Weeknight Green Chicken Enchiladas

28 Nov

Enchiladas used to scare me, too. Having lived amidst lots o’ Mexican people my entire life, I will freely admit that my Mexican food pales in comparison to anything I have gotten from family, friends, and students with Mexican heritage.  But, American-Mexican food still is good, regardless of the sins that take place here across the border, such as adding massive amounts of sour cream and melted cheese.  Just like Italian-American food with its heavy sauces and giant meatballs, the “new world” adaptation of Mexican cuisine is still delectable and indulgent.

Enchiladas would appear to be a lot of work.  They aren’t.  They’re messy, as my colleague Annette warned me, but they’re easy to make and to assemble.

This enchilada recipe actually conforms, somewhat, to a Weight Watchers regimen.  I figure that each enchilada is 3 points on the old system, simply because there is not a lot of filler in each one, so you can have two, be filled, and get away with a 6, or maybe an 8 if you add some beans on the side.

You need to make some Mexican shredded chicken before you do anything. Like most of my recipes, I have gleaned this from a few recipes I have found online and in my books. Here’s my recipe for it:

Mexican Shredded Chicken (for enchiladas, tacos, and burritos)


2 boneless chicken breasts

1/2 a medium onion

3 cloves garlic, sliced

2 tsp. salt


1 tbsp. butter

1/2 a medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. marjoram

1 tsp. black pepper

1/2 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes, with some of the juice, too

1/4 cup chicken broth (use the broth that was made when you boiled the chicken)

1 teaspoon salt

Makin’ It:

Put the first four ingredients in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover it.  Get it to a slow boil, cover it, and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook it like this for 25 minutes or so.  Remove the chicken breasts to a bowl and put them in the fridge to cool.  Save the fresh broth. Discard the rest o’ the stuff with impunity and with a French accent.

Once the chicken is cooled, shred it by hand into itsy bitsy shreds. Set it aside in a bowl.

In that saucepan in which you cooked the chicken, which is now cleaned because you’re on top of it, add the butter and melt it over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute it for about 3 minutes.  Then add the marjoram, pepper, and tomatoes BUT NOT the tomato juice, yet.  Cook this guy for 10 minutes or so.

Then, add the shredded chicken, the diced tomato juice, the chicken broth, and the salt.  Mix it all up until it smiles back at you and you should have this:

This is your enchilada filling, kiddo, and it’s damn good, too. So now you have to assemble these puppies.

Green Chicken Enchiladas

Serves about 6, or 4 hungry people


1 package corn tortillas

1 recipe Mexican Shredded Chicken (above, duh)

2 large cans of green enchilada sauce, opened with a can opener or a Crocodile Dundee knife

1 cup cheddar or a Mexican blend o’ cheeses, shredded

Makin It:

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Get a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and a smaller one too (again, what you have dictates your “creativity” in this department.  At least it does for me.).

Open one of the cans of sauce and put about a 1/2 cup in the bottom of each dish, spreading the sauce out to cover the entire bottom of each.

Heat a griddle or a skillet over medium heat.  Spray some cooking spray or put a smear of oil in it (not much), and start warming the tortillas until they’re pliable and bendable (they should NOT crack when you fold them…and they’ll be hotter than hell, too, so put them on a plate to do this).

In each tortilla, put about 1/8 cup of the chicken mixture and roll it into a enchilada (or cigarette, depending on your angle and past).  Place each one seam side down in the pan.  As you make them, make sure they are right next to each other without room in between:

Assemble as many as you can with the chicken you have.  When you’ve used all of the chicken mixture, top them all with both cans of sauce (it will seem like you’re drowning them, but that’s ok).  Then top them with some cheese.  They will look like this:

(Notice that I have a large dish and a small one.  This is what my recipe comes out to, but if you mess with it, I’m sure you can get it perfectly even to fill identical dishes and appease the OCD tendencies.  I wouldn’t notice this unless I felt the same way myself, right?  But I got over it somehow.)

Put these babies in the oven for about 25 minutes.  If you’re daring, turn on the broiler for the last minute or two to get the cheese browned, but be careful not to burn it.  When it comes out, you get this:

Let it sit a few minutes and then dish it out.  This is filling, tasty and healthy.  Moreover, if there are just two of you, like it is for my wife and me, then you have lunch for a few days.

Or even better, these enchiladas for breakfast with a few fried eggs on them will make you slap your mama for sure.

The Beans

I should have a separate post for this, but this is a side for most of my Mexican-American dishes, so wait I will not.

Canned refried beans are part of my upbringing.  I have tried to make refried beans from scratch and have failed miserably (I am a total joke in the Mexican community of which I am a part in spirit).  But, with a few additions, even the canned variety can awe and tickle the taint of anyone.

See these guys?

These guys remind me of my childhood in Orange County, California.  If you ever went to Huntington Beach down Beach Boulevard and went to the Snack Shack there, or Jack’s nearer to the pier, there was this hot sauce in the dispensers during the 70’s and 80’s for the nachos (really, tortilla chips only, honestly).  This is about as close to it as you will get, I think, so it hits home with me.

The “hot” variety of this is no joke, either.  It packs a punch, so watchale (Spanglish for “watch out”).

So, if you empty a can of refried beans into a sauce pan, add about 1/4 cup o’ Pico Pica, and slam a dollop of sour cream in there, you have some seriously good refried beans for a side or for scooping with chips.  If you like cumin, add a teaspoon in the beans as well and it will smell like sex (I’m not being facetious here, either).

Top it with some cheese and you’re good to go.

Drinks!  Corona, Modelo, Negro Modelo, Dos XX, margaritas…you get the drift.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino, 2012


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