I definitely have a fondness for Mexican food. Chiles Rellenoes (as long as they’re not the ultra cheesy kind), tacos, burritos, fajitas, chili, enchiladas, I love them all. And while I enjoy cheese enchiladas with red sauce, I love the verdes sauce. Love. If I weren’t already married, I’d marry it. Well, maybe that’s overstating it a bit…but it’s great on black bean enchiladas, as from the Greens Cookbook. It’s good on chicken and cheese using a canned sauce. Easy and good.
Well, one advantage of unemployment is that after I look for work, I can watch TV, read a book, or take a nap. Lately I’ve been watching America’s Test Kitchen on PBS. The other day, they piqued my interest by showing how to make the very best Enchiladas Verdes. OK, I’m in. If you haven’t seen America’s Test Kitchen, the premise is that they try a recipe a million different ways, and show you, the viewer, the very best of the best.
The secrets to this recipe were: For the filling, poaching the chicken in a flavored broth, rather than water or plain broth. For the sauce, charring the peppers and tomatillos under the broiler, which gives them a greater depth of flavor. Our verdict? Two thumbs, way up. They were lighter than enchiladas with a ton of cheese in them, and the sauce was delicious. As Pa from Little House would have said, “This sauce beats the canned stuff all hollow”. I think these are the best enchiladas I’ve ever made, actually. The best. I might try this sauce with the black bean enchiladas some day.
Recipe courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen.
You can substitute three 11-ounce cans of tomatillos, drained and rinsed, for the fresh ones in this recipe. (J’s note: I used fresh tomatillos. They said that the key to picking fresh tomatillos is looking for good plump ones that are green rather than yellow. They have more flavor that way.) Halve large tomatillos (more than 2 inches in diameter) and place them skin-side up for broiling in step 2 to ensure even cooking and charring. If you can’t find poblanos, substitute 4 large jalapeño chiles (with seeds and ribs removed). To increase the spiciness of the sauce, reserve some of the chiles’ ribs and seeds and add them to the food processor in step 3.
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion , chopped medium (about 1 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 to 3 breasts), trimmed of excess fat
1 1/2 pounds tomatillos (16 to 20 medium), husks and stems removed, rinsed well and dried (see note)
3 medium poblano chiles , halved lengthwise, stemmed, and seeded (see note)
1 – 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
8 ounces Pepper Jack cheese or Monterey Jack cheese, grated (2 cups)
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 medium scallions , sliced thin
Thinly sliced radishes
1. Adjust oven racks to middle and highest positions and heat broiler. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering; add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons garlic and cumin; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Decrease heat to low and stir in broth. Add chicken, cover, and simmer until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 160 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking. Transfer chicken to large bowl; place in refrigerator to cool, about 20 minutes. Remove 1/4 cup liquid from saucepan and set aside; discard remaining liquid.
2. Meanwhile, toss tomatillos and poblanos with remaining 2 teaspoons oil; arrange on rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, with poblanos skin-side up. Broil until vegetables blacken and start to soften, 5 to 10 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking. Cool 10 minutes, then remove skin from poblanos (leave tomatillo skins intact). Transfer tomatillos and chiles to food processor. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees. Discard foil from baking sheet and set baking sheet aside for warming tortillas.
3. Add 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, remaining teaspoon garlic, and reserved cooking liquid to food processor; process until sauce is somewhat chunky, about eight 1-second pulses. Taste sauce; season with salt and pepper and adjust tartness by stirring in remaining sugar, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Set sauce aside (you should have about 3 cups).
4. When chicken is cool, pull into shreds using hands or 2 forks, then chop into small bite-sized pieces. Combine chicken with cilantro and 11/2 cups cheese; season with salt.
5. Smear bottom of 13- by 9-inch baking dish with 3/4 cup tomatillo sauce. Place tortillas on 2 baking sheets. Spray both sides of tortillas lightly with cooking spray. Bake until tortillas are soft and pliable, 2 to 4 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Place warm tortillas on countertop and spread 1/3 cup filling down center of each tortilla. Roll each tortilla tightly and place in baking dish, seam-side down. Pour remaining tomatillo sauce over top of enchiladas. Use back of spoon to spread sauce so that it coats top of each tortilla. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and cover baking dish with foil.
6. Bake enchiladas on middle rack until heated through and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with scallions, and serve immediately, passing radishes and sour cream separately.
(The salad is dressed with El Torito Cilantro Pepita Caesar Salad Dressing. I think I used too much, because I didn’t love it. Or maybe it’s just better if you make it yourself. I know, right?)