Essentials: Easy Enchiladas

Enchiladas may not be an essential part of everyone's cooking repertoire, but this recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook is so easy and versatile that I tend to be evangelical about it. Though the results are not authentically Mexican or even authentically Tex-Mex, they are consistently yummy.

The key here is that you can substitute two to three cups of just about anything pre-cooked for the three cups of chicken in the ingredients list. I like to make them with beans and kale, pulled pork, and even roasted potatoes and cauliflower. You could try beans and squash (inspired by 24 Boxes), and I've been meaning to try a breakfast version with scrambled eggs for a while now. (My only unsuccessful combination so far involved rice, which was just too starchy baked into the tortillas. This recipe is also not really good for cheese enchiladas. For cheese enchiladas, do yourself a favor and turn to Homesick Texan.)

Homemade or store-bought tomatillo salsa can be used in place of enchilada sauce; in fact, I reflexively prefer tomatillo sauce to red sauce for chicken enchiladas. You can use far less cheese than called for, and you can skip the fresh cilantro if you don't have any around; in fact, if you have a well-stocked pantry and keep corn tortillas and grated cheese in the freezer, you will have everything on hand to make enchiladas whenever you feel like it with no extra planning or shopping.

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

-serves 4 to 6
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Essentials: Easy Enchiladas

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About This Recipe

This recipe appears in: Cinco De Mayo Wrap-up: Chicken Recipes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken (1 1/2 pounds)
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cup enchilada sauce (canned or homemade--recipe below)
  • 1 to 2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chiles, drained
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • Lime wedges, sour cream, diced avocado, and shredded lettuce for serving, optional (I would not eat any of these things with enchiladas!)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water

Procedures

  1. 1

    Heat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle position. Combine the chicken, 2 cups of the cheese, 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce, the chiles, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  2. 2

    Stack the tortillas on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave until warm and pliable, 40-60 seconds.

  3. 3

    Lightly coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray (or just vegetable oil). Spread 1/3 cup filling evenly down the center of each tortilla. Tightly roll the tortilla around the filling and lay seam-side down in the baking dish. You might have to lay a few on top of the others or sideways for everything to fit; it's ok.

  4. 4

    Lightly spray the enchiladas with vegetable oil spray (you can skip this step if you don't have vegetable oil spray; it's meant to keep the tortillas intact during baking, but this is not crucial). Pour the remaining 1 cup of enchilada sauce all over the enchiladas so that they are thoroughly coated. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheese over all. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the enchiladas are heated through, 20-25 minutes.

  5. 5

    Remove the foil and bake until the cheddar browns, about 5 minutes more.

  6. 6

    Fast Enchilada Sauce

  7. 7

    makes about 2 1/2 cups. Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

  8. 8

    Please note that this sauce has nothing to do with real chili gravy as made by Nick last month and championed by Homesick Texan.

  9. 9

    Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, garlic, cumin, and sugar. Cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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