The last few weeks of summer have been flying by in great galloping windows of time, between day-job business, learning the intricacies of Italian cuisine by night, and most recently, a weekend of forced relaxation brought on by Manhattan’s response to hurricane Irene. The city was all but shut down, with the subways and buses on hiatus until the storm had passed, rain beginning Saturday afternoon and pounding on into the night, making our city that never sleeps a veritable ghost town. At my own apartment, we stocked up, battened down, and waited for the rapidly downgrading storm to pass.
Pass the storm did, rather quickly, and by Sunday afternoon Irene had left behind slightly sweeter smelling city air and a power-washed version of the Upper East side, despite the fallen branches and leaves plastered to curbs everywhere. The clearing skies drove us out of the house as soon as we could manage, increasingly eager to escape the cabin fever that had set in, strong and unsettling in only twenty-four hours.
The walk started out as a mission to explore any and all aftermath of the storm, but even the East River looked placid – so smooth it was almost glass-like with no boats out to ripple its surface. Once we acknowledged that there was little stimulation to be found in surveying Irene’s damage, the most exciting development became the fact that grocery stores had reopened, and all talk turned to dinner (as per the usual). Savory seemed the order of the day, considering we had spent most of our “rained-in” period consuming two types of chocolate chip cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, and basically anything sweet we could get our hands on.
Twenty blocks of clean pavement later, we decided on enchiladas. Personally, the realization that I had never made enchiladas left me somewhat stunned (why don’t they teach this in culinary school?), and beyond that it’s seemed both a large enough and well-priced dish to feed myself, Adam, and both of our roommates, who were still bunkered down at the apartment from the overestimated hurricane lock-in.
A few hours later, after much experimenting, taste-testing, and finger-licking, the enchiladas were ready. We all grabbed plates, forks, and piled up with enchiladas and a few spoonfuls of on-the-fly mexican rice, and retreated to the couch to dig in (yes, couch, who has dinner tables in New York City?)
Before my first forkful of enchilada had even hit my lips, Cara piped up: “Wow. This is seriously one of the most delicious things I’ve had in a long time!” I took a bite, and was even more pleased with the result. These enchiladas were good – no, they were actually pretty darn great! It was silent in the living room as every chowed down, punctuated only by “mmmm”s of approval. Graham, for one, couldn’t stop thanking us for making the dinner as he inhaled two large enchiladas.
And at the end of the meal, Cara boldly declared the enchiladas one of, if not the best thing I’ve ever made, and showed me her clean plate. Then she followed up with “If I had a food blog, this is something I’d definitely be blogging about.”
Subtle? Nah. That’s just not our style.
Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas
- 6 chicken thighs (note: use 1 rotisserie chicken for a quicker version)
- Spice rub: 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper, 1 tsp smoked paprikia, 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 yellow onion, small dice
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 cans of enchilada sauce (such as Old El Paso 10-oz cans)
- 1 small can of green chilis
- 2 Tbsp of hot sauce (I love Cholula Garlic-Chili sauce)
- 1 tsp of white wine vinegar
- 1.5 cups of shredded mexican cheese
- 8 10-inch white flour tortillas
- 1 Tbsp Olive oil
- Cumin, smoked paprika, and salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Clean and dry the chicken thighs, and lay skin side up in a oven-safe pan. Peel back the skin, and apply spice rub liberally to each thigh. Fold the skin back over the spiced-flesh. Roast thighs for about 25 minutes or until cooked through (it’s best to leave them slightly under cooked since they’ll finish cooking in the sauce). Remove from oven and cool. (Note – for a faster version of this recipe, use a whole rotisserie chicken, skin removed, and shred the meat.)
While the chicken cools, heat a large skillet and add olive oil. Add the diced onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the green chilis and saute until the mixture is slightly dry, about 2 more minutes. Add one can of enchilada sauce, hot sauce (to taste), and white wine vinegar to the pan. Simmer mixture until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, remove the skin and bone from chicken thighs and shred the meat using two forks to pull the meat apart. Add the shredded chicken to the reduced enchilada sauce. Toss the sauce well to combine, and season to taste with cumin, smoked paprika and salt. Continue cooking until the chicken mixture is very thick and moist, but not runny - if the filling for the enchilada is too wet, they will become soggy. Add half a cup of cheese to the chicken mixture and stir well to combine, until all the cheese has melted.
To make enchiladas, spray a medium casserole dish with cooking spray. Fill each of the 8 tortillas with an eighth of the chicken-cheese mixture, roll up the tortillas, and lay them in the casserole dish side by side. Place the enchiladas in the oven to toast up for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until the tortillas have begun to crisp slightly. Then, top the enchiladas with the remaining can of enchilada sauce (you can also jazz this up with cumin and smoked paprika if desired), and the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve hot with Mexican Rice (http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/mexican-rice-iii/detail.aspx), and use brown rice for a slightly healthier version. Proceed to enjoy your delish enchiladas – oh, and all the compliments your dinner guests will give you!!