The more I cook with tomatillos, the more I love them. Their tangy and grassy flavor pairs perfectly with green chili peppers making them a foundation for salsa verde or green sauce in Mexican cuisine. Like tomatoes, but not related, tomatillos taste great either fresh like in a raw salsa verde, or roasted and cooked. In this recipe, it is the tomatillo sauce that sets these chicken enchiladas apart.
Chicken Enchiladas with Verde Sauce
Simply put, I love this tomatillo sauce which I adapted from Rick Bayless, Roasted Tomatillo Sauce from More Mexican Everyday. As the title of the recipe link says, “It is a recipe to know by heart.” Once you get comfortable making tomatillo sauce you will want to make it repeatedly. Just like Poblano Chili Cream Sauce, it is easily adapted for recipes with eggs, cheese, or any grilled fish and meats.
Chicken enchiladas with a verde sauce is one of my favorite Mexican foods. Red chili sauces may have a more complex flavor, but I love the fresh and bright taste of fresh chilies when I cook with them. Fresh chilies make everything more invigorating and upbeat. I never feel heavy when I eat a meal prepared with a verde sauce, unless, of course, I loaded it up with extra cheese and sour cream. Normally I add avocado to all my Mexican inspired food, but the roasted tomatillo sauce is so satisfying, I do not miss the avocado.
Making chicken enchiladas is a great way to use up left over chicken as well. A rotisserie chicken from the store is also perfect for chicken enchiladas. You only need a shy 3 cups (750 ml) of shredded chicken to fill these enchiladas. Using precooked chicken frees up your time to make the tomatillo sauce and it is worth it. Sure, you could make a verde sauce from jarred salsa verde, but the taste won’t be as bright or have that personal touch of homemade food.
Additionally, you can fill enchiladas with just about anything that goes well with the sauce. You can easily substitute the chicken with shredded pork, cheese, fish, legumes, or other vegetables.
Chicken Enchiladas Variations
I adapted Rick Bayless’s chicken enchiladas recipe by adding more herbs and spices to the sauce. In addition, I mixed together sautéed onions and poblano peppers with the chicken filling. Originally, I set out to make chicken enchiladas with a verde sauce filled with shredded chicken and poblano rajas, but I pared down my original idea to reduce some of the prep work. Also, Rick Bayless recommends garnishing the enchiladas with raw onion slices. I do not enjoy eating raw onions, so I roasted onion slices and garnished the enchiladas with them instead.
For this recipe I recommend charring and peeling the skins off the poblano pepper. Charring the poblano pepper and removing the blistered skin adds a smoky flavor to the pepper and enchiladas. You can roast the poblano pepper when you roast the vegetables for the tomatillo sauce, but unlike the serrano chilies, it should be peeled, and seeds removed before you chop them up for the chicken filling. Peeling off the skin is not necessary, but it is a nice touch. If you are pressed for time, do not roast the poblano pepper, instead chop it up without peeling it, and sauté the pepper and onions together until soft but not browned.
The sauce carries some heat which I enjoy, but I realize not everyone does. If you are making the enchiladas for your family, or for people who do not like spicy food, substitute the Serrano peppers with half of a poblano pepper and roast it along with the tomatillos. You will need to peel off the skin before you purée the roasted vegetables. The sauce will taste bright from the poblano chili pepper, but the heat level will be significantly reduced.
Vegetarian Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
For vegetarian enchiladas, make the filling with 1½ cups (375 ml) of good melting cheese like Monterey Jack cheese or Cheddar cheese. Sauté a whole onion with a whole poblano pepper, cool slightly then mix with the grated cheese. Assemble the enchiladas as directed in the recipe. Black beans, kidney beans or white navy beans are a nice addition with the cheese and vegetables as well. Some cooked fish like tilapia, mahi mahi, or cod will taste great as a filling for enchiladas with the onions and poblano peppers. However, do not add cheese to fish enchiladas, or for the garnish.
