When it comes to my favorite Mexican comfort food, chicken enchiladas have to be at or near the top of the list. Anything with layers of meat, vegetables, cheese and tortillas that's baked in the oven until it's all warm and a bit gooey can't be a bad thing. In some ways, it's a lot like lasagna (which hadn't dawned on me until a coworker saw me reheating some of these as leftovers and asked if that's what it was).
|Homemade corn tortillas add a special touch (and they're really easy, seriously).|
|Spicy tomato sauce made with San Marzano crushed tomatoes.|
|Roast the corn until the kernels are fragrant and some are browned.|
|The corn and chicken enchilada filling is a bit moist from the béchamel, but not excessively so.|
For this version, I wanted a satisfying filling that was neither dry nor overly rich. I knew I wanted roasted corn and chicken, but what else? Some recipes don't include any kind of binding to make the filling saucy, but I wanted my enchilada filling to be a bit moist. Other recipes include sour cream, but I didn't want them to be that rich. Seeking a happy medium, I used a little bit of a light béchamel, which achieved just right balance of thickening the filling without making it excessively creamy.
|Assemble the enchiladas by first laying down some sauce, then adding the stuffed, rolled tortillas in rows. Finish with more sauce, cheese and herbs.|
I was quite pleased with how this turned out. They're a little spicy but not overly so. If you want them spicier, just use more chipotles in adobe, which impart a wonderful spicy-smoky flavor. If you can't find San Marzano crushed tomatoes, you could use any type of tomato puree.
Roasted Corn and Chicken Enchiladas
4 ears of sweet corn
Olive oil spray
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. chicken breast cutlets
Seasoned salt, to taste
5 tsp. ground cumin seed
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. fine garlic powder
1 sweet onion, diced
2 canned chipotle chili peppers in adobe sauce, plus extra sauce (if you open a can, you can put the rest in a sealable bag and freeze them)
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (I used skim)
8 oz. shredded monterey jack cheese
15 oz. San Marzano crushed tomatoes
12-16 corn tortillas (I used homemade ones, which vastly superior to store-bought, here's the recipe)
3 tbsp. chopped fresh chives (may substitute cilantro)
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Shuck the corn and cut the kernels off the cob. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil and spread the kernels evenly across it. Roast the kernels for 20-25 minutes until they are browned in places and a bit shriveled. Set aside to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F.
2. Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add chicken, season with seasoned salt, 2 tsp. ground cumin, oregano and 1 tsp. garlic powder. Sauté chicken until cooked through, about 10 minutes, turning halfway. Remove chicken from pan, allow to cool a bit, then chop into small pieces (no larger than 1/2-inch).
3. Add onion to the same frying pan (add a little vegetable oil if the pan is dry), season with seasoned salt and 1 tsp. of ground cumin, and sauté until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the chopped chipotles in adobe. Remove from pan.
4. Melt butter in the same frying pan. Add flour and whisk to combine. Cook until thickened and lightly brown, whisking continually, for about 2 minutes. Add milk and whisk to combine. Cook until the mixture is thick and bubbly. Stir in about a cup of the shredded cheese until it melts. Turn off the heat and stir in the roasted corn, sautéed chicken and onion mixture.
5. Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce: pour crushed tomatoes into a medium saucepan and heat over medium-low heat. Add remaining 2 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. of garlic powder and 4 tsp. of the adobo sauce from the canned chiles (may add more or less adobo sauce depending on how spicy you want it). Stir ingredients together and cook until the mixture just starts to get a little steamy (you don't want to boil it). Remove from heat.
6. If not using freshly made (and therefore still warm) corn tortillas, warm tortillas in a frying pan or in the microwave wrapped in damp paper towels.
7. Assemble enchiladas: Set out a 9 X 13 baking dish. Spread about 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish. Take a tortilla and add about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture (use more if the tortillas are larger--mine were about 5-6 inches diameter). Roll tightly and place seam-down in the baking dish. Repeat, lining the filled tortillas up in rows until the dish is full. Depending on the size of the tortillas, you should be able to get at least 12 in and possibly as many as 15 or 16. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top and spread evenly with a spatula. Top with the remaining shredded cheese and sprinkle with fresh herbs. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and the tortillas start to brown a bit, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.