Friday, February 12, 2010

Lighter Chicken Enchildas

If I could eat only one type of food for the rest of my life, it would be Mexican.

Growing up I always preferred Taco Bell to all other fast foods, and to this day it is still the only chain fast food I crave. And on my birthday when we lived in Fort Myers, Florida, my parents never asked me where I wanted to eat; they always knew I wanted Garcia's or Casa Lupita.

In Graduate school, I clearly remember one week in which I ate at Rio Grande in Saberton, WV eight times.

I'm not lying.

My biggest challenge since I started cooking and really caring about the food I eat is making Mexican myself. Back in the day I tried the box stuff, but since my palate and food values have changed, the box kits no longer appeal to me.

After testing countless recipes from the web and cookbooks, I finally found one that tested almost authentic.

Cook's Illustrated Lighter Chicken Enchiladas are my new food addiction. Of course, I didn't use the lighter cheese that the recipe calls for. But they still felt lighter and my scale didn't see any changes.

The best part of this recipe is the homemade enchilada sauce. It's easy, low in sodium, and incredibly tasty.

Hands down, this is the best enchilada recipe I've ever had. And the leftovers were even better!

Serves 6. Published July 15, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.

Make sure that the cooked chicken is finely shredded, or the edges of large pieces will tear through the tortillas. Serve these enchiladas with lime wedges, low-fat sour cream, diced avocado, shredded lettuce, and hot sauce.

1 medium onion , chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sugar

2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 large breasts), trimmed of excess fat

Ground black pepper
8 ounces 50 percent light cheddar cheese , shredded (2 cups)

1 can (4 ounces) pickled jalapeƱos , drained and chopped
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
12 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas

Vegetable cooking spray
1 lime , cut into wedges (for serving)


  1. 1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the onion, oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions have softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water, bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

  2. 2. Nestle the chicken into the sauce. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and the thickest part registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate; set aside to cool. Strain the sauce through a medium-mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing on the onions to extract as much liquid as possible. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. 3. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces. Toss together the shredded chicken, 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce, 1 cup of the cheddar, the jalapeƱos, and cilantro, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. 4. Stack the tortillas on a microwave-safe plate, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high until warm and pliable, 40 to 60 seconds. Spread the warm tortillas out over a clean work surface. Place 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of each tortilla. Tightly roll each tortilla around the filling and lay them seam-side down in a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.

  5. 5. Lightly spray the tops of the enchiladas with vegetable oil spray. Pour 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the enchiladas to coat them thoroughly. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheddar down the center of the enchiladas. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake until the enchiladas are heated through, 20 to 25 minutes.

  6. 6. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese browns, about 5 minutes longer. Serve, passing the remaining 1 cup sauce and the lime wedges separately.

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