Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with Chicken Enchiladas

As I have clearly established with this blog, my family loves to eat. I don't know that we necessarily favor one type of cuisine over another. As long as it tastes good, we are more than happy to give it a try. 

We are definitely fans of good Mexican food. We enjoy Mexican food more often than Cinco de Mayo, but we are always glad to pull out some of our favorite Mexican recipes in early May. One of these favorites is chicken enchiladas. This is a recipe that we acquired from a recipe book that we received as a wedding gift. This recipe book featured Mexican recipes from Spanish teachers from the state of California. This recipe for chicken enchiladas is just one of the recipes we have enjoyed.

Before proceeding to the recipe and instructions, here is a little background on the history of enchiladas. Enchiladas are essentially some type of filling such as meat, beans, rice, cheese, or vegetables, wrapped in a corn tortilla and covered with a chili pepper sauce. In the Nahuatl language which was spoken by the Aztecs, the word for enchilada is chīllapītzalli, which essentially means "chili flute." 
Aztec pyramid
Enchiladas originated in Mexico and are believed to date back to the Mayans whose diet included corn tortillas wrapped around fish. In more recent history, one of the Spanish conquistadors, Hernan Cortes, is described as giving a feast which included foods wrapped in corn tortillas. The first recipe for enchiladas appeared in a Mexican cookbook titled, El cocinero mexicano ("The Mexican Chef"), which was published in 1831.

As with most recipes, we have adapted it a little to fit our preferences. The recipe that I am sharing in this post reflects the modifications we have made. Although this recipe involves a lot of ingredients, it is well worth the time and effort.

Chicken Enchiladas
2 whole boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (1 lb)
1/2 cup water
2 tsp fresh minced garlic (equivalent to 2 cloves)
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp butter or margarine
tsp fresh minced garlic (equivalent to 1 cloves)
1 tbsp chili powder (we like using a chipotle chili powder that I brought back from a trip to New Mexico - it adds a nice smoky flavor as well as an extra kick of heat)
2 cans (3 1/2 oz) chopped green chilies
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 cup chicken broth (may prepare using bouillon cube & 1 cup water)
1 cup heavy cream (may substitute half and half)
1/2 lb monterey jack cheese, grated (approx 2 cups)
12 to 16 - 6 inch flour tortillas (may substitute corn tortillas for a more "authentic" enchilada)

Now for the instructions:
Place chicken breasts in medium sized saucepan. Add water and 2 tsp garlic. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook just until tender. Cool. Remove chicken and reserve broth. Cut chicken into thin strips. Set aside in a medium bowl.

Saute onion in butter or margarine in medium sized skillet just until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1tsp  garlic, saute 1 minute. Add chilies, chili powder, cumin, salt, oregano, and pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in the reserved chicken broth, the prepared chicken broth, and the heavy cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup of grated cheese until melted. 

Combine 1 cup of this mixture with the reserved chicken. Preheat oven to 400º.
Divide chicken mixture equally along the center of each tortilla. Here is an idea as to about how much of the chicken mixture we put on each tortilla.
Roll up tortillas and place seam side down in two rows in a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish. Pour remaining cheese sauce evenly over tortillas. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of cheese.
Bake at 400 º for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with sour cream and salsa. Mexi-corn and/or Spanish rice make great side dishes.
You will notice that the above picture features a 9 x 9 inch pan. With fewer of us living at home now, we will often prepare the enchiladas in two 9 x 9 inch pans. That gives us one to eat at the present, and one to freeze for later or perhaps share with someone else.