from soccer tired of chasing a one year old around the playground.
Saute up 2 onions and 3 – 5 cloves garlic in some Canola oil.
Don’t panic when you see the amount of spices that we are going to add to the onions. Remember enchilada sauce is made from dried, then pureed, then reconstituted chili peppers. We are going to add a great amount of chili powder. Chili powder isn’t really hot. If you don’t believe me try some on the tip of your tongue. DO NOT DO THIS WITH CAYENNE PEPPER. Cayenne pepper is hot. Here are the spices that we are going to add: For about every 10 oz. of chicken add 3 T. chili powder, 4 t. cumin, 1/2 t. salt, 2 t. white sugar. The sugar is added to cut the acid–not to make it sweet.
My sister-in-law, Lily, gave me a tip that has helped my cooking. She often “smokes” her spices to bring out their flavour, and that is exactly what we are going to do with these spices. Add them to the sautéed onions and garlic, and smoke them.
Stir the mixture to coat the onions and to keep the spices from burning.
Keep stirring. You will start to smell the spices. At this point you are intensify their flavours. This should take a little under a minute.
Add in the chicken you have cooked and chopped. I used white meat in this photo because it was what I had on hand, but chicken thighs taste divine in this recipe. (Note: I have added uncooked chopped chicken at this point. You just have to let the chicken cook in the tomato juice we are going to add next. In fact, I have added whole chicken thighs and just lifted them out after they were cooked, then skinned and de-boned them.)
Pour in 2 16 oz. cans of tomato sauce. Add some chicken broth and bring the enchilada sauce to a simmer. (If you like really “wet” enchiladas double the amount of tomato sauce and chicken broth.)
You can simmer the chicken for 10 minutes or 40. Add more chicken broth as needed. (Note: If you added uncooked chicken make sure it is cooked all the way through.)
Add about half of a 4 oz. can of pickled jalapenos–more if you like it hot–less if kiddos will be eating it.
Strain the meat out of the sauce by pouring it through a strainer and pressing the chicken to help it drain.
You will end up with two bowls–one with the chicken, onion, and jalapeno mixture; and another bowl filled with a smooth, smokey, enchilada sauce.
Here is where you add some chopped cilantro. The chicken has cooled enough that the cilantro will keep its beautiful green color when added.
Add the chopped cilantro and some grated cheddar cheese–about 2 cups.
Stir all that goodness together.
Now here is where you (the Head Chef) get to sample your labors. I get a warmed tortilla and help myself. At this point you will want to start talking in Spanish. If all you know is how to count to 10, do it with an Ole! at the end. If you don’t even know that much just say the letters S-O-C-K-S. S-O = eso. C = si. K-S = que es? Translated means “This.” “Yes.” “What is it.” You may not have made any sense, but the urge to blurt in Spanish has been satiated.
Hopefully you pre-heated the oven a long time ago. If not do that now. Set it at the usual 350 degrees. Get out two cookie sheets and line them with corn tortillas. Grab your not-to-live-without spray oil, and lightly spray both sides of each corn tortilla. (I love spray oil.)
In your oven the tortilla will “crisp up.” However, we have to roll all of these corn tortillas before they get too crispy, so get your assembly line going.
Out Of This World Smokey Enchilada Sauce. Check. Oooey-Gooey Melted Cheese Meat Mixture. Check. Casserole dish in which to place the rolled enchilada. Check. Now grab the warm, getting crispy, corn tortillas out of the oven and start rolling them up.
If you doubled or tripled this recipe, you will have to keep adding a tray of sprayed corn tortillas each time you take one tray out.
Once the casserole dish is filled, pour over the top some of the Out Of This World Smokey Enchilada Sauce. If you are eating this dish tonight, return it to the oven for 20 – 30 minutes to meld all the flavors and crisp the tortillas a bit more. If you are freezing the casserole, cover with Saran Wrap, then foil, label, and put in the freezer.
Buried under the lettuce, Buttermilk Ranch, and guacamole sauce is an Out Of This World Smokey Enchilada.
And now, fellow Chefs, you have the whole enchilada.
Actually, I think I had it.
It was delicioso!