These enchiladas take a bit of time to make, but none of the steps are particularly complicated and the extra effort is well worth it. Six chili peppers may seem intimidating to some, but neither Ancho nor Guajillo chilies are especially spicy without the seeds, so most of the heat in this dish comes from the spicy peanut butter. Feel free to use Smooth Operator if you want them mild.
Prep time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total time: 2 hours
Yield: 4-6 servings
2 pounds chicken breasts (about 4 medium breasts)
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 bay leaf
For enchilada sauce
1 Ancho chilies
5 Guajillo chilies
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons oil
8 ounce can tomato sauce (pureed tomatoes)
1 1/2 cup soaking liquid from the chilies
3 tablespoons The Heat is On (if you want it spicy) or Smooth Operator (if you want it mild)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
12 soft corn tortillas
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco
1. Wash the chicken breasts. In a heavy bottomed pot with a lid, heat the water, salt, cumin, oregano and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and return to a boil. Cover with a lid and turn off the heat. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked all the way through (should read 160°F). Be careful not to overcook them, or they will be dry. When the breasts are done, remove them from the water and let them cool down. Use your fingers to shred the meat into small pieces.
2. For the enchilada sauce, preheat the oven to 350°F. Wipe each chili with a damp cloth then place them on a baking sheet and roast until fragrant (about 7 minutes), be careful not to burn them or they will be bitter. When they’re done, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool off enough to touch. Tear the stems off and remove all the seeds. Soak the roasted chilies in 4 cups of hot water until rehydrated, about 45 minutes.
3. In a food processor, puree the onions and garlic. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the pureed onion and garlic until reduced down to about 1/4 of the original volume and the mixture is nice and caramelized (20-30 minutes). The mixture may turn a greenish blue color due to a reaction with the garlic, but don’t worry, this is perfectly normal and it does not effect the finished dish.
4. When the chiles are rehydrated, add them along with the tomato sauce, soaking liquid, peanut butter, sugar, salt, cumin, and oregano to the food processor and blitz until pureed. Add this to the caramelized onions and simmer until thick. Pass the sauce through a mesh sieve to remove the chili skins and mix about a 1/3 of the strained sauce with the shredded chicken. Briefly warm up the tortillas in the microwave, they don’t need to be hot, just warm enough so they don’t crack.
5. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Put a couple spoonfuls of chicken into each tortilla and roll. In a 13″ x 9″ casserole dish, lay each enchilada down with the seam side down. Cover the rolled tortillas with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle the queso fresco on top. Bake until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.