May 3, 2011 2:50 PM
Enchiladas Verdes: in a Tomatillo Sauce

Now that Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner, friends are asking me what we will be eating to celebrate...and what I am craving most are Enchiladas Verdes. The perfect yummy family food that stays messy on the casserole.

Even though most native Mexicans know that Cinco de Mayo isn't a big celebration in Mexico (as a matter of fact, it is mostly celebrated in Puebla), we embrace it outside of Mexico with all our hearts without really knowing why. I guess it is a great excuse to celebrate what we love and miss about Mexico- like the tomatillo. A native Mexican ingredient that is the corner stone of so many dishes.

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The tomatillo, like Cinco de Mayo, has been adopted in the U.S. It can now be found in most supermarkets and it seems to me it will grow big time in American kitchens as it is such a spectacular ingredient. 

While on the outside it isn't the most appealing ingredient because of the papery and dusty husk, once you peel it, rinse it and try it, you will see what a gorgeous jewel it is, both in looks and in flavor!  Most people know it from it being used to make salsa verde, which is exactly what these enchiladas are covered in. You can also find cans and jars of ready made salsa, but it is so easy to  make at home, that you should give it a try. It's tastier too.  

To make the salsa, simmer the tomatillos in water with the garlic, until they are soft and pale green.  Then transfer the tomatillos and garlic to the blender and puree with the jalapeƱo or serrano chiles, cilantro leaves, onion and salt.

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Then to make your enchiladas the best they can be, one at a time, pass each corn tortilla through already hot oil until they change color and soften.  This will prevent them from breaking as you roll them.  The oil also makes the tortillas resilient, so they will hold on to that yummy tomatillo sauce.

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Place some of the shredded chicken into each of the corn tortillas and roll them up.  I like them chunky. You can cook the chicken at home or use a store-bought rotisserie chicken, they both work great here!

Place the rolled tortillas seam side down in a casserole dish.  Pour the tomatillo sauce, generously, over the top. Then bake them for 10 to 15 minutes.

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When they are out of the oven, drizzle Mexican cream over the top. Mexican cream has a tangy flavor, and when it hits the warm enchiladas, it will warm up, become melty, and become even more creamy, and at the same time it will add some fresh notes to the dish.

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Crumble up some queso fresco on top too. It will keep on crumbling right in your mouth as you eat it.  Add some onion for a nice crunch...   Then they are ready to go!

Enchiladas can be made with many different sauces and fillings.  This take has the traditional salsa verde or green tomatillo sauce and chicken, but you can play with the fillings.

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 If you have extra tomatillo salsa left over...  Try serving it over tilapia filets, baked in the oven; or served on top of sunny side up eggs in the morning.  This tomatillo sauce is truly limitless.

You can eat Enchiladas Verdes like me, to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. But you can also eat them everyday. After all, everyday is worthy of being celebrated, with a Mexican excuse or not.

Enchiladas Verdes
Serves 6 to 8

For the Sauce
2 pounds green tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
2 garlic cloves
2 serrano chiles, or to taste
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup white onion, roughly chopped
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, more or less to taste
1 tbsp safflower or corn oil

For the Enchiladas
2 cups shredded cooked chicken(home cooked or rotisserie works great!)
Oil for frying the tortillas
12 corn tortillas
1/2 cup Mexican or Latin style cream, can substitute for heavy cream
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco, farmers cheese, Cotija or mild feta
1/3 cup white onion, chopped, for garnish

Place the tomatillos and garlic cloves in a pot and cover with water. Place over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until tomatillos change their color from bright to pale green, are cooked through, and are soft but not coming apart.

Place the tomatillos, garlic and 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid in the blender and puree. Add the chiles serranos, cilantro leaves, onion and salt, and puree again until smooth. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Once it is hot, but not smoking, pour in the sauce and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer over medium heat for about 6 minutes, until it thickens and deepens in color. Taste for salt and add more if need be.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, add enough oil to have about 1/2 inch depth. Let it heat about 3 minutes. Gently, "pass each tortilla through the oil", one by one, for about 15 seconds on each side, they will soften and become resilient. You should be able to fold them without breaking them. Transfer them to a paper towel covered plate.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place about 2 to 3 tablespoons chicken inside of each tortilla and roll them up. Place them, seam side down on a baking dish. Cover, generously, with the green sauce. Place them in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven, sprinkle with the crumbled cheese, the cream, and the chopped onion. They are very satisfying with a side of rice and/or beans, as well as with a light green salad.

Eat the enchiladas while they are hot!