Chicken Enchiladas w/ Creamy Tomatillo Sauce

The TOMATILLO, pronounced, tohm-ah-TEE-yo (no L sound), is often mistaken for a green tomato or referred to as a Mexican green tomato.  They are cousins, coming from the same nightshade family, but the tomatillo has a parchment-like covering which is a clue that it is also related to the CAPE GOOSEBERRY.  The papery husk is removed right before cooking.  They are generally used when green and quite firm.  There flavor is tart and lemony and they are most famous for their use in salsa verde and guacamole but they can be chopped and eaten raw in salads.  Nutritionally high in potassium, they are also a good source of vitamins C and A and folic acid.  When buying, choose firm fruit with dry, tight-fitting husks.  Store in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to a month.  Tomatillos are available in many supermarkets and specialty stores year round but in my area, the midwest, the season runs August through October.  Warning!  They are easy to grow in all states, except Alaska, but they can be very invasive so plant accordingly.

That said, let’s get down to this delicious and crowd pleasing recipe.  I have been making this dish for many years and it is truly loved by all.  The recipe makes a 9×13-inch pan full that easily feeds 6-8 eight depending on the appetites.  They are filling but so delicious you will probably want seconds.  They also make great leftovers heated up the next day. 

Let’s first make the sauce which can be done a day or so ahead if you want.

CREAMY TOMATILLO SAUCE

1 lb. fresh tomatillos, husks and stems removed, rinsed

2-3 Serrano or jalapeno peppers, cored and seeded, or 1 canned chipotle in adobo, seeded and chopped.  Add more if you want more heat or leave the seeds and membrane.

4 slices white onion, peeled, cut  1/4-inch thick

3 cloves garlic, unpeeled

2 T fresh cilantro, chopped

2 T vegetable oil

2 c chicken broth + more if needed for adjusting tartness

3/4 c heavy cream or creme fraiche

3/4 t sea salt, more to taste if needed

  1. Position a rack as close to the broiler as possible and heat the broiler.  Arrange the tomatillos, fresh chiles (if using), onion slices, and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet.  Broil, turning to ensure even cooking, until tomatillos are soft and slightly blackened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Transfer the broiled ingredients to the blender or food processor (make sure you squeeze the garlic from its peel) and add the cilantro.  If using canned chipotle, add it now.  Blend until smooth.
  3. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat,  Add the tomatillo mixture and cook, stirring 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add 2 cups of the broth and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
  5. Taste the sauce.  It should be tart, but it shouldn’t make your mouth pucker.  If too tart, add more broth and simmer more until thickened.
  6. Remove from heat and whisk in the cream or creme fraiche and the salt.  Let cool slightly before making the enchiladas or refrigerate overnight if making ahead.

ENCHILADAS

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs ( or 2 c shredded cooked chicken meat)

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Vegetable oil or spray as needed

12 corn tortillas, 6-inches in diameter

3 1/2 c creamy tomatillo sauce

4 oz. (1 cup) grated mozzarella

1 1/3 oz. (1/3 c) grated provolone cheese

NOTE:  If you can find Mexican cheese, try queso penela and/or queso anejoinstead of the mozzarella and provolone.

  1. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil.  Add the chicken and a bit of salt.  Simmer until cooked and tender, about 20-30 minutes.  Allow to cool and shred.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Arrange the tortillas on a large baking sheet and either spray or brush both sides lightly with cooking oil.  It is OK if they overlap.  Place in oven for 3-5 minutes or until the tortillas have softened.
  3. Adjust oven temp to 400 degrees.
  4. Individually dip each tortilla in the sauce, spoon a heaping tablespoon of the chicken just off-center and roll into a loose cylinder.  Set them side by side in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  Pour the remaining sauce over the top.
  5. Top with the shredded cheeses and bake until bubbling and parts are lightly browned, 15- 20 minutes or possibly slightly more depending on your oven.  Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

If this seems a bit fussy, do what I do and make the sauce and chicken a day or two ahead (or use leftover or rotisserie chicken).  When you want to serve it, all you have left is the assembly.  This way it is easy and less time-consuming.

You will receive high praise for this dish I promise you.  Everyone loves it, adults and children alike.  This makes a wonderful potluck dish as well.  You can either carry it hot or assemble and do the final cooking when you get there.  Either way, you will be the hit of the party.  It’s  guaranteed!

I was just thinking of turkey enchiladas using the Thanksgiving bird.  Great idea for those leftovers and a scrumptious dish for the post holiday get together.  Got any ideas?  Don’t forget to share any questions, thoughts or comments on the blog.  Look forward to hearing from you!

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6 responses to “Chicken Enchiladas w/ Creamy Tomatillo Sauce

  1. As a born-and-bred Midwesterner living in Texas for 38 years, please allow me to correct your written pronunciation of tomatillo. In Spanish/Mexican, double LL’s are pronounced as a ‘y’ – therefore the correct pronunciation is tohm-ah-TEE- yo. Incidentally a dear friend of mine is Jean Raffetto; I believe you may know of her – I received my first email from you at her suggestion – and having a bit of prior experience in the food service industry, please accept my congratulations on your enticing recipes and well-written instructions.

    • Thanks, Donna. I do know that but I was using a pronunciation as stated in “Food Lovers Companion”. I stand corrected. Jean Raffetto, if you are referring to the one in Houston, is my aunt. She was married to my father’s youngest brother. I appreciate her promoting my blog and I appreciate your kind words as well. As a culinary instructor, I try to make the recipes easy to follow and understand. Thank you so much.

  2. This is both the answer to how to make better enchiladas and what to do with the basket of tomatillos that have been crowding my countertop for weeks. You saved me in the nick of time, Jeanne!

  3. Jeanne, I’ve been meaning to contact you ever since my son, Michael, turned me on to your cooking blog. I really do enjoy it. I was sorry to hear that you were having some health problems and wonder if it is like Michael’s CLL. He is doing fine now but several years ago had to go through chemotherapy. It was successful and he has done well, thank God.

    I contacted your son while visiting in Sacramento several years ago and was looking forward to meeting him but it didn’t happen. He seems like such a nice young man (like all the Raffettos I met).

    Perhaps we can meet one of these years as we always vacation in northern Wisconsin.

    My friend, Donna Ward, was very pleased to get an answer to her comment on this recipe and plans to try it. It sounds delicious. Congratulations on your blog and all that you are doing, Jeanne. Love, your aunt Jean

    • Thank you for your kind words, Jean. I am going to write you via email and we can chat about what’s going on with me and when we might get together. So glad you are enjoying the blog. I am having a lot of fun with it and always hope others are too. I look forward to comments from readers and was pleased to hear from you and Donna. Keep them coming. I will write soon. Thanks again. Jeanne

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