I’m still reeling after last week’s epic gumbo battle so please forgive me if I babble for a bit. For those of you who want to cut to the chase and see today’s recipe, scroll down until you find “Chicken Enchiladas”, in large, friendly letters. But, know that you are missing all of the fun and I pity you.
When I was young, and by young I mean elementary school age, I recall that many home cooked meals featured Hamburger Helper or Cream of Mushroom soup. I don’t know if it was because so many working parents didn’t have time to make dinner or if it was just clever marketing agents influencing those parents, but the fact was that those products found an indelible niche in American cuisine.
Campbell’s puts out about a zillion different kinds of soup but I swear I can only remember three from my childhood. Tomato soup, Cream of Mushroom soup and Chicken Noodle soup. Okay, to be fair, there was Chicken & Stars, but that was really just chicken soup with star shaped pasta, and it was marketed to parents of finicky and/or sick children.
Cream of Mushroom soup took center stage, back in the 1970’s. It found its way in many recipes. The ubiquitous green bean casserole is a testament to the long-lasting power of Cream of Mushroom soup. If you don’t have green bean casserole every Thanksgiving then,…well, you’re just not a real American.
Cream of Mushroom soup, “America’s béchamel”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bashing Cream of Mushroom soup. Cream of *Whatever* soup is instant béchamel in a can, and that’s a marvelous thing.
I remember having homemade chicken enchiladas for the first time. I was 17 years old and having fun, hanging out with a friend. His mother made us chicken enchiladas with Cream of Mushroom soup and canned green chiles. Canned green chiles, back then, didn’t have clever graphics printed on the label, showing a thermometer indicating the “heat” of the chiles. Canned green chiles were just that…canned green chiles. They were hot and spicy, and that’s all you needed to know. I loved those enchiladas. Thank you and bless you, Ginger!
But, when I discovered that I could make my own thickener from scratch, I felt a sudden rush, indeed, I felt a sense of empowerment! I realized that I could thicken sauces or soups and have total control of flavors and textures! A pad or two of butter and a spoonful or two of flour was the key that opened the door to an endless array of sauces.
For this recipe I used homemade green sauce and I made a homemade sauce from a simple roux and chicken stock. If you want to use canned green chiles and cream of mushroom soup, that’s fine with me. Just make sure you do it with love.
3 chicken breasts (mine started out frozen)
2 ½ cups chicken stock
4 or 5 garlic cloves
½ onion, chopped
10 to 12 oz green chile sauce
½ cup sour cream
8 oz Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
10 corn tortillas
¼ cup cooking oil
Boil the chicken in water until the chicken is fork tender. Remove and allow to cool to room temperature.
While the chicken simmers, puree ½ cup chicken stock, green sauce and garlic cloves in a blender.
Add the pureed sauce to a small skillet and simmer on low heat, to mellow the garlic, for 15 minutes.
Add the chopped onions to the skillet and simmer for another 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow it to cool to room temperature.
Add ¼ cup cooking oil to pan and set heat to low. Soften each of the tortillas in the oil for a few seconds and remove to a plate.
Wipe the skillet clean. Start a roux by adding the butter to the pan and set the heat to medium/low. Add the flour and whisk until smooth.
Once the roux is smooth, add the remaining chicken stock. Set heat to medium/high and whisk until the sauce has thickened.
Add the green chile mixture and whisk for a minute.
Pour about one cup of the sauce into a bowl. Leave the remaining sauce in the skillet and turn the heat off.
Lay the cooked chicken on a clean work surface and smash with the broad side of a knife. The chicken will break and fan out, making it easy to shred. Shred the chicken by hand.
Add the chicken to the cheese and mix by hand.
Lay the tortillas on a work surface and add the chicken and cheese. Roll the enchiladas and place in an oven-proof skillet, containing some of the sauce. Once all of the enchiladas are in the skillet, pour the remaining sauce over them.
Bake in a 350° oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
Serve warm with rice or fried potatoes and guacamole salad.