Pointers for Success
Mise en Place – Prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking. This will help with the timing for making the sauce and assemble the enchiladas.
- Gather all ingredients and place the spices near your stove
- Slice and chop the onions then organize in three piles as you need them at three different stages. To save some time, roast the onion slices for the garnish along with the onions for the tomatillo sauce. When they are done, make sure you separate half an onion’s worth of the onion slices before you add the remaining sliced onions to the tomatillo sauce.
- Shred the chicken
- Grate the cheese
- Chop the cilantro
- Place the tortillas in a microwave safe plastic bag and set aside until needed.
- Pull out your baking dish or dishes, and set aside.
Assemble the enchiladas when all the ingredients are still hot from the stove. This cuts back on the cooking time and helps keep the enchiladas from falling apart. The longer the tortillas cook in the sauce the soggier they get.
Use the best quality tortillas you can buy. If possible buy tortillas from a tortilleria or Mexican market.
Microwave the tortillas when you are ready to assemble the enchiladas.
Microwave the tortillas in a plastic bag leaving an opening for some of the steam to escape. My tortillas got soggy after being heated in the microwave and sat in a sealed and steamy plastic bag. Rich Bayless recommends microwaving on high for one minute, but I think it was too long. You may need to experiment with the amount of time you need to heat the tortillas up.
Assemble the enchiladas a minute after you heat the tortillas. Any later and the tortillas will get soggy.
Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
Chicken enchiladas have such a bright and invigorating taste when paired with a verde sauce. Roasted tomatillos, serrano peppers, onion and garlic set the stage for the enchilada sauce. The tomatillo sauce is adapted from Rick Bayless, More Mexican Everyday, Roasted Tomatillo Sauce.
There are some specialty ingredients in this recipe. You can find tomatillos at well stocked grocery stores, Asian produce markets, or Mexican markets. The dried spices like epazote and Mexican oregano you can find at Mexican markets or on line. Epazote has a unique flavor that cannot be matched. If you cannot find epazote, add one bay leaf to the sauce then remove it before you assemble the enchiladas.
Bake the enchiladas in one large baking dish or individual dishes large enough to hold 2 enchiladas.
Best eaten right out of the oven.
- 1 lb. tomatillos
- 4-5 garlic cloves peel intact
- 2 serrano chilies or half a poblano pepper for a mild sauce
- 1 white onion sliced across the equator in ½ in thick rings
- ¾ tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 poblano chili pepper charred, peeled, seeds removed and chopped
- 1 white onion divided
- 2 cups (500 ml) Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
- 1 ½ cup (375 ml) chicken stock
- 1 tsp dried Mexican Oregano
- 1 tsp dried crumbled epazote
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- Shy 3 cups shredded chicken
- Handful of cilantro
- 10 corn tortillas
- Cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese grated
- ½ cup (125 ml) Crème fraiche
Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
Turn the boiler up high and place the oven rack at the top position.
Take the poblano pepper in the chicken filling section and slice it in half lengthwise then remove the seeds. Arrange the halves on a rimmed sheet pan then add the peeled tomatillos, serrano chilies, garlic cloves, and slice onions rings for the sauce in an even layer. If you want to save some time arrange the onions slices for the garnish (half an onion) on the baking sheet with the onion for the tomatillo sauce.
Slide the sheet pan under the broiler and roast the vegetables until they get nice and charred. Check after 4 minutes and continue if the vegetables need more charring. Each vegetable will brown at different speeds, so you will have to adjust the timing for each one. Once they get browned turn them over and brown the other side. This can take from 8 -15 minutes. If the onions need more time than the other vegetables, remove the browned vegetables and place the tomatillos in the bowl of a blender or food processor and chilies and garlic cloves on a cutting board. Pour off any juices in the pan into the bowl of a blender or food processor. Set aside and continue to brown the onions if needed. Remove when done.
Place the poblano chili halves in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it steam for 15 minutes.
When the Serrano chilies and garlic are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin from the garlic cloves and place the roasted garlic in the bowl with the tomatillos.
