Enchiladas: Familiar Food, Friendship, and Fun in our Mexican Kitchen

Here’s a dish we are excited to share with you, our special Bienvenidos a México: enchiladas!

Having grown up just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Mexican border in southern California, these are the flavors of home for me; this is the food I remember from my childhood. So it’s incredibly exciting to be living in Mexico now and sharing these treasures with Our Little Sous.

But there can be complications with attempting to recapture the delicious memories of one’s youth–especially when those memories are pulled from decades in the past. Don’t get me wrong. I love Mexican cuisine, and we’ve been making a variety of Mexican dishes for years. Here’s Our Little Sous blending up a salsa during preparations for our annual Mexican Fiesta, a dinner party event we held at our school in Japan.

Parents and their children would come and learn how to cook different foods, lending a hand to create the meal we would share that night. We also listened and danced to mariachi music while making our piñata, a papier-mâché decoration filled with candy, for the traditional party game at the end of the evening.

But I always want to continue learning, not only to add to our culinary repertoire, but also to practice my rusty Spanish and uncover the different reasons behind the way others prepare elements of favorite dishes. Enter our delightfully helpful and generous neighbor, Ruby. She works with her family to run a little restaurant in front of her house on the weekends, making and selling classic dishes that our family has been enjoying since we first arrived. After gushing over the meals they’ve prepared for us and explaining a bit about our love of cooking, she unselfishly volunteered to show us how she likes to make this favorite for her children on a weeknight. More than that, upon hearing that we had friends and family in other countries who would also like to learn how to make her delicious dishes, she encouraged me to share her methods with all of you. With Ruby’s guidance, I’m no longer afraid that my sketchy memory will lead you astray. ¡Mil gracias, Ruby!

These first enchiladas that we made are filled with chicken. Rest assured, you can fill them with whatever you like. We also used combinations of chopped vegetables and condiments to top our enchiladas. Again, feel free to use whatever you have on hand, whatever you want to eat. Like everything you’ll find on this site, our recipes are infinitely adaptable to your personal tastes and preferences.

We began by poaching bone-in chicken breasts with a bit of salt and a big slice of red onion. All that means is that we combined the chicken, salt, and onion in a big pot filled with water, brought it up to a boil (big bubbles), and then turned down the heat to cook the chicken at a simmer (small bubbles) until the chicken felt soft enough to shred off the bone with a fork. Set aside the cooking liquid from that chicken for later use. [It also freezes well to make soups and sauces another time!]

Next, we made two different sauces for the dish: chilacate and salsa suave.

For the chilacate, we first needed to seed the chiles.

Next, we threw the seeded chiles and whole tomatoes into a pot of water on the stove, and brought it all to a boil.

Covered and simmered until softened, we then removed all the chiles and two of the tomatoes, and transferred them to the blender. Add a whole garlic clove (unpeeled), seasonings, and chicken broth from your poaching pot, then blend until smooth.

Strain half the chilacate into a large bowl (this will remove the garlic paper and any large pieces of the seasonings), and set this sauce aside to cool. We will use this later to help soften our corn tortillas before assembling the enchiladas.

Strain the other half into a small saucepan on the stove, and simmer to reduce and thicken. We will use this sauce to coat our chicken for the picadillo, the filling for our dish.

For the salsa suave, add the remaining boiled tomatoes to the rinsed blender with oregano, chicken broth, blend, and salt to taste (this just means add salt little by little until you like the way it tastes).

Finally, it was time to prepare the tortillas! For enchiladas, we will use corn tortillas. Afterward, I’ll show you a variation Ruby called burritos that uses flour tortillas. [Note: these are not the burritos I grew up with. It is for exactly this reason that I love learning from others’ cooking experience!]

We dip the corn tortillas into the chilacate, then fry in a little neutrally-flavored oil in a small skillet on the stove top until softened.

Roll the chicken picadillo into the softened corn tortilla and place on your plate, seam side down so the filling doesn’t all fall out, for serving. Here’s where you get to add the sauces and condiments of your choosing. Below are enchiladas topped with crema, salsa suave, salsa mexicana, and guacamole.

Here’s where we break out the flour tortillas for our burrito variation. We used both white flour and whole grain flour tortillas. I imagine these would also be great with the colorful tortillas that are flavored with spinach, roasted red pepper, etc. Warm your tortillas on a flat top griddle or in a large cast-iron skillet. No fats or oils are necessary for this step.

Place a small amount of the chicken picadillo at one end of the warming tortilla and roll it up carefully (preferably without burning your fingers). Spatulas are a good tool for this!

After crisping the rolled burrito on the griddle, place onto a plate for serving.

Slather with crema.
Sprinkle with shredded lettuce.
Drizzle with salsa suave.
Cover with salsa mexicana.
Finish with a crumble of cotija cheese, if you like (we like!).

Now it’s your turn to bring these classic Mexican flavors into your home! Which dish do you prefer: enchiladas, made with corn tortillas, or burritos, made with flour tortillas? Share with us in the comments, along with any variations in ingredients you used.

 

 

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