My introduction to Mexican cuisine was via enchiladas and Margaritas. It was love at first bite and sip.
It wasn’t until years later that I would attempt to make enchiladas at home. In fact, I learned to mix mean Margaritas long before I learned how to make enchiladas properly. Then, I saw a celebrity chef make enchiladas on the Food Network and I said, okay, that’s a good template and I can start from there. Little did I know it was a bad template.
The thing is, there is no singular template for enchilada. The filling can be any meat or it can even be meatless. The sauce can be red (chili or tomato-based or a combination), green (salsa verde), brown (as in the case of mole) or even white (a spin introduced by Swiss immigrants in Mexico).
And that’s just Mexican enchiladas. Coasta Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua all have enchiladas in their cuisines too. Some resemble Mexican enchiladas while others do not. Nicaraguan enchilada, for instance, is more similar to empanada, a pocket pie ubiquitous in Latin America. Costa Rican enchiladas are empanada-like too, and fluffier because puff pastry rather than tortilla is used.
Someday, I’ll learn to make enchiladas like they do in Coasta Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. For now, I’ll stick with a simpler version of how I remember my first plate of enchiladas — simpler but just as cheesy, saucy and with a generous amount of meat.
- 2 ½ to 3 ½ cups cooked shredded chicken meat meat from any part of the chicken is good
- ½ cup chopped bell pepper
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- 300 grams grated cheese divided
- 6 to 8 tortillas (six-inch flour tortillas were used here)
Cook the enchilada sauce
- In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil.
- Add the flour all at once.
- Stir the mixture until smooth and cook for two to three minutes.
- Add the cayenne, chipotle, onion and garlic powders, salt, cumin and dried oregano, and stir until blended.
- Pour in the broth slowly, stirring with the one hand as you pour with the other.
- Cook until the mixture thickens.
- Add the diced tomatoes.
- Plunge in an immersion blender and process until there are no more large pieces.
- Cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Make the enchiladas
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- While the sauce simmers, toss together in a bowl the shredded chicken, bell pepper, onion and a quarter of the shredded cheese.
- On a baking tray, spread the tortillas and sprinkle with a little water.
- Heat the tortillas in the oven for a minute to soften them.
- Strain the sauce.
- Pour just enough sauce to moisten the bottom of the baking dish where you intend to bake your enchiladas. Optionally, If there are solid or semi-solid pieces, spread them on the bottom of the baking dish as well.
- Lay a tortilla flat, spread the filling along the middle, roll up and arrange in the baking dish with the overlapping sides facing downward.
- Repeat until you have used up all the filling or filled up all the tortillas.
- Ladle sauce over the stuffed tortillas (how much really depends on you but note that you DON'T have to use all the sauce that you just made).
- Top with the remaining cheese.
- Bake the chicken enchiladas at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted.
- Take the chicken enchiladas out of the oven, optionally sprinkle with snipped cilantro and serve.