Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Red Chile Enchiladas with Chicken and Melted Cheese

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that Rick Bayless is my culinary hero.  I love Mexican food, and every single one of his recipes that I've tried has been fantastic.  Especially the salsas.  Because of him,  I have at least five kinds of dried chili peppers in my pantry right now.  Although his cookbook, Mexican Everyday, has a good number of authentic Mexican dishes that look intriguing, I usually end up making tacos or enchiladas because it's an excuse to make salsa or sauce.  These red enchiladas are the more traditional cousin of his red enchiladas with jalapeno tomato sauce

This sauce uses fire roasted tomatoes and guajillo chiles.  You need a really good blender to make sure that there aren't huge chunks of toasted guajillo in your sauce.  Rick Bayless recommends pushing the sauce through a sieve after using the blender.  If your blender is good enough, this isn't necessary.  This sauce isn't very spicy, but it has a great flavor from the guajillos.  You can kick it up a notch by adding some chili powder or cayenne if you're feeling brave.  Although the recommended cheeses for these enchiladas are Mexican melting cheeses such as Chihuahua or quesadilla, I use aged cheddar.  I think the cheddar is much more flavorful.  My cheddar was more on the medium side, I think sharp or extra sharp would be too strong.   To make the filling, the chicken is mixed with some of the sauce before placing it inside the tortilla.  The first few times I made this recipe, I thought the chicken needed something extra.  Now, when I cook it prior to shredding, I sprinkle some adobo seasoning and ancho chile powder on it. 

The corn tortillas I buy stiffen up after a few days.  To counteract this, I heat a pan over medium heat and cook the tortillas for about 45 seconds each side.  This works better than putting them on a plate covered with a damp paper towel and microwaving them.  In addition to the cilantro and white onion, I used scallions as a garnish.  I used just the cilantro leaves rather than entire sprigs, and I probably used more than the recipe intended, but I think they really add to the dish. 

Although the recipe calls for 1 cup of chicken broth, I think that's a little too much.  I don't want my sauce to be watery, so I add a little less broth or allow it to simmer longer than the 10 minutes recommended in the recipe.  Watery sauce can really kill a meal. 

To bake the enchiladas, I hold them closed with toothpicks.  Otherwise, some of the tortillas try to open.  They're easy to remove before serving. 

I'm not sure it actually does anything, but I pour a little sauce over the enchiladas, then add a layer of cheese, then more sauce, and then top it off with the cheese.  I feel like the layer of cheese in between two layers of sauce helps keep the sauce from running off the tortillas into the pan. 

Red Chile Enchiladas with Chicken and Melted Cheese
Adapted from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday
Serves 2

2 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into pieces.  (Seed these over your sink, the seeds tend to get everywhere).
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 14 oz can fire roasted tomatoes (if you can't get them, use a can of plain diced tomatoes)
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup low sodium chicken broth

Everything else
6 corn tortillas
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
adobo seasoning to taste
ancho chile powder to taste
As much cheddar cheese as you want (the recipe recommends 1/2 cup or 2 oz)
About half a white onion, cut into rings
A handful of cilantro leaves
2 scallions, thinly sliced. 

1) Preheat the oven to 350.
2) Heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Toast the guajillo pieces until they smell toasted.  About 10 seconds per side.  Don't let them burn. 
3) Put the chiles, garlic, tomatoes (and juice), cumin, and black pepper into a blender and blend until it's really, really smooth.  If your blender isn't beefy enough, you'll need a strainer later.
4) Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot, pour the contents of the blender into the pan.  If necessary, pour them through a mesh strainer to get the chile skin out.  Cook the sauce until it's the consistency of tomato paste, about 7 to 10 minutes.  You really want to make sure it reduces down, otherwise your sauce will be watery.
5) Add the chicken broth and simmer for another 10 minutes (or until the sauce is at your desired thickness).
6) While the sauce is simmering, lay the tortillas on a baking sheet and brush them on both sides with oil.  (I cheat and use canola spray).  Stack them in twos and bake for 3 minutes to make them softer.  Alternatively, do what I mentioned above and cook them for 45 seconds on each side in a small pan.
7) If you are using leftover chicken that's already cooked, shred it and mix in some adobo seasoning and ancho chile powder.  If you're cooking chicken, cut one large chicken breast into strips, season with adobo and ancho chile powder and cook over medium heat.  Then shred.
8) Spread 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish.  Stir another 1/4 cup into the seasoned chicken.  Lay out a tortilla on a plate and put some chicken on top of it.  Roll it up and secure it with two toothpicks.  Repeat until you're out of chicken.  For me, that's 6 enchiladas.
9) Pour some sauce over the enchiladas.  Then sprinkle on some cheddar.  Then add the rest of the sauce.  Make sure you get some on every part of the tortillas.  Top it off with some more cheese.  Go crazy! I grabbed my grater and grated the cheese directly onto the enchiladas until I thought there was enough, I didn't bother measuring. 
10) Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted.  Serve on plates, topped with cilantro leaves,  white onion slices, and scallions. 

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