Cooking on the Cheap: Enchiladas Verdes

2

September 4, 2009 by skwishface

I am forever trying to replicate my favorite restaurant dishes at home, in the hopes that doing so will entice my family to eat at home rather than venture out into the world of overpriced meals. True story.

There’s a Tex-Mex restaurant not far from my house (so it’s dangerously convenient), and for about a month straight we found ourselves drawn inexorably back through their doors every weekend. This is entirely my fault. I had become addicted, you see, to a particular green sauce they serve. It is creamy and spicy and full of herbs. It called to me, sang its siren song of avocado-y goodness and lured me into paying $9 for a plate full of it.

Finally, I snapped out of the spell long enough to realize that I could probably recreate the sauce at home. And for the same cost as the one dish, I could most likely make a whole mess of the stuff and have it for several meals. I cracked my knuckles and got to work. The result makes me sooooo happy.

First application – sauce poured over tortillas and spicy chicken, topped with melty cheese. Also known as the enchilada.

Enchiladas Verdes (aka – Green Enchiladas) 
(cost: about $9, prep time: 30 minutes, cook time: 30 minutes)
10-12 flour tortillas
1+ cups shredded monterey jack cheese

The Sauce:
4 medium tomatilloes, chopped
3 large ripe avocadoes, chopped
1/2 white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup (handful) fresh cilantro
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin (or more)
salt and pepper to taste

The Chicken Marinade:
3 large chicken breasts
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

(printable version can be found over at the Tasty Kitchen, aqui)

This is not a quick recipe, so set aside some time. You’ll be working for a while, but omg so worth it.

Let’s start with marinating the chicken. I want it to cook pretty fast, and it’ll be cut into thin strips when it’s done, so I started by butterflying the breasts.

Take a sharp knife, trim any fatty gristly bits off the meat, and start slicing on the thick side of the breast, on the outer curve.

Thus. Get this part done quickly, because raw chicken is gross.

Thus. Get this part done quickly, because raw chicken is gross.

Slice almost all the way through, so that you can flip it open like butterfly wings.

Get it? Butterflied! Culinary terminology is so clever.

Get it? Butterflied! Culinary terminology is so clever.

This gives you a thinner cut of meat without having to mess with a bunch of little pieces once you start grilling. But first there must be marination!

Toss chipotles, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil into the blender.

This blender is gonna get a workout today.

Look closely, and you can see the reflection of the excersaucer where The Girl is supervising.

You may be wondering about that prune-like thing in the blender. That’s one of the chipotle peppers. They’re ugly as sin, being smoked jalapeno peppers that have been soaked in adobo sauce. I don’t know exactly what’s in adobo sauce, other than FLAVOR and possibly DISTILLED HELLFIRE. Get a can of these peppers, and they will last you forever (they freeze up nice).

Put the blades to the stuff and let it whir till it’s all combined. Then put your chicken in some kind of sealable container (I use a bowl with a lid) and pour in the marinade.

Colorful! Spicy! Full of bacteria!

Colorful! Spicy! Full of bacteria!

Stir it all together till the chicken is coated in the goop, then seal it up tight and put it away in your fridge for at least 30 minutes. Then wash your hands. And your cutting board. And anything that came anywhere near the raw chicken. Have I mentioned my loathing of raw chicken? Ugh.

Moving on! Time to make the sauce. And confront an old nemesis.

*showdown music*

*showdown music*

Ah, Tomatillo. We meet again. You are tangy and juicy and full of unique flavor. Your friends cannot help you this time. YOU WILL BE SAUCE.

Peel the paper skin off the tomatilloes, give them a rinse if they’re exra sticky (there’s this gunk in between the fruit and the skin, see), and chop them into relatively equal-sized chunks. Also chop your half an onion and your garlic cloves. Forget to include the garlic in the picture. Seed and chop the jalapenos.

Are you starting to see a color theme?

Are you starting to see a color theme?

Seed the jalapenos?, you ask. Yes. Strip out the pale green ribs and the tiny white seeds you find inside. Then scoot them waaaaaay to the edge of your cutting board.

Shown above: PAIN

Shown above: PAIN

This is where the heat lives in the peppers. You can certainly keep some of it (I snuck some back in) but tread lightly with this stuff. A little goes a long way, and it can get out of control pretty quickly. You can always add more spice, but you can’t take it away once it’s in there.

Toss your chopped veggies into a big pan with a smidge of olive oil. Salt and pepper the whole lot and stir around over medium heat.

Yes tomatillo, you will be tamed!

Yes tomatillo, you will be tamed!

As it cooks, the onions will become translucent and the tomatilloes will turn a kind of brownish-green earthy color.

enchiladas10

See?

There’s going to be alot of juices bubbling around in the pan. Once you get the veggies to this point, turn off the heat and drain off most of the juices. Set some aside, in case the sauce needs to be thinned out later.

Now comes my favorite part of this whole meal:

If this picture doesn't make you smile, you're either a heartless fiend or my husband.

If this picture doesn't make you smile, you're either a heartless fiend or my husband.

The Husband picks out some pretty produce, doesn’t he? Seriously, I could just sprinkle this with some salt and go at it with a spoon and be a happy happy camper.

Instead, I decided to be a responsible cook and proceed with slicing the avocado. It’s going to be blended into the sauce, so you really just need chunks. The easiest way I’ve found to chunk up all that lovely buttery green stuff is to leave it in the skin, slice it in a grid pattern (don’t cut through the skin) and then turn it inside-out into a bowl.