Cut off the stem of the serrano chilies and slice down the middle. Remove some of the seeds and pith if you want to turn down the heat., or leave them be. Add the serrano peppers to the tomatillos and blend, or process, the vegetables until smooth. Makes about 2 cups (500 ml).
Pre heat the oven to 400 °F (200°C / Gas Mark 5) with the oven rack set in the middle position.
Heat a 10-inch (25.5 cm) skillet with 2 TB olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 cups (500 ml) roasted tomatillo purée to the skillet and simmer until it slightly thickens. Add the chicken stock and Mexican oregano, epazote, ground coriander, and Kosher salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Simmer the sauce on low, stirring occasionally until ready to assemble the enchiladas.
Meanwhile, remove the poblano halves from the bowl and peel off the skin. Quickly rinse under cold water to remove stubborn skin. Chop the poblano into ½ inch pieces.
If you have not done so already, slice the onion in half across the equator, slice one half into rings and set aside. Chop the remaining half in ½ inch pieces.
In another skillet heat up 2 TB of vegetable oil and add the chopped onion and poblano pepper. Cook until the onions are soft. Add the shredded chicken and ½ cup chicken stock. Stir to mix. Cook until the liquid evaporates and the chicken is warm. Add about 2 TB of chopped cilantro and stir to mix.
Heat up the tortillas. Place the tortillas in a zip lock bag and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Make sue the bag is not closed all the way. Remove the tortillas from the microwave and let the tortillas rest in the plastic bag for a minute.
Assemble the enchiladas.
Set aside a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) baking pan. Place a tortilla on a work surface and add 2 spoonfuls of the chicken mixture across the center of the tortilla. Roll up the tortilla to cover the chicken filling. Place the rolled-up tortilla in the baking dish. Continue to fill and roll up the tortillas. You should have enough chicken filling for 10 enchiladas. It will be a tight fit in the baking dish. If you have a small baking dish, perfect for two enchiladas, add the last two enchiladas to a separate dish, otherwise fit the last two enchiladas to one side of the row of enchiladas.
Completely cover the enchiladas with the tomatillo sauce and sprinkle grated cheese down the middle of the enchiladas.
Place in the oven and cook until heated through and the cheese is melted, about 5-8 minutes.
If you haven’t roasted the onions for garnish already, heat up a skillet until almost smoking. Add the onion slices, intact, to the skillet and dry roast the onions until browned. After a couple of minutes check to see if the onions have browned, then turn over to brown the other side. When done, remove from the skillet.
Serve immediately with crème fraiche and garnish with the browned onions and cilantro.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
I love it when everything just falls into place without extra planning or trips to the store. When a spontaneous idea and a refrigerator packed with leftover food from the holidays fit together perfectly like pieces in a puzzle. Today, as I stared into the obis of my stuffed refrigerator an idea for tonight’s dinner just fell into place. As my eyes traveled from the stacks of containers filled with rice to the other remains of our holiday meal it dawned on me, I could make fried rice. I have plenty of rice and salmon, now all I need is cabbage.
Searching through the maze of leftovers was like looking for a misplaced set of keys. “I know it’s in here somewhere”. That one missing thing which is usually right in front of your nose but, you can’t find it anywhere. Fortunately, without emptying my whole refrigerator I found what I was looking for staring right back at me, was a container full of roasted Brussels sprouts. Ah ha, Brussels sprouts are members of the cabbage family, right? Yes. Whoop whoop, no need to run to the store, I’ve got everything I need all in one place. A dinner of fried rice solves four problems at the same time: use up some of the rice, use up some of the Christmas Eve dinner leftovers, clear out space in my refrigerator, and make tonight’s dinner. Fried rice made with poached salmon and roasted Brussels sprouts for the win.
