It’s Gotta Be Chicken Enchiladas with a Tomatillo Sauce!
I recently made Chicken Enchiladas with a Tomatillo Sauce for my daughter, Jenny’s, birthday dinner. In fact, I make it every year on her birthday—it is her absolute favorite. She recently became engaged, and her fiancé, Ryan, and his children, Carson and Hayden, joined us for dinner. They gave this one rave reviews, as did the rest of my family. This recipe is so delicious, my daughter, Alisa, who is vegetarian, will even eat it. When I serve this dish, she refers to herself as an “opportunistic carnivore”—all restrictions are out the window.
Carson, Ryan’s youngest son, is a big fan of my cooking. As I was finalizing the finishing touches for dinner, he tagged along behind me as I retrieved the garnishes from the refrigerator. “Carol,” he asked, “When it’s my birthday, will you make me chicken enchiladas?” I must admit, my heart melted. “Of course, Carson,” I said. If you are looking for a special dish to serve on Cinco de Mayo, this one is to die for. If you already have your Cinco de Mayo menu planned, my Chicken Enchiladas with a Tomatillo Sauce will satisfy even the pickiest eaters. It can even turn the vegetarians you cook for into “opportunistic carnivores.”
Chicken Enchiladas with a Tomatillo Sauce Serves 6
Getting good quality tomatillos can be difficult. I always purchase a few extra just in case. If part of the tomatillo has started to deteriorate and part of it is still good, don’t throw the whole tomatillo away. Just discard the portion that has passed its prime. Extra tomatillos will not change the taste or texture of this sauce.
For the Tomatillo Sauce:
2 dozen tomatillos, husked 8 jalapeño peppers, stems removed and seeded 3 cups canned chicken broth 2 tablespoons cornstarch 1 to 2 tablespoons water 1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped In a large saucepan, boil tomatillos and jalapeño peppers in chicken broth over a medium-high heat for 7 to 10 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in 1 to 2 tablespoons of cold water to form a smooth paste. Add the cornstarch paste to the boiling mixture along with salt and cilantro. Boil sauce for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove sauce from the heat, cool slightly, and purée in a blender until smooth. Makes enough sauce for 6 enchiladas. For the Filling:
½ cup half-and-half 8 ounces cream cheese, softened 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded ¾ cup finely chopped white onion ½ teaspoon salt Beat half-and-half and cream cheese until smooth. Add chicken, onion, and salt to the mixture and blend well. For the enchiladas:
6 burrito-size flour tortillas Chicken filling 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese For the garnishes: Crumbled queso fresco cheese Shredded lettuce Chopped tomatoes Sour cream Guacamole Salsa Pickled jalapeño slices
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spoon a thin layer of tomatillo sauce into a greased 9 X 13-inch baking dish. Spread each tortilla with a thin layer of tomatillo sauce. Put one-sixth of the chicken mixture down the center of the tortilla, roll tortilla, and place seam side down in the baking dish. Spoon remaining tomatillo sauce over tortillas. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until tomatillo sauce bubbles. Remove the foil, sprinkle with Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, and continue to bake until cheese is melted. Serve with desired garnishes and any remaining tomatillo sauce.
Tips on shopping for tomatillos: Choose firm, dry tomatillos that fit tightly into their husks. Check to be sure the husks are dry to the touch. Underneath the husk, a tomatillo should be green, which is an indication it is not totally ripe—its preferred state. Do not buy sticky or yellow tomatillos. Tips on storing tomatillos: If kept in their husks, placed in a paper bag, and refrigerated, tomatillos will keep up to 1 month.
Tips on shopping for jalapeños: Select firm, plump chiles with shiny skin and a fresh smell. Do not buy wrinkled or soft chiles. Also, if the skin is mushy towards the stem end, or if the skin is soft or brown, the chile will be inferior.
Tips on storing jalapeños: Refrigerate in plastic or reusable bags for up to 1 week.
Tips on shopping for cilantro: These leaves have a lively, pungent fragrance, which some describe as a mix of orange and sage. Cilantro is the name given to the lacy, green leaves of the coriander plant and is best purchased fresh. Select leaves with a bright, even color with no sign of wilting or yellowing.
Tips on storing cilantro: Cilantro will keep 1 week in a plastic bag when refrigerated. To help prolong the life of cilantro, place it in a glass of water, stems down, cover with a plastic bag, secure the glass with a rubber band, and refrigerate. Change the water every two days.
Tips on shopping for onions: Onions should be dry, firm, and shiny with a thin outer skin. Do not buy onions that have sprouts. They will taste bitter. The neck of an onion should be tightly closed. Do not buy onions that have dark patches, soft spots, or black mold. Tips on storing onion: Onions should be stored in a cool, dark, dry, well-ventilated place. Do not store onions and potatoes together. Potatoes give off moisture that can cause onions to spoil. Tips on shopping for chicken: Chicken should feel cold to the touch when it’s in the supermarket cooler. Grocery stores do from time to time have trouble with refrigeration, so never purchase a chicken that feels warm. Always check dates on packages. If the chicken has reached its “Sell-By” date, cook or freeze it that same day. Never purchase product that has passed its “Sell-By” date.
Tips on storing chicken: After purchasing, go directly home and put your chicken immediately into the refrigerator. If you’ve purchased fresh chicken, it is best to use it within 1 to 2 days.
Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at CarolAnn@CarolAnnKates.com and explore her website, www.CarolAnnKates.com.
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