Mmm, chicken enchiladas…these craveable baked stuffed tortillas are a certain crowd pleaser. The delicate heat from the chilis that creeps up at the end for a beautiful warming in the back of your mouth, the slight tang from the tomatillos, the sweet onion, the perfectly cooked pulled chicken, all wrapped in tortillas and cheesy goodness—what can go wrong here? How much more comforting can they get? They might as well be the “sweatpants” in our recipe repetoire. Elizabeth’s dad, Tom, has been slinging these delectable enchiladas her whole life. And after enough years of pleading with him to make them for her at a Sunday night dinner, it was our turn to have the recipe passed down, so we can start creating a queue of adorers at our own Sunday night dinners. These outrageously delicious enchiladas are perfect for hosting; once you’ve prepared them in your casserole dish, you can set ’em aside and throw ’em in the oven whenever you’re ready! No fussing in the kitchen with guests over! And even so, they’ll be begging for the recipe as they’re fixing their plates for seconds.
Serves 6 to 8 amigos
2 tbs olive oil
1 whole chicken, cleaned and broken down
1 small white onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
2 poblano peppers, diced
1 jalepeño, seeds/ribs removed and diced (leave the seeds/ribs in if you like it hot)
1 serrano, seeds/ribs removed and diced (leave the seeds/ribs in if you like it hot)
3 tomatillos, (husked, cored, and diced)
3 cloves of garlic, smashed and diced
1 tbs Mexican oregano
1 tbs poultry seasoning
cornstarch slurry, 2 tbs cornstarch and 4 tbs of water mixed together until the cornstarch has dissolved
2 servings of corn tortillas, about 24 (store-bought is also fine—if using store-bought, toast the tortillas on each side until little brown spots appear before rolling up the enchiladas)
1 lb cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 red onion, diced
cilantro, as an optional garnish
lime crema, as an optional garnish
*Serve with rice and beans for the ultimate plate
Break down your chicken. You could ask the butcher to do this for you, but if you’re up to the challenge, you can do it yourself. Remove the drums first. You want to use your knife to find the socket where the bones of the drum and thigh meet. Wedge your knife in there, and remove the drum from the thigh. Place on a lined sheet tray and repeat with the other drum. Then, you want to remove the thighs. You’ll want to follow that same bone up to where it meets the back bone. There will be another joint there. You’ll need to cut around the skin and flesh to work around it. Finally, wedge your knife in that socket, and cut until the bones separate. Place the thigh on the sheet tray and repeat with other thigh. Next, you want to remove the wings. Again, you’ll wedge your knife in the joint connecting the wing to the backbone, cut, and separate. Lastly, you’ll need to remove the breast meat. Place the chicken on its back and use your fingers to locate the breastbone. Carefully run your knife alongside the breastbone, making short scraping cuts very close to the bones. Then gently pull the breast meat away and cut the same way along the ribs to remove the breast completely. Repeat on the other side.
Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Now, you want to brown all your chicken meat and bones (including the backbone). Don’t throw any of the bones or meat away, they’re just going to make the stock all the more delicious. Brown each piece of meat in the pot, only browning 3 or 4 pieces at a time to not overcrowd the pan and lose the heat. Continue in stages until all the meat is browned on both sides. This chicken will not be cooked, you’ll need to continue to cook it later. Set the chicken aside on that same sheet tray for later. Now, there should be all these little brown, chickeny bits on the bottom of your pan. Leave those! They’re great flavor. Add your onions, peppers, tomatillos, garlic, and chilis. Sauté until they’ve just started to sweat and are translucent. Add the oregano and poultry seasoning and cook for another minute or so, or just until the spices have had a chance to bloom and the kitchen is smelling AWESOME! Return the chicken meat and bones to the stock pot, and fill with enough water to cover the meat and almost fill the pot. Season with 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of black pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce it to a simmer. Simmer the chicken for about 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the meat is at least 165° F. Once the meat has reached that temperature, remove the chicken from the pot. Allow the meat to cool. Pull the meat off the bones and shred the breast meat. Discard the skin and cartilage. Return any larger bones back to the stock. Set pulled and shredded meat aside for later. Allow the stock to continue to cook for at least 2 hours, or until the stock has reduced by half. Remove the bones from the stock, add the cornstarch slurry, and continue to cook for a few minutes until the cornstarch has had a chance to cook through (we do this so the stock doesn’t taste starchy). Check for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if needed. Turn the heat off, and keep warm on the burner with the lid on until you’re ready to make the rest of the dish.
**You can make the chicken and stock early in the day, or even the day before, and set aside until assembling the rest of the enchiladas. If you’re making the day before, keep in the refrigerator and take out about 30 minutes to an hour before assembling to come to room temperature.
Add the diced red onion and 2/3 of the grated cheddar cheese to the pulled and shredded chicken. Add 2 or 3 ladles of the stock to the mixture.
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Assemble the enchiladas. Take a ladle of stock and put it in the bottom of a large casserole dish. Now, take a tortilla, scoop about 2 tbs of the filling into the middle, roll the tortilla up, and place in the casserole dish, seem-side down. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling until everything has been rolled up and placed in the casserole dish. Add another ladle of stock to the top of the casserole. Top with the other 1/3 of grated cheddar cheese. Cover with aluminum foil, place in the oven on the middle rack, and cook for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove the foil, and continue to cook for another 15 minutes or until GBD (golden brown and delicious).
Allow the enchiladas to cool for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro and crema, and serve with rice and beans.
Dig in and treat yourself to seconds…you earned it!