This recipe is lightly based on an old recipe in Silver Palette New Basics Cookbook, Fried Rice with Shrimp. I used it as a foundation along with one in Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee. My recipe builds on the concept of making a substantial meal from ingredients that by themselves are too small. One 8-ounce piece of salmon isn’t big enough to feed a family. However, when you combine it with ingredients like rice and vegetables, it makes a full meal with plenty to go around. My family loves fried rice and always orders it when we eat out for Chinese food. Why not make it at home and use up some of the leftovers? It is too good to save for takeout.
I made fried rice with salmon because that is what I have, but if you have tons of turkey, ham, pork, chicken, or goose from Christmas dinner you can’t go wrong mixing any of those foods with fried rice. You can also switch up the vegetables. Instead of cabbage or Brussels sprouts use, broccoli, asparagus, peas, sugar snap peas, kale, green beans, or Swiss chard. You can make it with prepared food, or entirely from scratch. Heat up, or cook each ingredient separately in a wok or skillet, then toss everything together with a soy sauce and sherry seasoning.
A nice garnish with the salmon fried rice is removing the skin off the salmon and frying it. You get very crispy salmon skin pieces to mix in with the soft rice. It is a nice contrast and tastes great. I cut the skin into strips then fried it in peanut oil. You could fry the skin whole then break it into smaller pieces if you wish. Just cook it till it is dark brown and very crispy then sprinkle some salt over the crackly skin when you are done.
Fried Rice with Salmon and Brussels Sprouts
- 5 TB peanut oil or canola oil divided
- 2- inch piece of fresh ginger root peeled and minced
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 1/3 lb 8 large shrimp, cut into thirds (optional)
- Kosher Salt to taste
- 8 oz 201 g cooked salmon
- 1 onion thinly sliced into half-moon pieces
- 7 oz 201 g cooked Brussels sprouts, slivered (or 1/2 half a head of Napa cabbage, thinly sliced)
- 1-2 medium carrots 2.25 oz / 61 g julienne
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 3 cups 14.5 oz / 412 g cooked rice
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sherry or vermouth
- 1/2 tsp hot sauce
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 TB sherry vinegar
- Garnish with fried salmon skin or chopped peanuts, sliced scallions, or sesame seeds
Heat 2 TB peanut oil or canola oil in a large skillet, set at medium high. Add the half of the minced ginger and minced garlic and sauté until soft, but not brown. Add the prepared shrimp and cook until just done. The shrimp will no longer be translucent, and are tender when pierced with a fork, about 5 minutes. Remove the shrimp to a plate and reserve. Add the salmon and sear on the top and bottom sides of the salmon of a couple of minutes. Remove the salmon and reserve.
Add 2 TB of peanut oil or canola oil to the pan and heat. When warm add sliced onion and cook until soften, but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and ginger and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add carrots and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the cooked Brussels sprouts (or fresh Napa cabbage) and cook until warmed through. If you are cooking fresh vegetables cook until soft but retains some of the bright green color, about 10 minutes. Season the vegetables with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
If using peas add them to the vegetables and cook until heated through. Remove the vegetables from the pan and keep warm.
Combine the soy sauce, vermouth or sherry, and hot sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
Wipe out the pan and add the last tablespoon of oil and heat up. Add the rice and cook until warmed through.
Break apart the salmon to large flaky pieces and add to the rice. Add the vegetables, shrimp and soy/sherry or vermouth mixture and toss to coat. Cook until the rice mixture is hot.
Make a well in the center of the rice and pour the eggs into the well. Cook undisturbed for about one minute then stir the eggs with a fork to encourage the eggs to make small curds. Mix the eggs with rice and vegetables until cooked through.
Turn off the heat and add the sherry vinegar. Stir.
Garnish with your favorite garnishes, like sliced scallions, parsley, basil, chopped salted peanuts or pistachios, salmon skin cracklings, or sesame seeds.
