Before I share my newest favorite recipe of Enchiladas Verdes with you, I have exciting news! First, you may have noticed that I have been absent for a while. That is for a happy reason, as I finally decided to go back and finish grad school. I’m enjoying classes but it means I don’t have much time to cook. I am a little ashamed of it but I am living on freezer food and vending machine snacks. It will all be worth it in the end. I promise that I will come back and keep cooking once I graduate – I already miss the kitchen.
In the meantime I also had the opportunity to partner with a local company that I LOVE, the Olive Twist, on doing photography for their new cookbook, Around the Olive Twist Table! If you are near Fort Wayne, Indiana, stop by the Olive Twist in Fort Wayne or Auburn, or give them a call at (260) 436-3866 to reserve your copy. This book is full of delicious recipes that feature olive oil and specialty balsamic vinegar. I am very excited to have been a part of its creation.
Now, back to the food! These Chicken Enchiladas Verdes (Green Enchiladas) get their Mexican flair from tomatillos, those lovely green fruits that come in paper husks. The strong flavor pairs perfectly with crumbly soft Mexican cheese. I am partial to enjoying them with a tall cold drink too. I discovered this recipe from Pati’s Mexican Kitchen on Pinterest (yes I’m obsessed!) and it is definitely a winner.
The key to this recipe is fresh tomatillos. Your local Latin American supermarket will probably be the best place to get them in the quantity needed. Here in Indiana, grocers tend to have only tiny unripe tomatillos that will make the enchiladas bitter. Go to someplace like George’s International Market in Fort Wayne that has a giant beautiful pile of tomatillos for you to choose from.
Tomatillos are not a common ingredient in American food. How do you pick good ones? They are a bit like tomatoes (in fact they are in the same plant family) but they grow inside papery husks. That makes it hard to tell whether one is good unless you know more about them. The fruit will grow to fill the paper husk and will burst the husk open when it is ripe. If it feels a bit like an empty paper lantern, or you feel like you need to open the husk to check, it is not ripe. Unlike tomatoes which we like to be soft, ripe tomatillos are firm. Fully ripe tomatillos will turn yellow or purple but the flavor is best when they are bright green.
Tomatillo season lasts from mid-summer into fall, if you are eating with the seasons or looking to add some of these beautiful plants to your garden space. Bonus points – these are healthy little fruits with very low calories and lots of vitamin C. Green tomatoes look very similar to tomatillos, but have a different flavor; do not substitute them. Only purchase tomatillos with their husks still on so you can be completely sure you are getting the right thing. Now that you are a tomatillo expert, let’s get to the good part!
The easiest way to make the chicken for Enchiladas Verdes is to buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and shred that, but you could also cook your own chicken in whatever way you like.
- [For the sauce:]
- 2 pounds green tomatillos
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 serrano chiles, or to taste
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves (increase to 1 cup if you like cilantro)
- 1/4 cup white onion, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp kosher or sea salt, more or less to taste
- 1 Tbsp oil (I use olive oil or avocado oil)
- [For the enchiladas:]
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (home cooked or rotisserie works great!)
- Oil for frying the tortillas
- 12 corn tortillas
- 1/2 cup Mexican style cream, can substitute heavy cream
- 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco, farmers cheese, cotija or mild feta
- PART ONE: SAUCE. Remove the husks from the tomatillos (these will not be used) and rinse the tomatillos.
- Place the tomatillos and garlic cloves in a pot and cover with water. Place over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil.
- Simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until tomatillos change their color from bright to pale green, are cooked through, and are soft but not coming apart.
- Place the tomatillos, garlic and 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid in a blender and puree.
- Add the chiles, cilantro leaves, onion and salt, and puree again until smooth.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pot over medium-high heat until it is hot but not smoking.
- Carefully pour in the sauce and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer over medium heat for about 6 minutes, until it thickens and deepens in color. Taste for salt and add more if needed.
- PART TWO: TORTILLAS - In a large saute pan over medium heat, add enough oil to have about 1/2 inch depth.
- Let it heat about 3 minutes.
- Gently pass each tortilla through the oil, one at a time, for about 15 seconds on each side. A pair of heat-proof tongs is great for this. The tortillas will soften, so you can fold them without breaking them, but should not get soggy.
- Transfer tortillas to a paper towel covered plate.
- PART THREE - ENCHILADA TIME - Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Place 2 to 3 tablespoons chicken inside of each tortilla, add a bit of sauce, and roll them up. Place them seam side down in a 9x13" baking dish.
- Cover them generously with the sauce.
- Place them in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove pan from the oven, sprinkle with the crumbled cheese and the cream, and serve hot.