Use the chubbiest, meatiest paw you can find to do this. Sigh.

Use the chubbiest, meatiest paw you can find to do this. Sigh.

Presto! Chunks!

Do the same to all three avocadoes, then consider your cilantro.

Almost all the sauce ingredients are green. What a coincidence!

Almost all the sauce ingredients are green. What a coincidence!

The cilantro doesn’t need much. Just rinse it. If you’ve got alot of thick stems, chop it a bit. Otherwise, it’s blender time.

Now let me take a moment to bitch. I had a lovely series of photos describing the sauce construction process. Step-by-step shots of each ingredient going into the blender and forming a marvelous, thick, verdant end product. So creamy and spicy and way better than the stuff at the restaurant.

Those pictures did not transfer from my camera to my computer. For no good reason. And I didn’t check to make sure they had before deleting every image from the camera itself. So those amazing pictures? Gone. All that remains is this:

*eye twitch*

*eye twitch*

There was some Yosemite Sam-like stompin’ and cussin’ done about this. Let’s just pretend that image above is sufficient to demonstrate first putting the sauteed onions/tomatillos/etc into the blender, then adding the avocados, cilantro, lemon juice, cumin, salt, and pepper. Then pushing the button and watching magic happen.

Are you pretending with me? Good.

Note: this recipe is flexible except for one thing. If you’re going to use avocadoes, you must must  must add some kind of citrus juice. Lemon or lime work best. This not only adds flavor, but it’ll keep the sauce from turning brown. Because avocadoes are delicious, but their beauty is fleeting. Leftover sauce freezes up beautifully, as well, so long as there’s citrus.

Also, I probably should have used my food processor for this, since it holds so much more than the blender does, but I didn’t. Because I’m a dummy.

Anyway! We move on. Pull the chicken breasts out of the marinade, shake off the excess, and lay them on a screaming-hot grill pan.

Sizzle! Hiss! Smell amazing!

Sizzle! Hiss! Smell amazing!

An actual grill would work just as well. Mine is a charcoal grill, and firing it up is its own project, and I was both too busy and too lazy to do so.

A few minutes later, flip the chicken and congratulate yourself on lovely (if not terribly artful) grill marks.

Just stand over the grill and breathe deep. It's a form of meditation, really.

Just stand over the grill and breathe deep. It's a form of meditation, really.

A few minutes more, the chicken is cooked through and ready to come off the heat. Set it aside, let it rest a bit. While that’s happening, you can fire up your broiler (the super-hot setting in your oven).

Then slice the chicken into thin strips, across the grain.

If any of the pieces should happen to leap off the board into your mouth, well ....

If any of the pieces should happen to leap off the board into your mouth, well ....

Now we start assembling the enchiladas!

Traditionally, in the world of Tex-Mex and enchiladas, the tortillas (usually corn) are briefly deep-fried, then soaked in sauce, then stuffed and laid out in a baking pan. This is not my favorite method. It makes for greasy, sometimes soggy tortillas and so far this is a pretty healthy meal. So I skipped that step. And saved us all about a bajillion calories in the process.

Make sure to use abnormally pink fingers for this step.

Make sure to use abnormally pink fingers for this step.

Roll up a few strips of chicken in each tortilla, and place them seam-side-down in a baking dish. Pour on the sauce, sprinkle on the cheese. Completely forget to photograph this step until the whole works is already in the oven.

Not shown: intense heat. Because heat is invisible. That's science!

Not shown: intense heat. Because heat is invisible. That's science!

Leave it under the broiler 5-10 minutes, depending on your oven. Keep an eye on it – you want it all warmed through, a bit bubbly, and the cheese a little toasty.

Mind you, I had enough sauce and chicken and cheese to fill a full 9×13 baking dish. I did not, however, have enough useable tortillas to do so. When you buy your tortillas fresh handmade from the little Mexican ladies at the grocery store, sometimes the size will vary. The day that we got our tortillas was apparently Itty Bitty Tortilla day. So I ended up using a much smaller dish and cramming them in any which way I could. Normally, you’d want to just lay them out in a row.

Regardless, if it comes out looking a bit like this:

*drool*

*drool*

… you’ve done pretty alright. Mine might have spent a bit too much time in there, but whatevs. It’s still delish.

Dish ’em up two at a time. You can serve all kinds of sides with these enchiladas, but I found them to be more than hearty enough on their own to make a meal. All four food groups are present in one slightly tangy, hot and spicy, melty cheesy dish.

To recap: that’s chipotle marinated chicken, rolled in flour tortillas, covered in creamy tomatillo avocado sauce, and topped with melted monterey jack cheese.

Have mercy.

Have mercy.

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2 thoughts on “Cooking on the Cheap: Enchiladas Verdes

  1. Eva says:

    Oh my gracious heavens that looks good.
    Recently my husband has developed an intolerance for enchiladas. It’s a very sad circumstance as he loves to eat them and I love to make them. The ingredients in your sauce look safe though, I think I’ll risk it.
    If he spends the 24 hours following the mean in the bathroom, be warned, I’m blaming you and your photos of meltey cheese and avocado goodness.

  2. marie hawk says:

    I just found your blog. Loving it. Forget Pioneer Woman. You are far funnier. I just love it and I am a humor writer. Marie.

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