Friday, February 14, 2014

Chicken Enchiladas...Ole!

I love, love, love, Tex-Mex. I'm not under any illusion that this meal is authentic Mexican. However, as a born and raised Texas girl, I can get down on some Texican food. Plus, my small person and I both subscribe to the philosophy "If you're not sweating, you're not eating" in terms of spice level, so we're well suited to this genre of food.
When I was at Trader Joe's recently, I bought a chicken breast (with bones and skin--more flavor) and brined it. (See my post on poultry brine here.) Brining makes for the most succulent poultry, and it's really easy. Once the chicken was brined, I pulled it out of the fridge to warm up a bit and put 2 T. of ghee into a medium-sized pot on a heat about halfway between medium and medium high. You want your pot to get good and warm before you put anything in it. Drop in the ghee (or whatever fat you prefer), let it melt, and then quickly put your chicken in to sear. You want to get a decent crust on it.
When your chicken is seared golden brown, remove it to a plate, turn the heat down to medium low, and deglaze the pot with some white wine (about a cup). Add in about 2 cups of chicken stock, a pinch of cumin seeds (or 1/2 t. ground cumin), black pepper, 1 t. garlic powder, 1 t. onion powder, a pinch of cayenne pepper (to taste--remember, with cayenne, a little can go a very long way, so taste as you go) and a pinch of salt. Your liquid should cover the chicken by about 2/3.
Place a lid on the pot, and let the chicken simmer for twenty minutes on a low heat. When it's done, remove it to a plate to rest, and reserve the cooking liquid.

While the chicken rests, start your enchilada sauce. Put 3 T. of oil in a medium-hot skillet (I used a Dutch oven because I always slop it over the sides of a skillet. I ought to have named this blog Messy Girl Wrecks the Kitchen). When your fat melts, add in 3 T. of flour one table spoon at a time, whisking the whole time. I have a flat whisk (see below), and it is miraculous for whisking gravies and sauces. The plastic won't scratch non-stick cookware, and the flat design lets you integrate the flour into the fat more efficiently. When you have a roux, keep an eye on it for a few minutes. You want it to cook a bit to get the flour taste out, but you don't want it to burn at all.
When the roux is ready, add in, a little at a time, 2 cups water combined with 1/4 cup chili powder, 1/2 t. cumin, 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. smoked paprika, and a pinch of cayenne if you like spicy food (just keep in mind how much heat you added to the chicken). When you pour in the first half cup or so, be ready to stir rapidly to combine the liquid into the roux. Keep adding, a bit at time, stirring continuously. When the liquid is all incorporated, let the sauce begin to bubble just a bit and then turn the heat down to medium low. Let it cook about 15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. Remove from heat. Stir it every so often to keep the top layer from drying out.
While the sauce thickens, shred your rested chicken when you've removed the skin and bones. When it is shredded, spoon some of the cooking liquid over it. The chicken should be juicy on its own, but the liquid will add flavor and keep it from drying out in the oven.
Take some corn tortillas (or flour if you prefer), wrap them in a wet dishtowel, and microwave until they're soft and pliable (usually about 45 seconds to a minute). Tightly wrap about 1/4 cup of chicken into each tortilla and place them in a baking dish (I used a cookie sheet with one inch sides lined with non-stick foil, but you can use any oven-safe casserole dish with sides). Ladle your enchilada sauce evenly over the stuffed tortillas (make sure you cover the ends so they don't dry out in the oven) and sprinkle with as much or as little cheese as you like. Put your enchiladas under the broiler until the cheese is melted. We like it cheesy around here.
I recently canned some black beans, so I opened these up, dosed them with pickled jalapenos and garlic salt, and warmed them in a saucepan.
Btw, homeade pickled jalepenos are quite simple to make, and you don't even have to really can them (just throw them in a jar) if you're going to refrigerate them immediately. Find a recipe here. Add some avocado on top, and you've a wonderful, filling meal! My girl child and I ate ours with a side plate of kiwi and guava fruit (found at my favorite Indian grocery store).
The great thing about enchiladas is that they freeze well. I put enough in the fridge for dinner tomorrow evening, and then I spread the rest out on the cookie sheet so that they were separated. I left them in the freezer overnight, and then wrapped them two at a time in wax paper and froze in baggies. It's a lot easier to manage them if you don't freeze them in a big, solid block. There's a lot to be said for freezing in individual portions because then you can just defrost what you need. Pop open a can of black or pinto beans (home canned is best! You can control the sodium, BPA in the can lining, etc...), and this will make a good, quick meal. Because there's really a lot to love about a dish that pairs well with avocado and jalapeno. Come over to the Texican side!

Red Enchilada Sauce
  • 3 T. fat (oil or ghee)
  • 3 T. flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  •  1/2 t. cumin
  •  1/2 t. salt
  •  1/2 t. smoked paprika
  •  a pinch of cayenne pepper
In a dutch oven or skillet, heat the oil. When it is warm, add the flour 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring rapidly to combine. When the flour is incorporated fully, let the roux cook for a few minutes, stirring every so often to keep it from burning. Mix the spices into the water (they'll separate, but that's okay). Add the water about a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring rapidly until the liquid is incorporated each time. When you first add the liquid, the roux will suck it right up. Keep going. When your sauce is all combined, let it come to a very gentle boil and then immediately turn it down to a simmer, stirring all the time. After about five minutes, put the heat on very low and stir periodically for about another five minutes. Taste at this point for salt and spice. Just remember there is some salt in the chicken and cheese, so be careful. At this point, I usually turn the heat off all together. I usually make a little extra (1.5 X this recipe) for a full batch of enchiladas.