I’ll tell you right off the bat: these Skinny Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Verde Sauce are probably not authentically Mexican (neither is most of the Mexican food we eat, anyway) but that they are oh so delicious! In fact, my mouth just watered thinking about them. Enchiladas is hands down the most requested dish by the Mister and the most craved by me. And if you make them as much as I do, then you have to come up with a lighter version pronto, because all that cheese, while delicious, and sodium from canned sauce rack up check marks in the negative column pretty quickly. So I took what can traditionally be a calorific meal and lighted it way the heck up! If you make the sauce in advance, which the recipe is PERFECT for, these skinny chicken enchiladas come together so quickly that you’ll be hailed the family hero for having dinner for dinner in half an hour!
Have I told you how good these enchiladas are yet?! No? Okay, one day, a friend came over for lunch and I whipped up a pan of these babies, thinking there would be plenty left for dinner too. This was early in our marriage, when it was just the two of us, and I still had my sanity. I calculate two enchiladas per serving, which is pretty generous so I was thinking, lunch and dinner that day, leftovers for lunch the next day, you see where I’m going with this. By the end of the meal, I knew I’d have to make something else for dinner because there was only one enchilada left. Yep, my friend inhaled about five servings, in between exclamations of ” OHMYGOD, this is so good!”
Now, let’s talk sauce. I like red sauce but I love, love, LOVE green sauce and usually have the ingredients on hand to whip this sauce up at a moment’s notice. It all starts with roasting the vegetables. I mean fresh tomatillos, juicy red tomatoes, fiery jalapenos, pungent garlic, sweet red onion are roasted in the oven until completely soft and caramelized. They release this amazingly rich liquid from roasting at such high heat. Then they get the royal treatment and go under the broiler until their skin is charred and blistered, which will infuse a smoky flavor into the sauce.
If you don’t like too much heat, remove the seeds from the jalapenos before roasting them. I usually keep the seeds intact and throw in a habanero pepper or two, with the stem removed if I want a really spicy sauce. Did I mention that I eat abnormally spicy food, all the time?
Once the vegetables are cool, transfer them to food processor or blender, throw in some spices, give them a whirl and your sauce is ready. I don’t puree completely, I like the sauce to have some texture and body. It make for beautiful presentation and the flavors from the chunks are like little bursts of freshness in your mouth when eating. And oh boy, does this sauce go oh so well with tortilla chips. I also like to mix it in into the eggs as I’m beating them for scrambled eggs. Or drizzled on top of rice. Or pretty much anything. This sauce will make cardboard taste delicious; it is that magical.
My house is an unapologetically corn tortilla household. Flour tortillas get soggy, have a refined taste to them, and they don’t absorb the verde sauce the way corn tortillas do. I tend to use yellow corn tortillas because they’re visually more appealing to me, and they make for better pictures than the white corn or blue corn tortillas but there isn’t a significant difference in flavor among the three in this dish. The best way to heat tortillas is to dry heat them in a pan, on high heat without any oil, about 15 seconds on each side, until pliable. If you’re lazy like me, you can wrap up a dozen of them in a damp paper towel (usually takes about 3-4 towels still attached to each other), and microwave for a minute, until soft. It may take longer, depending on the heat and efficiency of your microwave. What you don’t want to do is, overheat the tortillas, which will dry them out and make them brittle. Which brings me to my next point: keep the tortillas wrapped up and take one out at a time as you’re filling them; it’ll keep them moist and pliable.
The enchiladas, once stuffed, will fit in a 9X13 pan pretty comfortably. I do a horizontal row of eight, seam side down, then 2 vertical rows of two each, at the edges of the pan, to fit all twelve in. At this point, you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze them, which I tend to do often because I usually make double batches, or you can wait impatiently for 25 minutes while they’re in the oven. Serve the enchiladas with a southwest salad or mexican rice and you’ve got yourself a killer meal!
- For verde sauce:
- 8 tomatillos, husked and washed
- 2 tomatoes, with core removed
- 2 jalapeno peppers, stems and seeds removed
- 1 red onion, quartered
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- juice of ½ lemon
- ½ tsp cumin
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp chili powder (optional)
- for the enchiladas:
- 1 lb ground chicken (breast or thigh meat)
- 12 corn tortillas, heated until pliable
- 2½ cups verde sauce (see recipe below)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend)
- 1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
- cilantro for garnish
- To make sauce:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Place all the vegetables on a baking sheet, on the middle rack, and roast for 30 minutes, or until soft. Move to the closet rack to the broiler and broil for 5 minutes, until the skin is charred but not burnt. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Place the roasted vegetables and liquid released into a blender or food processor. Add salt, chili powder, cumin, and lemon juice and process into a sauce. Add water, 1 tbsp at a time if the sauce is too thick (The consistency should be as thick as marinara sauce). Set Aside.
- *Note: the recipe yields 4-5 cups of verde sauce
- To make the enchiladas:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil on medium heat and add onion. Cook until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add salt and tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the water from the tomatoes evaporates.
- Add garlic powder, cumin and chili powder and incorporate well. Cook for 1 more minute and add chicken. Cook for 5 minutes, until chicken is completely cooked. Remove from heat.
- Stir in ½ cup cheese.
- Coat a 9X13 pan with 1 cup of the verde sauce.
- Fill each tortilla with 2-3 tbsp on the chicken mixture , roll both sides so there is overlap and place seam side down in the pan. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and chicken mixture.
- Top with the remaining sauce, coating the enchiladas evenly. Top with remaining cheese and chopped green onions.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 more minutes, until cheese is melted. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.