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Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Ever heard of Enchiladas being a Christmas tradition? Well, they were my Momma's family tradition and I even remember one time when my Momma thought it would be a good idea to get "real" spices from the bodega... and we all ended up with very sour stomachs as a result. Our southern tummies can handle all the fried chicken and biscuits and gravy in the world, but not authentic, super hot and spicy food! ;) Of course, like anything my Momma would make, she used all real products teeming with fat and calories and everything she made was super delicious. Now, I adapt these recipes using substitutes that are full of flavor yet light and healthy. Feel free to leave the cilantro out... personally I'm not a fan of the spice. ;) Feel free to use salsa verde or my personal favorite is home made red sauce. I LOVE red sauce and load it up on my enchiladas! Also check out my favorite red sauce recipe to top your savory creation for a taste your guests will not soon forget. It's a little labor intensive, but SO worth it!

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned (or I go with breast meat to save on calories and fat)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onion, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup salsa verde or I prefer red sauce
  • 1/4 cup water (I prefer chicken broth here to add extra flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño pepper
  • 9 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side. Place skillet in oven; bake at 425° for 10 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 15 minutes. Remove meat from bones; shred. Discard bones. Place chicken in a medium bowl. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro (or leave out), corn, and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) to chicken; toss to combine.

Return pan to medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup onion; sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 3 garlic cloves; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add onion mixture to chicken mixture; stir to combine.

Combine remaining 1 1/2 cups onion, remaining 3 garlic cloves, broth, salsa, 1/4 cup water, and jalapeño in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Carefully pour mixture into a blender; add 2 tablespoons cilantro (or leave out). Process until smooth.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tortillas; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove tortillas from pan; repeat procedure with remaining tortillas. Cut tortillas into quarters.

Spread 1/2 cup salsa mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 12 tortilla quarters over salsa mixture. Spoon half of chicken mixture over tortillas. Repeat layers, ending with tortillas. Pour remaining salsa mixture over tortillas; sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned. Top with remaining cilantro.

Nutrition Information

Serves: 4 |  Serving Size: 1 3/4 cup

Per serving: Calories: 346; Total Fat: 12g; Saturated Fat: 4g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 22mg; Sodium: 709mg; Carbohydrate: 36g; Dietary Fiber: 5g; Sugar: 7g; Protein: 24g

Nutrition Bonus: Potassium: 249mg; Iron: 5%; Vitamin A: 12%; Vitamin C: 35%; Calcium: 14% 

 

 

Red Enchilada Sauce

This recipe calls for dried ancho chiles and pasilla chiles. Both are mild chiles with a pleasant fruity taste. Ancho chile translates as the “wide chile” and pasilla chile translates and the “raisin chile” due to its wrinkled texture and raisin like fragrance. First you'll find the step by step details that I think will help you create an exceptional red sauce, after that you'll see the recipe. Enjoy! :)

TOAST THE CHILES

Toasting the chiles enhances the flavor of the chiles and make them more pliable and easy to work with. In a hot comal or pan you toast them for about 10 to 15 seconds per side. If you leave them on the heat too long they develop an acrid taste which you want to avoid. It is quite obvious from the smell that you have toasted them too long. Discard any chiles that are over toasted.

Charring the vegetables is another step that helps develop the flavor of your sauce. You want to blacken them. Char them in a dry pan. Don’t oil the pan. Avoid using a non-stick pan for charring. It’s not good for the pan and it’s difficult to get a good char on the veggies.

Remove the stems, seeds and veins from the chiles. Tear the stems off  then using your fingers split the chiles down the side to get to the seeds and veins. Don’t worry if you are unable to remove every last seed from the chiles. A few seeds won’t affect the flavor or texture. Save the seeds. They are edible. You can toast them and use them as a condiment to add heat to a variety of dishes.

RECONSTITUTE THE CHILES

Add the chiles and all of the other ingredients to a pan. You are going to simmer the chiles for 15 minutes to reconstitute them and to soften the vegetables. Add just enough water to the pan until the ingredients are nearly covered.

GETTING A SMOOTH TEXTURE

After blending, strain the sauce to give it a smooth texture and to remove the chile skin which is hard to digest.  Push down firmly on the pulp to extract as much flavor as possible. Discard the pulp that remains in the strainer.

Once you have strained the sauce, you must fry it. I know frying the salsa sounds crazy but this is the step that most helps it develop a rich flavor. Do not skip this step. Add 2 tablespoons of oil or enough to cover the bottom of your pan and get it really hot. Then you slowly pour the sauce into the hot oil. The sauce will begin to sizzle and the oil continues to sizzle as you pour all of the sauce into the pan. Once you have fried it, which takes about 30 seconds, be sure to turn the heat down to low. (NOTE: The oil tends to spatter. Be very careful with this step to avoid getting burned.)

  • 8 ancho chiles
  • 4 pasilla chiles
  • 1 medium onion quartered
  • 2 roma tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ teaspoon Mexican oregano (or regular oregano if your taste buds don't love heavy spice)
  • ½ teaspoon marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil (Canola if you want a light taste that's also healthy)
  • Salt to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Toast the chiles in a hot pan until fragrant. (about 10 to 15 seconds per side)
  2. Allow chiles to cool and then remove stems, seeds and veins.
  3. Char the onion, tomatoes and garlic in a hot pan.
  4. Place the chiles, onion, tomatoes, garlic oregano and marjoram in a pot with just enough water until the ingredients are almost covered.
  5. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low.
  6. Simmer for 15 minutes to reconstitute the chiles and soften the veggies.
  7. Blend the chiles, onion, tomatoes, garlic, oregano marjoram and the soaking water until smooth. It usually takes about a minute.
  8. Add water little by little if necessary to blend. You may have to blend in two batches
  9. Strain the mixture.
  10. Add two tablespoons of cooking oil to a hot pan add the strained sauce to fry it.
  11. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
  12. Add salt to taste.
  13. Allow the sauce to sit for at least 2 hours so that the flavours meld.
  14. Warm the sauce before serving.

 

NOTES 

The sauce is ready when it coats the back of a spoon. If it is a little runny, just simmer until it has reduced the desired consistency. If it is a little too thick, add water a couple of tablespoons at a time until it has reached the desired consistency.

Use any neutral flavor cooking oil to fry.

Serving size is about ½ cup per person.

The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days.

It freezes very well. Try making a double or even triple batch and freezing the extra into portioned 2 cup bags.

 

As always, love much, laugh often, eat delicious, nutritious and filling food and look fabulous while doing it all! ;) Love, Blair

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