My wife and I started making this dish years ago, and it's always a crowd pleaser. The acidity of the tomatillos and sour cream work beautifully together, perfectly balancing the heat of the chilies and the savoriness of the chicken. Once I started working at La Boîte four years ago and discovered the Shabazi blend, it only got better. Included are a few ideas for making it more easily also!
2 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on, chicken breast or thigh, or a mix (if using breasts cut them in half crosswise)
1 small onion, washed but unpeeled, cut in half, root end trimmed
1 bay leaf
2 pounds of tomatillos, husks removed, washed well, and sliced in half
2 poblano chiles, stems and seeds removed, sliced in half
1 bunch cilantro, rinse well, then chop the leaves, leave the stems whole
2-3 teaspoons Shabazi N38
1 cup full-fat sour cream, plus more for serving
2 cups cheese (queso oaxaca, mozzarella, gruyere, Mexican blend, really whatever you like the flavor of that'll melt well)
16 corn tortillas (6-inch size)
oil for frying
Place the chicken in a sauce pot with a lid along with the onion and bay leaf. Add cold water to cover and a few pinches of salt, bring to just below a boil, cover, and simmer until tender and falling off the bone (about 45 minutes). This is a good time to start your other ingredient prep, chopping, etc.*
Meanwhile heat your oven broiler on high and move the rack so it's 4-6" away from the burner.
Place the tomatillos and poblanos face down on a half sheet pan and broil until evenly charred and blackened (about 10-12 minutes). Remove the tray to the stovetop to cool and turn your oven off.
Remove the chicken to a bowl (leave the liquid and onion in the pot) and when cool enough to handle shred the meat with two forks. Add the bones and skins back to the pot along with the cilantro stems and keep it at a simmer to start a stock, leaving it uncovered this time.
Remove what skin you can from the tomatillos and poblanos (it doesn't have to be perfect), and transfer them along with all juices to a blender, along with the cilantro leaves, Shabazi, sour cream, and 1 cup of the stock. Stir well and then blend until smooth, adding a bit more stock if necessary (you want an easily pourable sauce). Remove one cup of sauce and mix well with the shredded chicken to coat.
In a skillet add enough oil to form a thin layer and fry the tortillas briefly (just until they soften, about 30 seconds each). This is important to keep the enchiladas from getting soggy (think of the oil like a coat of mayo or butter on bread for a sandwich). Remove them with chopsticks or tongs to a large cutting board. Add more oil as needed to maintain a layer in the pan while you fry.
Pour sauce in your baking dish to evenly coat the bottom in a thin layer. Preheat the oven to 375°F and move a rack to the middle.
Wrap the shredded chicken in the tortillas and line them up in the pan, making sure the seam is facing down so they don't unravel. You'll be able to get one row of 12 down the middle, with two on each side, filling the pan. Cover with the remaining sauce and then the cheese. You can add a dusting of Shabazi too if prefer more heat.
Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until all the cheese is melted and browned in spots. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
It's great with Hawayej spice rice. For even better flavor use some of the chicken stock instead of water when making the rice (for the timing to work on this you'll want to make the chicken and stock either a bit ahead or the day before). I also like to have guacamole, pico de gallo, plus sour cream and/or a fun sauce like avocado zhug.
Note that this recipe is not super saucy. If you like enchiladas with a lot of sauce just halve the chicken and tortilla quantities. Place the enchiladas in the middle of the dish and you'll have plenty of sauce surrounding them.
The leftover stock is perfect for starting tortilla soup or pozole, and the chicken skin and tendon you can strain from the stock is great for pet food.
* If you have time to make the chicken a bit ahead you can use the stock to make the rice to add even more flavor. One thing I like to do is sort of a Japanese niban-dashi (second stock). Strain the stock and reserve, then return the bones and skin to the pot with a bit of olive oil, cook these on medium-high until you create a good layer of brown deliciousness on the bottom, then deglaze with water and simmer for 10 minutes. It won't be a clear or delicate stock by any means, but it's one of the best things you'll ever taste.
Variations & Ideas:
I have a few shortcuts that make this recipe even easier to execute. Try one or all!
- Use a rotisserie chicken for the filling. First I eat the skin (my favorite). Then shred the whole bird and make the stock as above with the juices, bones, and some dried onion.
- For the sauce substitute the roasted poblanos and tomatillos with a 28 ounce can of tomatillos and a good verde hot sauce (my favorite is from Primo's Peppers). Or just a couple jars of salsa verde. You can even use dried cilantro in a pinch.
- Don't feel like frying tortillas or rolling them up? You can make a layered casserole using tortilla chips. If going this route add about 1/2 cup more stock to your sauce as the chips will soak up a lot of liquid.
Play with the spices and ingredients for a fun and easy way to explore new flavors.
- Try Siam N32, a bit of Noga N17, shredded pork instead of chicken, and adding a bit of fish sauce to the sauce
- Or Isphahan N1, chopped golden raisins, and fresh dill instead of cilantro
- Substitute shredded zucchini and/or spinach plus chickpeas sautéed with D'vora for the chicken, make the sauce with Amba and labneh instead of sour cream
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