Enchiladas with Chicken and an Ancho-Tomato Salsa

Enchiladas, a dish of stuffed and rolled tortillas bathed in a chile sauce, has many permutations. At its most trashy, it contains an overdose of cheap gooey cheeses and is laden with salts and fats. But at its very best, it’s hearty and rustic fare, dead easy to make and is a great dish to feed a posse.

This version uses chile anchos, canned tomatoes, garlic, onion and chicken stock. The filling is chicken, which I had leftover from a roast, but the dish could easily be turned into a vegetarian dish by using braised collard greens or Swiss chard sauteed with a bit of white onion and tossed with queso fresco.

In Oaxaca, sauce from leftover mole is a shoo-in for mole enchiladas, and if you have leftover roasted salsa verde or roja around, you can also use it for enchiladas – for enchiladas verdes or enchiladas rojas respectively.
The steps in making them are the same no matter what kind of salsa you use, so feel free to use this technique as a stepping stone.
My stepping stone here is from the book Mexican by Marilyn Tausend. I’ve tweaked it just a tad by foregoing the frying of the tortillas, preferring instead to heat them to make them pliable, then dipping in the chile sauce.
Enough talk. Let’s start cooking.
Ten beautiful chile anchos are stemmed and seeded, ripped into pieces and soaked in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.

Once hydrated and softened, transfer the chiles to a blender jar along with 15 ounces of whole canned tomatoes, six cloves garlic, half a white onion, coarsely chopped, and a sprinkling of Mexican oregano. Blend until smooth.

Like other Mexican sauces and moles, this mixture needs to be fried and seasoned. Heat a deep saucepan with light olive oil, and pour in the sauce, stirring quickly. You may have to wipe down the walls, ceiling and yourself at this point! No matter.
Add four cups of chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer until you have a velvety sauce. Season.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Add a layer of ancho-tomato sauce to a casserole dish. Make the enchiladas.
Heat the corn tortillas on a cast iron comal or pan until pliable. Dip the tortillas into the chile sauce and transfer to a plate. (Yes, it’s going to get messy. Get used to it).
Crumble the chicken along the side closest to you and roll up. Place seam side down into the casserole dish.

Repeat until the casserole is filled and firmly nestled together. Cover the dish with more chile sauce, place in the oven and heat through.

Serve, garnished with crema – creme fraiche if you parlez-vous francais – thinly sliced white onion and radishes.

If you really need cheese, knock yourself out. Damn good eating either way.

Makes about six cups of sauce, enough for days of enchiladas.
*Update: After feasting on enchiladas, I still had sauce left and added it to a batch of stewed black beans. Heaven!

2 Responses to “Enchiladas with Chicken and an Ancho-Tomato Salsa”

  1. Kristy Lynn says:

    oooooh i was just directed to a pumpkin enchilada recipe – but this may change my mind now ;)

  2. Right after I read your comment, I saw a recipe for pumpkin enchilada in Bon Appetit. It looks great. There are soo many kinds of squash available right now, it would seem a waste not to experiment.

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