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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chicken-Filled Enchiladas with Tangy Tomatillo Sauce - Gutsy Cooks

The Gutsy Cooks (or The Gutsies, as we sometimes refer to ourselves) have been on summer vacation, but now that the leaves are falling, it's time to come back in the kitchen with a new theme and revitalized participants.
Instead of cooking from one book, Monica picks a theme and some recipes to fit the theme. We choose from the recipes and stay with, or stray from, the basic recipe, as we choose.
Because I happened to have a bag full of tomatillos, it was an easy choice to pick the enchiladas with tomatillo sauce. It's a Rick Bayless recipe courtesy of

You would probably not be surprised to learn that authentic Mexican cooking has always been in short supply in Scandinavian-German Minnesota, or in the little German farm town of Indiana where I grew up. It's changing now, but I still don't have the kind of instinct for Mexican ingredients and techniques that I've developed for European cuisines. But things like tomatillos, chiles, and cilantro are widely available in farmers markets and groceries. I have never before just boiled tomatillos and jalapenos, as I did for the base of this sauce.

Those vegetables, plus onions, garlic, and cilantro go into the food processor. Then the resulting sauce is sizzled in oil (I don't recall ever sauteeing a sauce before either). I had some lard in the freezer, which would have been more authentic than the canola oil I used for the sizzle, but I forgot about it. Probably because I don't usually have lard on hand, but I got some to make Pan Cubano.

Add a few cups of chicken broth, and let the sauce simmer down for about 20 minutes. In the meanwhile, you can poach a few chicken breasts, and shred them after they've cooled.

Nothing in this recipe is difficult, but it does end up taking nearly every pan I owned. And I thought Rose's cake recipes were dishwashing-intense!

Bring out still another pan to mix the shredded chicken, a little chopped onion, and sour cream. That gets heated, and just stays warm until you're ready for it.

I usually soften tortillas in the microwave, but I decided to follow directions this time. I would go back to the microwave method next time, as the frying method was time-consuming, messy, and greasy. They also broke apart more easily than I was expecting. Maybe if I had a refined Mexican palate, I would be appalled by the idea of the microwave method, but I don't, and I'm not.

The sauce was ready by the time I'd finished rolling up the enchiladas (this recipe keeps you busy for about an hour in total, with no time to relax until you get the enchiladas in the oven).

I completely lost authenticity at the cheese-adding part. First, and most basic, I didn't have any queso anejo, and the suggested feta or parmesan substitutes just didn't sound right. I made do with jack cheese, although I knew it wouldn't have the proper pungency or saltiness. I intended to grate some Parmesan on top of the jack, but I just plain forgot.

The Minn-Mex enchiladas I've made before have had more sauce and more cheese, and are baked, lasagne-style, until they're brown and bubbly on top. This recipe calls for adding the cheese after the enchiladas are out of the oven. I compromised by baking the cheese just long enough for it to melt.

Then I garnished with the suggested onion rings and radish slices (nice touch!), and we ate.


Jim: "I'll give it a 7. I like it, but I'm not blown away by it. The tortillas seem kind of mushy, and the sauce could use more zing. But it's good."
Me: "Better than a 7--I'd say an 8--but not great enough to justify all the mess in the kitchen. I like the tangy tomatillo sauce, but you're right, it could use more heat. But I like it well enough to be glad for all the leftovers I'm going to have this week."


  1. Welcome back Marie (and Jim!).. its soo funny, I readying everyone post and blow away that all of us (so far) went with the enchiladas... (I did too), I guess we all want to save our gutsyness for the tamales?

    And if you decide to make this one again... one word for the zing - jalapeno or serrano will do the trick.

  2. Monica,
    I did put a couple of jalapenos in the sauce, but it could have used one more.
    I had leftovers for dinner tonight--the enchiladas were significantly better the next day. I'd give them a 9.5 today, and can't wait to have them again for lunch again tomorrow.