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Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce

Monday, August 11, 2014

Recipe slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma.  [Recipe makes 18 enchiladas or 6 servings].

After flipping through my Williams-Sonoma cookbook this weekend, I landed on this recipe for several reasons.  First, the picture looked too good not to attempt.  Second, I realized that the number of Mexican dishes on this blog really needs some beefing up.  And lastly, the recipe is based on an ingredient that I have yet to cook with:  tomatillos.

The end product was amazing, but I have to admit that I had my doubts about halfway through.  With cooking, it's essential to taste and season at every stage of the game, so I did just that after I was finishing with the sauce, and man was it salty!  I know the recipe even stated that it would be, but did I go a little too far with seasoning?  With no way to change what it is, I just followed through to the end, and guess what?  The authors were totally right.  Once the sauce is baked with the chicken and tortillas and topped with the crema, white onion, queso fresco, and cilantro, everything comes together perfectly.  I think this dish is a hit because it really lets the ingredients come through and speak for themselves.  The sauce is essentially just puréed chiles rather than a whole list of ingredients.  And the toppings balance out the dish perfectly.  You get the crunch from the raw onions, the creaminess and sourness from the crema, and then the squeakiness of fresh queso fresco that all Wisconsinites crave.  Even my good friend (and main food critic for the blog) was overly impressed with the dish and said it was something you can expect from an authentic Mexican restaurant.  This recipe is a prime example of the saying that simpler is better.

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds chicken breasts, brined
1/4 white onion
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1 tablespoon sea salt

3 pounds tomatillos, husked and rinsed under warm water
9 serrano chiles, stems removed
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon sea salt

18 corn tortillas
1 cup crema
1 white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup queso fresco, crumbled
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Place the chicken, onion, garlic, and sea salt in a large saucepan.  Add enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, cover, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked.  Transfer the chicken to a plate, loosely cover with aluminum foil, and let rest until its cool enough to shred by hand.  [Side note:  Run your broth through a fine mesh strainer and freeze the homemade chicken broth for a future recipe].

Rinse out your sauce pan, and add the tomatillos and serranos to the pan.  Add enough water to cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook for 10 minutes, or until the chiles are tender.  Drain off any liquid, and pass the chiles and garlic through a food processor in several batches.  In a cast iron frying pan, warm the oil over medium heat.  Carefully and quickly add the sauce to the pan.  [Side note:  Your sauce will smoke and splatter a little, but should only last for a few seconds.  Just make sure you're a safe distance away].  Reduce the heat to low, and stir for 5 minutes.  Add the salt and cook for several additional minutes.  [Side note:  The sauce will taste over-salted at this point, but after it bakes and is served with the remaining ingredients, the flavors will balance out].  Remove from the heat and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  While the oven is warming up and the sauce is cooling, shred the chicken by hand.  To assemble the enchiladas, coat both sides of a tortilla in the tomatillo sauce and transfer to a plate.  Put a small handful of chicken (1/18th of your total amount) on one end of the tortilla, and gently roll up.  Place seam side down in a large baking dish.  Continue this process with the remaining tortillas.  Cover with any remaining sauce, and then bake for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve.  Top with crema, onion slices, queso fresco, and cilantro.

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