I will never forget the first time I had green enchiladas… in a restaurant in Madrid when I was just out of college. They were a revelation from the red sauce enchiladas I’d only tried up until that time. Eventually I learned that their green color came from salsa verde made from tomatillos. They are from the nightshade family, as are tomatoes, but they are not the same thing as green tomatoes. Tomatillos come from a different plant, are slightly tart, and have a sticky coating and husks on the outside.
I make green enchiladas regularly now, and they are so much better if you take the extra step of making your own salsa verde. Homemade salsa verde is what kicks this dish up a notch and makes it really special. My salsa verde recipe comes from Rick Bayless, and the roasting of the tomatillos makes this a really impressive dish. Yet these enchiladas are not time consuming to make, especially if you take the short cut of making them with a rotisserie chicken. I’ve made them with poached chicken breasts as well, but the flavor is so much better with roasted chicken. For those of us who live in the southeast, Publix makes a great chicken mojo that is wonderful in this dish. I used almost the entire chicken in this dish, after testing out a drumstick to make sure the chicken was delicious. 😉
First, preheat an oven to 400. Take your pound of tomatillos (the ones below were gigantic), half of a large white onion (or all of a regularly sized white onion, quartered) and place them on a sheet of parchment. If you like it spicier, add a jalapeño pepper, seeded, stemmed, and halved. Take several garlic cloves and drop them into a little piece of aluminum foil, spraying with olive oil.
Spray all the vegetables with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes, until they get nice and browned on top. Full directions are below.
- 1 rotisserie chicken, or about 3 cups of shredded chicken.
- 1 lb tomatillos, husks removed
- 1/2 a large white onion, cut in thirds
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- *Jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded (optional)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 package tortillas, corn or flour
- 1 bag Mexican melting cheese, or Monterey Jack
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- Preheat oven to 400. Take tomatillos, white onion, and jalapeños and place on parchment on a baking sheet. Keep garlic cloves in their skin, but wrap them in aluminum foil with a little drizzle of olive oil.
- Roast for 20 minutes, or until brown spots appear. Cool slightly.
- Lower oven to 375 degrees.
- While vegetables are roasting, shred your chicken until you have three cups.
- Place roasted vegetables, including roasted garlic cloves squeezed out of their skin, in food processor or blender and puree.
- In a skillet coated lightly with vegetable oil, cook the tomatillo mixture over medium-high heat until it reduces and begins to stick to the pan.
- Add chicken broth and cilantro, and reduce heat to a low simmer.
- Take out a 13x9 or other large baking dish and coat lightly with oil. Pour about a quarter cup of the salsa mixture on the bottom of the pan.
- Take each tortilla and microwave it 10-15 seconds, then dip it quickly in the salsa mixture on the stove, coating (but not soaking) both sides. Place in baking dish.
- Fill with enough shredded chicken that you can still roll it comfortably, then line up in pan, seam side down.
- Pour remaining salsa over top. Add shredded cheese and sprinkle with chili powder.
- Bake 10-15 minutes, until cheese is golden and bubbly.
- Serve with refried beans, salsa, and guacamole.
And the final product, along with accompaniments, appears below. The word “enchilada” comes from the verb “enchilar,” to add chiles to something, but if you have a seven-year-old who won’t eat it if it’s too spicy, you can skip that step. If I have leftover space in the pan and a few leftover tortillas, I also like to make a few that are just filled with cheese, and those are also really good covered with the salsa verde.
If you’re pressed for time, use whatever shortcuts you like for sides. I sauteed white onion, then added 2 cups of defrosted pinto beans that I’d cooked and thrown in the freezer (you can just use a can as well), with some water and salt, cooking them for a few minutes before pureeing them with an immersion blender. Guacamole: mash up 2 avocados, lime juice and salt to taste, and a handful of cilantro. Salsa: seeded and cored three tomatoes, another handful of cilantro, and a quarter of chopped white onion, pulsed in the food processor. Salt to taste. I also had some white crumbly Mexican cheese that I threw on top to make it all look cool. It tastes a little milder than feta. We can get at least two dinners out of this meal for our family of 4 (since the baby doesn’t really do Mexican yet).