On most weeknights, I am left to make the executive decision as to what we warm our bellies with. Since I was craving chicken enchiladas – that’s what we were having, especially since I had some tortillas at home waiting to be consumed.
I was visualizing something comforting and soothing to the soul – with lots of sauce and cheese melted all over the top. Darting between a red vs. a green sauce, I opted for a white sauce with some green mixed in. That was easy enough.
This particular recipe was different from others that I’ve had or come across. It was a take on the bechamel sauce – how can you go wrong with one of the “mother sauces” of French cuisine? What I didn’t want was a dish that left us feeling heavy, the recipe sounded perfect. I lightened the recipe a tad more and my expectations were met. I did decide on butter to give the dish a hint of richness…
(Adapted from Rick Bayless’ Enchiladas Especiales Tacuba Style)
1 bone-in chicken breast (1 – 1.25 lb.), steamed and shredded
1 fresh Pasilla chile, roasted
1 fresh Anaheim chile, roasted
1 cup (lightly packed) spinach leaves
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup flour
8 corn tortillas
1 cup Mexican melting cheese (Chihuahua, quesadilla, asadero or the like) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
1 avocado, sliced
Cilantro for garnish
Roast the chiles directly over a gas flame or on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning regularly, until the skins have blistered and blackened on all side, about 5 minutes for an open flame, about 10 minutes under the broiler.
Place in a bowl, cover with a wrap. Let rest until cool enough to handle. Remove blackened skin, cut open and pull out the seed pod and stem. Put chiles and spinach leaves into blender and blend until smooth.
In a small saucepan, combine the milk and broth, set over medium-low heat to warm.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter (or heat the oil) over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute to release its aroma, then add the flour and stir the mixture for a minute. I reduced heat to low, and continued to stir and cook flour mixture until browned to give more flavor to flour mixture, about 5 minutes. Then raise the heat to medium-high. Pour in half the warm broth mixture and whisk until smooth, then pour in rest of the liquid, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Pour the blended chiles and spinach into the hot sauce, and stir. Season to taste with salt, about 2 teaspoons.
Bring water to a boil in a steamer. Put chicken onto a plate and lightly salt and place in steamer. Steam for 25 minutes on a low simmer until lightly pink. Remove from heat. I usually transfer chicken to a clean plate to prevent further cooking. Once cool enough to handle, shred chicken about 1/3 inch thick and discard skin and rib bones. Set aside.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour about 1/4 cup of the sauce into the bottom of each of three to four 9-inch individual ovenproof baking/serving dishes or pour about 1 cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish. Stir 1 cup of the sauce into the chicken.
Bake tortillas just to warm through and soften, about 2-3 minutes in oven. Stack the tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm.
Working quickly so that the tortillas stay hot and pliable, roll a portion of the chicken up in each tortilla, then line them all up in the baking dish(es). Set the edge side down on baking dish to prevent them from unraveling. Evenly pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle with the cheese.
Bake until the enchiladas are hot through and cheese is bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. Garnish with the cilantro and avocado.