Enchiladas are like tacos, or like most Mexican-inspired foods: they are subject to massive variation and yet, without fail, are delicious nearly every time. While the labor-intensive (yet rewardingly appetizing) vegetable enchiladas are distinct from the classic preparation in several ways, these chicken enchiladas are much nearer the traditional recipe. They have a kick, certainly, and the chicken is dramatically moist due to its slow-cooked preparation, but we’re back to basics with enchilada sauce here, topped with way too much cheese, of course. These enchiladas are ready for dinner so quickly, thanks to a little bit of advance preparation. If you don’t have a slow-cooker (or crock-pot), you could prepare the chicken by many other means: sautéing in a oiled pan, baking, grilling, etc. The slow-cooker does make things easy with primarily hands-off cooking time, requiring work only to chop some vegetables, assemble the ingredients, and, of course, prepare the enchiladas. Of the food presented at this dinner party, these were the favorites. They are spicy but not too spicy, flavorful but not unexpected, and cheesy but not overly rich. These enchiladas carry toppings exceptionally well, although I found a squeeze of lime to suffice. But if you have any guacamole left, any sour cream or creme fraiche (or even Greek yogurt), or some chopped cilantro on hand, by all means pile it on.
Spicy Slow-cooked Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas
Makes about 24 enchiladas; Serves 12
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 cans enchilada sauce, divided
1/2 cup salsa (leftover roasted tomato and chile salsa would work well)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 can diced green chiles
1/2 cup chopped roasted red and yellow peppers
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
24 corn tortillas
4-5 cups shredded cheese (I used a “Mexican” blend)
The morning of cooking, pour out 3 cans of enchilada sauce into a shallow bowl and whisk in spices. Add a 1/2 cup of spiced enchilada sauce, 1/2 cup of salsa, and 1/2 cup of chicken stock to a slow-cooker and whisk to combine. Cover and refrigerate the enchilada sauce to use later. Add chicken, diced vegetables, and diced green chiles to the slow-cooker. Cover the slow-cooker, set to low, and cook for 6-8 hours, until chicken is easily shredded and cooked through.
To prepare enchiladas, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce to the bottom of two 13×9 baking pans (I used glass pyrex). Heat tortillas for about 20 seconds per side on a skillet or griddle. Dip the tortilla in the enchilada sauce, covering both sides. Rest the tortilla in the prepared pan and add about 1/4 cup of shredded chicken mixture to the tortilla. Top with 1-2 tbsp. shredded cheese, roll the tortilla tightly, and move to the corner of the pan. Repeat this process 23 times, filling two 13×9 pans with 12 enchiladas each (I found 10 fit longitudinally across the pan, with 2 transverse across the bottom). Top the enchiladas with an additional 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce per pan. Top the enchiladas with about 1 cup of shredded cheese.
Place the pans side-by-side in the oven, and cook at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pans once or twice during cooking. The enchiladas are done once the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbly. Top with your favorite toppings and serve warm.
This recipe may seem straightforward, but the product is utterly scrumptious. If you’re to start with any enchilada recipe, I’d start here. The slow-cooked chicken really adds another dimension of succulence, but it’s the spices and aromatics that really develop the flavor. You’d never even think to doubt that canned sauce can’t be elevated after trying these. However, now that I think about it, I’d love to try my own version of enchilada sauce next…
Try these out, really. There are no regrets on enchilada night.