It’s tomatillo season! This means we now have every excuse in the world to eat enchiladas on the regular. I love cooking with tomatillos almost as much as I love eating them. There’s something about peeling back their papery husks to find beautiful, bright green fruits underneath - like finding a pearl in an oyster shell almost.
I developed a real appreciation for authentic Southwestern cuisine while traveling in New Mexico. Santa Fe and neighboring Taos are two of the most magical places in the world - just imagine deep purple hills that roll across a crisp cerulean sky. The landscape is breathtaking and the colors are vivid, with orange and turquoise complimenting every structure. There’s a real sense of peace in New Mexico, and I found forgiveness and clarity in abundance.
It’s also the birthplace of my spirit animal, Georgia O’Keefe, a real pioneer and #girlboss. Oh, and there’s cacti. Real life cacti.
Whilst in New Mexico, I was fortunate enough to attend a class on chili peppers at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. I recall vividly how badly my eyes burned after that class and how my tastebuds became pleasantly alive. Truly authentic Southwestern cuisine is simple, allowing the heat and subtle sweetness of the fruits and vegetables to dance around in harmony. Or as Margaret Wood so eloquently wrote in the forward to “A Painter’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keefe”:
“No dish is encumbered with complicated embellishments; there are no intricate layerings of flavors and textures. Rather, the elemental mineralogy of garden vegetables stands solidly next to the warmth of the grains, the occasional blunt meatiness of a steak or the sweet-tart bite of an apple pie. There’s nothing to mess up. Oil is, in fact, just “oil". O’Keefe’s dishes were the kind of simple foods that radiated the natural complexity of the very things we seek today - namely, food in its season, grown and handled with care.”
This recipe for Chicken Enchiladas is inspired by that very philosophy. It’s simple, letting the bright citrusy flavor of the tomatillos and the heat of the peppers do all the work. It doesn’t weigh you down like other enchilada recipes and feels fresh and light. I love making this at the beginning of the week so I can eat the leftovers for lunch all week long!
Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce
- 9 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
- 1/2 medium white onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 jalapeño, seeded or 1 New Mexican green chile, seeded**
- 1/2 cup, or one heaping handful, cilantro leaves
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 8 - 10 corn tortillas**
- 1 rotisserie chicken, skinned and shredded
- 1 cup shredded cheese (Monterey Jack browns nicely, Mexican cheese blends work well also)
- Optional: 1/2 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
- One seeded chili will offer a nice subtle spice, but if you like your food on the spicier side add two chilies or play around with different combinations. You could also use one chile and leave the seeds in for added spice.
- If you don't have a tortilla press, buy the freshest corn tortillas you can find. Look for tortillas that are uncooked in a vacuum sealed package in the Ethnic foods section. If unavailable, I recommend La Tortilla Factory tortillas.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Put the tomatillos, onion, peppers and 3/4 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and let boil until the tomatillos become olive-green in color, about ten minutes.
- Pour all the contents of the saucepan, including the water, into a blender. Add garlic and cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
- Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the tortillas in the oil about 10 seconds per side. You want them to be golden and pliable, not crispy. Transfer to paper towels to soak up excess oil.
- Next, pour 1/3 cup of the tomatillo sauce in a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish.
- Divide the shredded chicken evenly among the tortillas and roll them up. Place seam-side down in rows inside the dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas.
- If you are incorporating the cream or sour cream, drizzle over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with cheese to cover. (You can also drizzle on afterwards as garnish.)
- Bake until the cheese melts and begins to brown, about 30 minutes.
To serve, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and enjoy!