Helllloooooo from Dallas! In honor of all the Tex-Mex I’m eating this week, today’s post includes one of the most seasoned classics from Tessa’s cooking archives—creamy chicken enchiladas. Things are getting changed up a bit this week, so instead of writing a basically useless post on Monday about all the things I won’t be cooking whilst in a hotel guest room, I’ll be back next week with a recap of what goodies I found to eat in Dallas (BBQ! Enchiladas! Margs! Vegetarian-friendly anything???) and another menu that’s forgiving when you’re coming home from a week of pseudo-vacation. I’m still not sure if that’s what this is, as there is work being done by both Steve and me, but also a lot of birthday celebrating, sun, and potential (ha) consumption of alcoholic beverages. I hope to clear things up in the coming days.
Now for the fun part—creamy chicken enchiladas, in case you forgot. Mexican seasonings of cumin and oregano flavor a creamy, tangy base for the chicken, scallion, and corn filling. After mixing up the filling I usually eat half as cold chip dip, and what’s left gets wrapped up nice and cozy inside small tortillas (corn or flour, your choice). Nestle those rolls in a chunky mix of enchilada sauce and salsa and top with shredded cheese that gets bubbly and melty after baking it in the oven. Heaven in a tortilla.
I started making this dish right around the time I graduated college and was experimenting more in the kitchen with new recipes. Mostly because I had a kitchen to experiment in—my parents’! Maybe that’s why they let me stick around two and a half years post-graduation—a real kitchen in which to develop my future chef skills that now serve them pretty well any time we visit each other. I found the recipe on Food Network’s website (for some reason it has since been removed) and it became an instant hit with my family. As in, the pan was licked clean or there was a leftover war when these things came around. They’re really different from your traditional enchiladas. Because of the nice creamy, flavorful filling, you don’t spend all day slow cooking the perfect pulled chicken, pork, or beef standalone filling. More like 30 minutes (tops) shredding a rotisseries chicken or draining black beans, stirring up the filling ingredients, and rolling them into little cylinders of goodness.
What if, like me (now), you try not to eat a lot of chicken or meat? I tested the filling with black beans substituted for chicken before I ever consciously avoided chicken (I just love beans, too!) and it was perfect. I’ve even replaced the corn with raw summer squash diced corn-sized, which just happened to be a hit as well and it keeps the bright yellow color thing going. In fact, the cream-based “sauce” protects the tortillas from becoming spongy in the presence of high water content vegetables, so there are endless filling variations. Just substitute by volume—3 cups total protein and/or veggies, in bite sized chunks.
As a warning, it’s in your best interest to make a double batch of these. Some of the ingredients generate less waste in the quantities needed for a double recipe (e.g., one rotisserie chicken almost always yields four cups shredded chicken) and they reheat deliciously in foil wrapped individual servings of 2 or 3 enchiladas. I always bake both batches when I prepare the dish, cool and portion them to freeze, then thaw and reheat unwrapped in the microwave or right in the foil in a low oven. I haven’t yet encountered a significant other who didn’t empty the freezer of these when left alone with them for a week, tested by both my middle sister and me. I can provide Steve’s contact information upon request for testimonials.
I love to serve these with rice, beans, and a whole slew of toppings—hello easy football food! To really feed a crowd, add chips and salsa to the spread, then pile on fresh cilantro, freshly squeezed lime wedges, crispy pickled red onions (recipe in my free eBook), more scallions, guacamole or straight up avocado, salsa, sour cream, and anything else you can think of.
- 1 C red enchilada sauce (such as Hatch brand, which is GF)
- 1 C jarred (or similar consistency) salsa
- 4 oz. cream cheese, softened (use the rest for a batch of jalapeno poppers!)
- ¼ C sour cream
- 2 C grated cheddar or Monterey jack cheese (8 oz.)
- 1 C frozen corn kernels, thawed
- ½ t cumin
- ¼ t dried oregano
- ¼ t cayenne
- 4 scallions (half a bunch), white and light green parts thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- White or ground black pepper
- 2 C shredded cooked chicken
- 12 small tortillas
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix the enchilada sauce and salsa together and set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the cream cheese and sour cream with a fork. Add ½ cup of the salsa mixture, followed by 1 cup of grated cheese. Stir in the corn, spices, half the scallions, ½ t salt, and ¼ t pepper (or more seasoning if you like). Finally, stir in the chicken to coat.
- Coat the bottom of a casserole dish (around 9 x 13") with ½ cup of the salsa mixture. Shake and tilt the pan to help distribute evenly.
- Set up a plate of the tortillas (see notes), a plate or cutting board to work on, the bowl of filling, and the baking dish. Scoop exactly ⅓ cup of filling into each tortilla, using your fingers to hold it in place as you roll the enchilada and place them snugly in the pan, seam side down. Pour the last cup of sauce over the rolled enchiladas, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and enchiladas are bubbly.
I’ve been on a huge homemade ingredient kick lately, so I kind of felt guilty not making my own tortillas (food lover problems) and enchilada sauce. You’re welcome to use homemade components as the spirit moves you, but I wanted to assure you that this is a rock star dish without doing so. No single ingredient is the star, so even your biggest foodie critics will have no idea you used a can of enchilada sauce. This time around, I used Hatch gluten-free mild red enchilada sauce and Whole Foods brand organic corn tortillas, and everything turned out perfect!
On veggie substitutes: If you use any potatoes or other root vegetables or winter squash, you should pre-cook them using a method of your choice. 25 minutes at 325 may not be sufficient to cook the pieces through, depending on the size of your dice. Soft vegetables such as summer squash, bell peppers, and onions should not require pre-cooking.
Nutrition info is for two enchiladas made with full-fat sour cream, cream cheese, and cheese.