To make the fried salmon skin, add 2-3 tablespoons of oil to a skillet or wok and heat on medium high. Add the skin to the hot skillet and cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes. Stir to cook the skin on all sides and not burn. When crisp and brown, remove the skin using a slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Sprinkle with a small pinch of Kosher salt.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
I am feeling overwhelmed with all the leftover food from Thanksgiving. Add that on top of all the food I made testing recipes for the blog, my refrigerator is stuffed to capacity. I will feel counterproductive if the food goes to waste. Ultimately, it is a difficult task for two people to be solely responsible for consuming these large quantities of leftovers. I am humble enough to realize the big picture, too much food is not really a problem. Yet, I can feel the spiritual “Waste not, Want not” glare from my parents singeing me. Plus, my freezer is full.
One benefit of having too much food is I do not have to go out to the grocery store and shop. As long I have a surplus of pantry staples, I can make whatever I desire. Today is a soup kind of day and I am hoping making an impromptu soup for myself and Joe will help me eat up some of this food.
There is no need to follow a recipe for an impromptu soup. Just follow your instinct, desire, and what is in your refrigerator. It is easy to make soup without a recipe. Simply, keep in mind these three layers: the base, the body, and the enhancements. The base is your stock. The body is the ingredients, “fixings,” you want to put in the soup such as meats, vegetables, and grains. The enhancements are the herbs and spices. They give your soup that je ne sais quoi, add depth, and additional flavor to your impromptu pantry soup.
I decided to make turkey soup for lunch using up my homemade turkey stock, cooked turkey, celery, mushrooms, ginger and basil. All ingredients were available and needed to be used up. I added some lemon zest, crushed ginger root and fresh basil leaves to liven up the flavor of the turkey stock. It is not a necessary step, but it did add a zippy layer of flavor to contrast the rich turkey stock.
How to make soup without a recipe:
Start with your base, the stock. Homemade stock is best, but if store-bought stock is all you have then go for it. I always say to use what you got. Making soup is an easy way to use up the container of store-bought stock. Vegetable, chicken or turkey stock is a great base with most soups. If you are using store-bought stock, taste it before you season with salt. Use as much stock as you need to feed yourself and or your companion(s), about 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of stock per person. This will depend on what type of soup you are making and how hungry you are.
I wanted to make enough soup for myself and my husband, with no leftovers, and used 3 cups of stock.
Enhance the stock to the flavors you desire. This is the optional phase of impromptu cooking and depends on your time, what’s available, and your mood. If you have fresh herbs or spices and you want the flavor to be layered within the stock, add a sprig of a herb or two and let it steep in the stock.
I added some lemon zest, crushed ginger root and a sprig of basil. I steeped the herbs for 30 minutes, then strained out the herbs with a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth.
Optional ingredients: garlic, fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, dill, cilantro, parsley, lemongrass, ginger, chili paste, white wine, coconut milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, lime zest, lime juice, sherry just to name a few.
Tip: While you are heating up the stock, be careful to prevent the soup from boiling. Boiling will make the stock cloudy.
Add the body, the “fixings”. The fixings can be vegetables or proteins, like cooked chicken, pork or shrimp, or a combination of the two. If cooked rice, potatoes and pasta are available they can be great additions as well. This is a pantry soup so add whatever you want to use up in your fridge or freezer, and believe will taste well together. The amount of each ingredient is up to you. Yet, keep in mind there should be more broth then the fixings, because it is soup not stew.
If you have fresh vegetables cook them first by sautéing them, such as onions, celery, carrots or mushrooms. Or blanch vegetables like green beans, sugar snap peas, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, escarole. Frozen vegetables do not need to be defrosted before adding them to your soup stock.
I had some mushrooms, celery, scallions and cooked turkey to use up and added them all. First, I sautéed the celery until softened then added the mushrooms and minced ginger. Once they were all cooked, I added the turkey to heat through. Then I added the cooked ingredients to the soup stock and garnished with scallions and basil.
Assemble and heat through. Put all the prepared and cooked fixings in the stock and heat up. Now you have a simple and delicious soup for lunch or dinner. It is a savvy soup using food from your refrigerator and pantry, and done in 30 minutes or less. A simple process that will get your culinary creative juices flowing and your taste-buds happy.
© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.