Wanna hear something amazing? Today is my Friday! That’s right people…. starting tomorrow I have a fabulous 4 day weekend coming up. I’m so excited that I can barely concentrate on work today (obviously, since I’m blogging about food rather than working). On the docket: meeting with mortgage lenders (fun), heading to Madison for my aunt’s wedding (actual fun!), hanging out with my cousin Megan, and watching more college basketball than can possibly be considered healthy. I can’t wait!
In order to brighten up your Wednesday and hopefully put you in as good of a mood as I’m in, I’d like to share this little pan of deliciousness with you. These chicken enchiladas are hands-down, without a doubt, my husband’s most favorite thing I make for dinner. He absolutely loves these enchiladas. Like, L-O-V-E-S them. He finds out it’s enchilada night, and he becomes as excited as I am about my vacation time coming up. Not even joking.
Now I’m not going to lie to you… these enchiladas are a little time consuming. And they will dirty up a lot of dishes. It is not an easy weeknight meal. But oh goodness, are they ever worth it. I promise. I mean, just look at them! Don’t you want to just dig right in?
On the bright side, this recipe makes a LOT of enchiladas, so in return for all your dirty dishes, you get a good few days worth of leftovers. And trust me, they’re just as amazing reheated as they are the first time around. Peter and I actually have to discuss who gets which leftover containers ahead of time so that there’s no hostility between us when someone takes the last one. We’re completely obsessed with these things.
The secret is making the enchilada sauce by hand. None of that canned garbage in my house! By making it yourself, it becomes so much richer and thicker than the canned stuff, plus you can adjust the seasonings to your liking.
We like food a little on the spicier side in our house (not like tears running down our faces spicy, but it is Mexican food after all. We want a bit of heat!), so I add 3 whole jalapenos, seeds and all, to my sauce. If you like things a bit milder, just use less jalapenos or take the seeds out. But I’ve found that 3 whole jalapenos create the perfect amount of spice for us. Occasionally I’ll sub in a serrano pepper for one of the jalapenos, but it just depends on what I have on hand. I usually buy peppers in bulk when they’re on sale at the grocery store and freeze them after vacuum sealing them. The peppers get a little on the soft side in the freezer, but it doesn’t matter to me since I’m going to cook them anyway.
The other key step to make these enchiladas so perfect is to make sure that you cook the tortillas in oil before you stuff them. It took me quite a few pans of mushy enchiladas before I finally stumbled upon this trick. Because corn tortillas are flakier than wheat tortillas, they don’t hold up as well when covered in sauce, even if you bake them for a bit without the sauce first, like the original recipe suggests. They still become this mushy clump of ingredients when you try to dish them out. By cooking them in oil first, the tortillas are better able to hold their shape and stand up to the sauce. The result is perfect enchiladas that are easy to serve. So even if you want to skip this step to make the recipe a little healthier, try to resist! You’ll be sorry if you do. (As a side note, when calculating the WW Smart Points, I only count about half of the cooking oil since there’s always oil leftover in the pan and a good amount gets blotted off the tortillas with paper towel after cooking).
If you’re hoping to make this recipe on a weeknight and you want to save yourself some time, you can definitely make the chicken and the sauce ahead of time. You could go as far as stuffing the tortillas if you want to. I would just wait to pour the sauce over the top until right before you bake it. No sense in taunting the gods that determine whether or not a pan of enchiladas becomes mushy! I assume the same applies if you want to make this as a freezer meal, although I wouldn’t know for sure because every time I start cooking the sauce, Peter starts hovering over me in the kitchen and sniffing the pot like he’s a dog who’s been starved for too long. If I tried to make these enchiladas and then not give him any, he might divorce me.
Pair this with my Mexican Rice for an amazing dinner.
Servings: 8 (2 enchiladas per serving)
- 2 tsp canola oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 jalapeños, chopped but not seeded
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
- 1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
- 1 1/4 cup (about 4 oz) cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 1/4 cup (about 4 oz) pepper jack cheese, shredded
- 7 additional tbsp canola oil
- 16 small corn tortillas
- Preheat oven to 400. Spray a 9×13 pan and an 11×7 (or another 9×13 pan, if you don’t own an 11×7) pan with cooking spray (very important! Otherwise the tortillas will get hard on the underside). Set aside.
- Over medium heat, heat 2 tsp of canola oil in a large dutch oven pot. Once oil is hot, add onions and jalapeños, sautéing until soft. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar. Stir to combine. Pour in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and water and mix. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Sauce will begin to thicken.
- Nestle chicken breasts into sauce, cover pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and the internal temperature reads 165 on a meat thermometer when inserted into the thickest part of the breast, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside to cool. Once cooled, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces using 2 forks, and transfer to a medium sized bowl.
- Strain the sauce through a large mesh strainer or colander into a different medium sized bowl, pressing down on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids.
- Spoon about 1/2 cup of the sauce into the chicken bowl. Add 1/2 cup of each of the cheeses and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Using a small sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat 2 tbsp of the additional canola oil. One at a time, cook tortillas in oil, flipping halfway through, about 15 seconds on each side. After each tortilla is cooked, place it between 2 sheets of paper towel to blot off excess oil. Add more oil as needed, 2 tbsp at a time, until all tortillas are cooked. Allow oil to heat up again after each time you add more.
- Spoon 1/4-1/3 cup of the chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll tortillas tightly around filling and place in baking dish, seam side down. I usually get 9 enchiladas in the 9×13 and 7 in the 11×7 (or if using 2 9×13 pans, place 8 in each pan).
- Cover enchiladas with remaining sauce and sprinkle remaining shredded cheeses over top. Cover pans with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.
To freeze: Follow recipe through step 7. Cover pan with aluminum foil and freeze. Pour enchilada sauce into a sealable plastic bag and freeze. Thaw enchiladas and sauce in the refrigerator overnight. Continue with Step 8, baking for 30 minutes instead of 25 and using fresh cheese on top of the enchiladas.
Inspired by: Annie’s Eats