Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chicken Enchiladas Verde

I love the thought of cooking with vegetables fresh from my own backyard. I have a thriving container garden of all kinds of herbs on the patio, but the most I have gleaned from my vegetable patch is six okra pods, two or three jalapenos, a couple of cherry tomatoes and a wizened little green pepper.

I think I'll try again this year and actually do some weeding and water it every once in a while and see if that helps.

When we lived in Tarpon Springs I had a great garden in raised beds and grew a bumper crop of tomatillos. Too bad I didn't know what to do with them at the time. If you have never used them, tomatillos resemble small green tomatoes in a papery husk and look a little like the Chinese Lantern plants our neighbor, Mrs. Berry, grew when I was a little kid. Their taste is slightly tart and citrusy and are used in Mexican cooking for salsas and sauces. Paired with chicken, they make fantastic enchiladas.
When you buy them, the fruits should be firm and bright green and the husks should peel off easily.


Salsa Verde:

12 tomatillos, husked and rinsed (about 2 pounds)

2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed

1 onion, quartered

Splash white vinegar

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
2 limes, juiced


For the chicken:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)

4 cups of water

leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

12 ounces queso fresco, crumbled

1/2 tsp garlic powder

salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sour cream sauce:

2 cups of the reserved poaching liquid
3 Tbs butter

1 chicken bullion cube

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 pint (16 ounces) sour cream

Additional ingredients:

8 large flour Tortillas

1 to 2 cups of jalapeno jack cheese, shredded


To make the salsa:
Put the tomatillos, jalapenos, and onion in a saucepan with the vinegar and water to cover.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and poach until the tomatillos are soft, about 10 minutes.

Drain and then put the vegetables in a food processor, add the cumin, and puree.

Add the cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pulse to combine. Set aside.

For the chicken:

Place chicken breasts in a pot that's just about large enough to fit them in one layer.

Add the water, it should completely cover the chicken by at least a half inch to an inch.

Bring the liquid to a boil, the reduce the heat to a bare simmer so that only an occasional bubble breaks the surface. Partially cover the pot. Cook for about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat, and let the chicken finish cooking in the hot water for 10-15 more minutes.

Remove chicken and let it cool then chop coarsely with a knife (you can use a food processor, but if you over process the chicken, you will end up with chicken paste).
Toss the chicken with the chopped cilantro and the garlic powder. Add salt and pepper, to taste
For the sour cream sauce:

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and ground cumin and cook, stirring, 1 more minute.

Gradually pour in 2 cups of the reserved poaching liquid with the bullion cube added.
Stir constantly until it comes to a a simmer. Continue stirring until the mixture thickens enough to coat your spoon. I use a whisk for this... it makes it easier to keep the sauce smooth. Remove from the heat and let it sit for about five minutes then whisk in the sour cream.
Fold about 1/2 to 1 cup of the sour cream sauce into the chicken mixture to bind the chicken. Reserve the rest for topping the enchiladas.

To assemble the dish:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease a large baking dish. Dip a tortilla into the tomatillo salsa and put it on a large plate or cookie sheet. Put a big scoop of the chicken mixture in the center and roll the tortilla like a cigar to enclose the filling. Continue to fill all of the tortillas and put them in the baking dish.
Pour the remaining tomatillo salsa over the top and then the remaining sour cream sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup of pepper jack cheese, if desired. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes until bubbly and cracked on top.

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