Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas with Homemade Red Chili Sauce

Here is a fantastic Mexican recipe if you are feeling very ambitious to make the real thing.  As you can see by the recipes below, there are many steps to this dish but it is well worth the effort.  It can be broken down into a number of parts so it doesn't all have to be done on the same day.  The sauce can be made a couple days ahead as can the chicken filling.  On the day the dish is to be served all that is entailed is assembly and baking. I am lucky enough to live in a community where there are a multitude of Hispanic markets so finding the two chiles called for was not a problem. We also are very lucky to be able to get fresh tortillas, flour or corn, made right here in town.  I am sure there are mail order places on the Web where Hispanic chiles and spices can easily be found also.
Ancho Chilies
                                               Guajillo Chiles
This recipe makes about 4 cups of amazingly thick and complex red chili sauce. The leftovers can be frozen in one cup increments and used again.  I think it would be fantastic without the enchilida sauce additions as a marinade on baked chicken, served with some Spanish rice and some sort of vegetable. Yum.  I got this recipe from The Oregonian Newspapers' great food magazine called Mix.  Even if you're not in the Portland area, it's a great read for those interested in food and in Portland, Oregon, which is nationally known now as quite the restaurant and food mecca these days.
Basic Red Chili Sauce

If you like your sauce spicier, save some of the chile seeds and add them to the sauce after it's pureed and strained.  I found that this definitely needed more chile seeds as it is very mild if you take all of them out.

2 medium onions, peeled and cut through equator into 1/2-inch rings
1 head (15-20 cloves) garlic, papery outer skins removed, individual cloves left unpeeled
10 ounces dried ancho chiles
5 ounces guajillo chiles
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
 About 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar, plus more to taste
About 1-1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more to taste

Adjust the oven rack so that it is 6 inches below the broiling element and preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange the onion slices (keep them intact in their round slices) and garlic on the foil in a single layer. Broil until the garlic is charred and tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Remove the garlic, flip the onions with tongs and broil the onions on the second side until they are tender and lightly charred, 10 minutes more; set aside. When garlic has cooled, peel it.

Put on rubber gloves and break the stems off the tops of the chiles and shake out the seeds (reserve some to add to the sauce later, if you like heat). Using kitchen scissors cut down the length of each chile and open them up flat. Trim and discard any veins on the inside of the chiles.

Turn an exhaust fan on or open a window and place a heavy cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the chiles in batches and toast them, pressing down on them with a spatula, until they are lightly blistered and tan spots appear, about 30 seconds per side for the guajillo chiles, 40 seconds per side for the ancho chiles. Do not over-toast the chiles or the sauce will be bitter. Place the toasted chiles in a large bowl and add hot tap water to cover. Place a plate on top of the chiles to keep them submerged and let them soak until softened, 30 minutes.

Drain the chiles and blend them in batches in a blender or food processor with the onions, garlic, broth, oregano and cumin; be patient, you may need to stop several times and move the contents around a bit to make sure the sauce becomes evenly smooth. When the last batch of chiles is done, swish out the blender with 1/4 cup of water to get out any of the chile mixture sticking to the bottom and sides of the blender and add it to the sauce. Strain the sauce through a medium-mesh sieve, pressing on the solids, or use a food mill. Discard the solids (skins and seeds).

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Quickly pour the chile sauce into the pot. (Keep a lid handy; the sauce will sputter and spit as it is added to the pot.) Reduce heat to maintain a very gentle simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has lost its raw chile flavor, 30 minutes. Add the brown sugar and salt to taste. Cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
For the Enchiladas:

1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (3 pounds)
3 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes
 2 cups shredded Asadero or jack cheese (divided)
3 green onions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
6 to 8 (10-inch) flour tortillas cut in half

For the Enchilada Sauce:

1 cup Basic Red Chile Sauce
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine the paprika, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Rub the mixture all over the chicken breasts and place them in the prepared pan. Bake until the chicken is cooked through (an instant-read thermometer will register 175 degrees), about 30 minutes. Reserve the baking dish to bake the enchiladas. While the chicken is still warm, chop it and combine it with the cream cheese, 1 cup of the grated Asadero or jack cheese, scallions and cilantro in a medium bowl.

While the chicken is baking, make the sauce. In a small saucepan, combine the chile sauce, tomato sauce, chicken broth and cumin. Bring to simmer over medium heat, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently until ready to use. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish used to cook the chicken. Microwave the tortillas until just pliable, about 30 seconds. Place 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture on one tortilla and roll up tightly. Place the enchilada seam side down in the pan. Repeat with the remaining filling and tortillas. Spoon the remaining chile sauce over the top of the enchiladas, sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, and bake until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbly, 25 minutes.

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