Our Family Favorite Chicken Enchilada Casserole

This entry is part 86 of 91 in the series Festive Fridays
Family Favorite Chicken Enchiladas © 2013 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

Who wants a bite?

Today’s recipe is one of our family’s favorites and something that I have been making for many years. It is easy to make and I can have dinner on the table in less than an hour. This is extremely helpful on busy days when you don’t have a lot of time to linger in the kitchen and have a house full of hungry mouths to feed.

Another benefit is that this makes great leftovers. Go ahead and make it one day and reheat and serve it the next. Talk about an easy dinner party entrée!

Family Favorite Chicken Enchiladas © 2013 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

Enchiladas, ready for the oven.

If you are in a real hurry you can substitute store-bought enchilada sauce, but I encourage you to make your own from scratch. It tastes so much better and is really simple to make. Start by browning the chicken in a little olive oil. Remove it from the pan and use the drippings to cook your vegetables and sauce ingredients. This adds layers of flavor and makes your homemade sauce a game changer.

Family Favorite Chicken Enchiladas © 2013 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

The trick to keeping the chicken tender is to cook it to 160°F and let it rest for about 10 minutes, which will give it time to finish cooking and rise to about 165°F. Conveniently, this is about as long as it takes to puree the sauce!

Family Favorite Chicken Enchiladas © 2013 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

Have you bought yourself an immersion blender yet? Why not? This is one of those kitchen tools that is incredibly handy to have and can be used for a number of tasks. There is nothing better for pureeing soups and sauces and making sure there are no lumps in your gravy! Most have whisk attachments so you can use them to make whipped cream, smoothies, and other whipped concoctions. Once you have one, you won’t believe you worked without one!

I hope you try this recipe soon and enjoy it as much as my family and I do.


Family Favorite Chicken Enchiladas © 2013 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook

Jane’s Tips and Hints:

To make sure no one gets sick from cross contamination of raw poultry, wash your plates and tongs each time they touch the chicken. This is especially important if you are cooking for people with compromised immune systems.

Kitchen Skill: Working with Fresh Avocados

If you have never tackled a fresh avocado, it can be intimidating. Use a sharp paring knife and insert the blade into one end. Holding the edge of the knife against the pit in the center, roll the avocado, drawing the blade of the knife around the pit and splitting the fruit into two pieces lengthwise. Twist the halves in opposite directions to separate them.

Tap the pit with the knife until it sticks in the pit. This does not require a lot of force. Twist the knife, pulling the pit out and discard it. Use a large kitchen spoon, and holding it as close to the peel as possible, scoop out the flesh of the avocado. Set it cut side down on a cutting board and use the knife to cut it into 1/3-inch thick slices.

Store any unused avocado tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. The less oxygen that touches the avocado, the less brown it will become. Refrigerate and use within a day or two.

Chicken Enchiladas with Mexican Red Sauce (Gluten-Free)
Yields 6
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  1. Chicken
  2. 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  3. Organic olive oil
  4. 1/2 tsp onion powder
  5. 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  6. 1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
  7. 1 tsp dried oregano
  8. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  9. Sauce
  10. 1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped finely
  11. 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped finely
  12. 2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped finely
  13. 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with their juice
  14. 2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
  15. Juice of 1 lime
  16. 2 to 3 tsp ground cumin
  17. 1 tsp dried oregano
  18. 2 tsp ancho chili powder or regular chili powder
  19. Pinch sugar, optional
  20. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  21. 1/4 cup water, if needed
  22. Hot sauce, optional
  23. Enchiladas
  24. Fresh 8-inch diameter corn tortillas (gluten-free if needed)
  25. 1/2 cup grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  26. Sour cream, optional
  27. Fresh avocados, optional
  28. Fresh cilantro, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Lightly oil a 9x13-inch baking pan with olive oil; set aside. Set tortillas out on the counter to warm up.
  2. Cook the Chicken: In a large skillet, heat 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. While the oil is heat, season chicken breasts on both sides with the onion powder, garlic powder, cumin and oregano. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Using tongs, add chicken to the pan and brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Make the Sauce: To the same skillet, add the onions, bell peppers, and celery. Cook, stirring often until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, lime juice, cumin, oregano, and chili powder. Stir to blend, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Using tongs, return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan, nestling it down into the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook 4 minutes. Turn the pieces over, cover the pan, and cook until the chicken registers 158°F to 160°F on an instant read thermometer. The timing will vary depending on the size and thickness of your chicken breasts, about another 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a clean plate and keep warm.
  5. Use an immersion blender to partially puree the sauce, leaving some chunks of tomato if desired. Alternately, transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor or blender and process until mostly pureed. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings with sugar, salt and pepper as desired. Add the water if the sauce is too thick. If you like a spicier sauce, add hot sauce to taste.
  6. Slice the chicken breasts and cut into small bite-sized pieces. Return the chicken to the pan to reheat in the sauce.
  7. Assemble the Enchiladas: Holding a tortilla flat in the palm of one hand, use a slotted spoon to place some of the chicken in the center of the tortilla. Carefully roll it up and place it seam-side-down in the prepared baking pan. Continue filling and rolling the tortillas, snugging them close together in the pan until you run out of tortillas, chicken, or space. The total number of enchiladas you get will depend on how full you make each one. The more you put inside, the fatter they will be - there is no wrong way to make an enchilada!
  8. Bake the Enchiladas: Once all the enchiladas are rolled and the pan is full, spoon some of the remaining sauce down the center of enchiladas (see photo above). Sprinkle the tops with the cheese, cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the hot oven. Bake until they filling is hot, tortillas are steamed and cheese is melted, 30 to 45 minutes.
  9. For Serving: Use a flexible spatula to serve two enchiladas per plate. Top them with a dollop of sour cream, avocado slices and sprinkled with cilantro if desired. All you need to add is a tossed green salad for a filling and healthy meal. Serve immediately.
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