Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chicken Enchilada

Let me start off with a quick little Spanish lesson. No extra charge!

The word “enchilada”, in Spanish, has its root in the word “chile”, as in chili pepper. When you ad the prefix “en-“, it means to add to, or to put on. So, the verb “enchilear” would mean “to put chilis on (or in)”. So, if something has been “chili-ed”, then you would say it has been “enchilada”. Thus, the words “Pollo Enchilada” literally mean: “Chili-ed Chicken”, or chicken with chilis on it.

The whole reason I mention this is that there’s a very common dish in Utah, made especially by the gringas here, called a “Chicken Enchilada”. It involves cooking chicken, wrapping it up with flour tortillas, and covering it with a sauce of sour cream and cream of mushroom soup. Then they put cheese on top of it.

In most cases, it’s made without chilis.

So, one might more correctly call it, “Chicken Desenchilada” or “Chicken sin Chile”.

Anyway, in the old ward where I used to live, there was this really sweet lady that had her roots in Mexico. As a part of the ward’s annual Relief Society cookbook, she showed this recipe for Chicken Enchilada. And it’s REAL!

So, I decided to give it a whirl in my dutch.

10” Dutch Oven
8” Dutch Oven

Lots of coals at various points in the process. Once the baking starts, I used 7 on the bottom and 12-13 on the top of the 10”

About 1 lb of boneless chicken
About ½ lb grated cheddar
Corn tortillas
3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp oil
2 ½ Cups water
6 Tbsp chili powder (This is where the "enchilada" part comes in)
1 Tbsp garlic
Salt to taste (probably about 1 Tbsp)

If I’d had some, I’d have added:
1 diced onion
1 small can black olives (diced)

I decided to really go as authentic as I could. I started off with the chicken set to boil in the 10” with the lid on.

I put the oil and the flour in the 8”, and set it on coals. In a bowl, I mixed the water, the chili powder, the garlic, and the salt, stirring vigorously to “dissolve” the chili powder (it doesn’t really dissolve, but if you mix it a lot, it doesn’t clump or float, but gets well blended with the water).

Once the oil and flour mix was browned, I added the water/chili powder mix, and set that to boil. I had to put a lid on top with a few coals.

While that and the chicken boiled, I set to making the tortillas. I got some masa mix, and mixed it up, making the dough into balls. I had a tortilla press, but it didn’t really press very well, and after a few presses, the handle broke anyway. So, I just started rolling them between sheets of waxed paper with my rolling pin. In retrospect, I would have done two things to make the tortillas turn out better. I think I would have mixed them with a little bit more water, to make them a little more damp and pliable (they turned out very dry and cracked), and I would have started heating up my griddle much earlier in the process.

For a griddle, I used an overturned 12” lid with lots of coals underneath. It took a while for it to heat up, hence my previous observation. So, my first few tortillas took quite a while to cook.

While I was cooking the tortillas, the chicken was fully boiled, so I drained that and put them into a bowl to cool a bit. Also, the sauce in the 8” oven bubbled and boiled to the point that it was like a kind of thin gravy. I pulled it off the coals as well. After the chicken had cooled a bit, in between tortilla flips, I shredded the chicken by hand.

I realized pretty quick that these tortillas were NOT going to roll up. So, I decided to do the layering (sort of lasagna-like) technique instead. I stared with a base layer of three overlapping tortillas. Over that, I put a layer of shredded chicken. If I’d had the onions and the olives, I would have added a layer of that as well. I also grated in a layer of cheddar. I poured on some of the sauce (again, this is the "enchilada" part, adding the chilis), covering as much as I could, while still saving back plenty for more layers.

Then, another layer of tortillas, staggered a bit to cover the spots left open by the first layer. More chicken, more cheese, more sauce. Again, had I had olives and onions, there woulda been more of those, too.

Finally, after putting on a third layer of tortillas, I poured out the last of the sauce, and shredded up the last of the cheese onto the top. The lid went on and it went back on the coals (7 below, 12 or 13 above), for about another 25 minutes.

I have to say, that was a plate of the most kickin’ enchiladas I’ve ever eaten. They rocked. Hot, but not the long-lasting-scorch that often comes in hard-core Mexican. It was zesty and filling and just… well… wow.

Like I said, the next time I try this, I think I’ll wet the tortillas up some, so they are a little more pliable and workable. I’ll also get the lid hotter before I start putting the tortillas on it. I think I’d like it to be the traditional roll-up enchiladas. But the layers worked pretty well after all.


  1. Well what would you expect from a bunch of "Gringas" from the Northwest?? I'm texmex born an raised you definition is pretty close. a cassarole of tortilla,cheese,and chicken, does not an enchilada make !!
    Forget making your own tortillas takes years of practice to perfect!!!
    Use store bought,and wet /moist them before using.
    texmex/ omar alvarez

  2. Does chili powder count as being "chili-ed"? ; )

    I actually like making the "Chicken Desenchilada" dish you mentioned with cream of chicken soup and crepes, instead of tortillas.

    This recipe sounds much tastier, though.

  3. As I reread my comments, I have make a disclaimer. The gringa "desenchilada" dish isn't BAD at all. I actually like it. My wife does that dish really well. I just wanted to clarify that it's technically not an enchilada.



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