I’ve wanted to make chicken enchiladas since I started this blog, and I’m shocked that I haven’t done them yet. I’m obsessed with Mexican cuisine and have been since I was 22 and fell in love with it on my first trip to the USA. My sister and I bought a car and drove across North America via the Southern route. We encountered much amazing Mexican food along the way but sadly as South African passport holders we were not able to go to Mexico at that time. It’s very high on my food bucket list to go, so watch this space. I had also wanted to keep the recipe quite authentic, but after much research it’s fairly complicated to make an authentic enchilada sauce, as you need specific dried chilies. In South Africa, this is near impossible to come by. The last time I made a proper Mexican sauce – Chipotles in adobo, I used chipotles, which I bought in New York. I also wanted to make a recipe that anyone can do and that was super delicious and easy. I think this might be the best recipe.
If you are Mexican, or a purist, please accept that I’m not trying to disparage the cuisine in any way here. I wanted to capture the essence of what enchiladas are as I know them, more Tex / Mex style.
Most recipes seem to add cheese with the filling, and of course you can do that, but in the interest of calorie conservation, I have left it out. I find the cheesy top layer more than enough to deal with, and this dish has so much flavour going, you really don’t need it. The other weird thing in South Africa is you can’t just walk into any supermarket and buy chilli powder. It simply doesn’t no exist. We have loads of peri peri (ground up African Birds Eye chillies) that could take the roof of your mouth off in on spoonful, but finding bog standard chilli powder is just not easy. So I opted to use my own homemade chipotles in adobo sauce because they are so damned delicious and I can control the heat levels. If you live in South Africa and can’t get hold of them I’m going to give you a cheat’s conversion below. See also a list of places that I know sell it. If you live anywhere else in the First World, you should have no problem tracking this ingredient down. You could also sub it with a good quality chilli powder.
If you are vegetarian or vegan – make up a quantity of vegetables and beans of your preference to yield roughly 4 cups of cooked product.
People like to add black beans to the chicken enchilada filling and this is a fantastic way to extend the meal by adding healthy affordable protein, but because, well you guessed it, we don’t get black beans here I didn’t include. Anyway, I’m always trying to cram as many vegetables into my meat dishes as possible so I added sautéed red pepper and red onion. They add a lovely sweet element and break the richness a little.
As with most Mexican dishes all the side dishes make things very festive. Serve these enchiladas with sour cream, guacamole, fresh cilantro and lime wedges on the side.
Recipe – serves 4
I used 8 soft corn tortillas but flour tortillas would work equally as well
- Olive oil for frying
- 1 red onion sliced to a medium thickness
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and stem removed, sliced into strips
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 4 Tbsp finely chopped chipotle in adobo sauce (or 3 Tbs chilli powder)
- 250ml / 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 cups tomato puree (or Italian passata)
- 1 Tbs brown sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 500gms free- range chicken breast meat (about 1 pound)
- 8 soft corn or flour tortillas+- 20cm or 8 inches in diameter
- 1 cup grated Cheddar
- 1 cup grated mozzarella
Heat a splash of olive oil in a large skillet / pot (preferably with a lid) and add the sliced red onion and red pepper. Fry for about 3 minutes until just starting to soften. Set aside.
In the same pan (I do this to avoid having to wash another pan, but if you don’t mind, then you could have fried the above in a non-stick frying pan), heat another splash of olive oil and fry the chopped onion until soft over a low heat. About 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, oregano and chipotles and fry for about 30 seconds. Add the stock and deglaze the pan. Then add the tomato sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Allow this to simmer for about 5 minutes and until it thickens slightly.
Place the chicken breasts in the sauce. You could cut then in half sideways if you wanted to reduce the cooking time, put the lid on the pan, and simmer until cooked for about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Take the sauce off the heat.
When the sauce has cooled, strain it through a fine sieve pressing to get all the sauce out. Scrape the leftover onions and other bits from the sieve back into the pan. Cut the chicken into small pieces (bite size) and place in the pan with the onion mix. Add ½ cup of the strained enchilada sauce and mix.
Spray an appropriately sized oven dish with cooking spray. And pre heat the oven to 180C / 350F.
Lay the 8 tortillas out and divide the red pepper and onion mix, plus the chicken mixture evenly between them. If you want to sprinkle a smattering of the grated Cheddar you can do this too. Roll them up and lay them snugly in the oven dish.
Top with the remaining enchilada sauce. Sprinkle over the mozzarella and the Cheddar and then cover with foil * I find spraying the inside of the foil that touches the cheese with cooking spray helps prevent the cheese from sticking*.
Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes and until the cheese is bubbling and turning golden brown. Serve right away with all the side dishes mentioned above.
A nice paloma on the side wouldn’t go amiss.
*cheats chipotle – finely chop up pickled jalepenos and add smoked paprika and dried chilli flakes (smoked if you can find or regular). For this recipe you will need 4 Tbs chopped pickled jalapeno + 1 tsp chilli flakes + 1 tsp smoked paprika)
Where to buy Chipotles in adobo sauce in SA:
Chipotle is the most delicious spice adding so much flavour to a plethora of dishes. I am never without it. If you can get hold of Chipotles (dried jalapeños) then make this recipe. They last for ages in the fridge
Giovanni’s Deliworld in Greenpoint (also my favourite food shop in South Africa)
Woolworths does a chipotle seasoning – so add about 2 -3 Tbs of this (you will probably not need to add salt)
Nomu does smoked chipotle flakes – so you will need about 2 – 3 Tbs for this recipe. Adjust heat levels to taste preference
For more Mexican fiesta:
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