Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to another Secret Recipe Club recipe and blogger. This month I was assigned the Recipe Taster: Savor the Unexpected blog by Alessio Fangano. Alessio grew up in Sicily and found a passion for food early in life when he was inspired by television chefs to try his hand at cooking, preparing dishes for his parents.
When he moved to Florence to attend University, he discovered a whole new world of food and ingredients. His experiments thrilled his roommates and he became the designated chef of the house. He now lives in Bonn, Germany, following his passions and living a wonderful life. Make sure you head over to his blog http://recipetaster.blogspot.com to try out more of his fabulous recipes!
Today’s recipe was Alessio’s first attempt at making his own Mexican-style food. We share a love of Mexican/Southwestern foods and the moment I saw the recipe I knew it was perfect for me! Full of flavors that thrill your taste buds, it is a fun one to make if you have been wanting to play with tomatillos. Tomatillos are not a green tomato but are related to the gooseberry. Small, round and covered with a papery husk, they have a somewhat tart, almost citrus flavor and are the key ingredient in Latin American green sauces. You want to make sure you wash off any sticky coating and remove the husks. They will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks or longer if husked and stored in a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator or freezer.
You have a choice to make individual casseroles using au gratin dishes which would be perfect to hold all the melted ooey, gooey cheese and green chile sauce. Or you could layer the tortillas, chicken, sauce and cheese in a 9×13-inch baking pan. Feeding a few or a crowd is easy by scaling the recipe up or down and adjusting the pan size accordingly.
I have to apologize for the poor quality of my photos for this dish. They certainly don’t do it justice. This is one of those foods that is absolutely delicious, but not that attractive to photograph. I was in a hurry and since The Artist wasn’t eating dinner at home tonight, I only made enough for myself. Somehow I forgot to buy the cilantro at the store, which would have made this much better looking, but it was wonderful even without it and I ate every bite! This recipe is definitely going to become a regular edition at our home.
The most time consuming part of this recipe is the sauce, but the flavor is outstanding and it is well worth the effort. The good news is that you make the sauce up to couple days ahead, shortening the cooking time on serving day. If you need a faster alternative, you can also use one of several canned or prepared green enchilada sauces available in your local market. My personal favorites are from Las Palmas, Hatch, or Frontera (aka Rick Bayless). And if you want more heat, you can add canned diced green chiles or chipotles en adobo. I often sauté onions, peppers, chiles, and carrots together and add the canned sauce. It tastes freshly made in a fraction of the time.
Another way to make this easier is to use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Once you get it home, debone it and shred or chop the chicken meat. Sometimes I buy two chickens and freeze part of the meat for future meals like these enchiladas, chicken salad, or chicken stir-fries. It makes getting a healthy meal on the table quickly an easy task instead of a chore.
Remember to season each component of the final dish separately. You want the chicken to be just as tasty as the sauce and the tortillas to have a bit of crunch to hold its own against the other ingredients.
This is a great recipe for stretching one chicken to feed a crowd. Because the tortillas are filling and the sauce and cheese really flavorful, your family won’t notice that there isn’t as much chicken in each serving than if they were eating the chicken as their main course. I know that even the pickiest eaters will love this dish!
Enjoy this taste of Mexico and have a wonderful week!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
The sauce is so tasty and versatile, that I doubled the original recipe so that I could have leftovers. It makes fantastic nachos, use it as a sauce for enchiladas or tacos, and it turns an ordinary omelet into something special. You can also ladle it into jars to give as gifts. Make sure you store it in the refrigerator and use within a few days or freeze for up to several months.
- 3 lb (about 16) fresh Anaheim or Poblano chiles, rinsed
- 1 lb (about 8 to 10 medium) fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed or 1 (11 oz) can tomatillos
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled, ends trimmed and cut in half
- Vegetable oil
- 1 chipotle en adobo, or more to taste, optional
- 8 cups rich chicken broth, preferably homemade
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 4 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 4 tbsp water (for thickening)
- 3 boneless chicken breast halves or 6 to 7 boneless thighs
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp ground ancho chile powder, optional
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 12 (5 to 6-inch diameter) corn tortillas (gluten-free if desired)
- Additional ground ancho chile powder, optional
- 4 oz grated Monterey Jack cheese
- 4 oz grated cheddar cheese
- Cilantro for garnish, chopped, optional
- Preparing Vegetables: Preheat broiler to high. Place chiles, tomatillos, garlic, and onion on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with a little oil. Place pan under the broiler and cook vegetables, turning them occasionally with tongs, until blistered and blackened in spots, about 5 minutes per side. Remove pieces as they are done, watching the garlic closely. If it burns it becomes bitter. Chiles and tomatillos will soften as they cook. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Alternately you can grill the vegetables.
- Remove the blistered peels from the chiles. Remove the stems, split lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and ribs. Do not rinse or you will lose a lot of the flavor. Coarsely chop all the vegetables. Place them in a blender or food processor with the chipotle pepper (if using) and 1 cup of the chicken stock; puree until smooth.
- Make Green Chile Sauce: Place the remaining chicken stock and pureed vegetables in a large saucepan. Add the oregano, cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced slightly, another 15 to 20 minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasonings. If you want more heat, add a little of the adobo sauce from the chipotles en adobo jar. The sauce can be made up to two days in advance. Store in the refrigerator and reheat when ready to serve.
- Prepare Chicken: Heat a gas grill to medium high or build a medium-hot charcoal fire. Brush the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the ancho chili powder if desired. Place on hot grill and cook about 4 to 5 minutes per side or until cooked through and an instant read thermometer registers 160°F.
- Cool chicken and then slice into thin strips or shred. Transfer it to a container, adding any accumulated juices from the carving board. Chicken can be prepared up to a day in advance. Store with accumulated juices in the refrigerator.
- When ready to assemble and bake the casserole, preheat oven to 450°F.
- Prepare the Tortillas: Heat a small skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Lightly brush both sides of tortillas with a little of the oil. Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until lightly browned on each side, about 20 to 30 seconds per side. Remove from pan and set aside. Sprinkle with a little salt and ancho chili powder if desired. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
- Assemble the Dish: In a 9-inch square baking dish, ladle a thin layer of sauce. (You can also use a baking sheet, casserole, or individual au gratin dishes.) Lay four tortillas in the dish, slightly overlapping. Ladle 1/2 cup of sauce over the tortillas. Evenly distribute half of the shredded chicken over the tortillas. Top with another 1/2 cup of sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheeses.
- Place four more tortillas on the cheese, top with the rest of the chicken, more sauce and another third of the cheese. Finish with a third layer of tortillas, top with the remaining sauce and cheese.
- Bake until the sauce has thickened slightly and the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting and serving. You can pop it under a broiler for a few minutes to lightly brown the cheese. Watch careful to avoid burning.
- To Serve: Cut the casserole into 4 to 6 servings and place on individual plates. Spoon a little more sauce over each serving and sprinkle with cilantro, if you wish. A tossed green salad is all you need to make this a well-balanced meal sure to make everyone in your family happy campers!
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings, with extra sauce
- Shortcuts: You can use a precooked rotisserie chicken and shred or chop the meat. Canned green enchilada sauce, while not as tasty as freshly made from scratch, makes this one of the quickest and easiest meals to put together on weeknights.
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