"This recipe for Shredded Chicken Enchiladas may be the BEST chicken enchilada recipe you've ever had! Starting with a flavorful poaching broth to fully flavor the meat, add a super tasty filling, along with a combo of homemade and canned sauce, this recipe really takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary!"
The Making of Shredded Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce
What does one want to eat after spending two weeks in Hawaii? Mexican food, that's what.
BB and I took a two-week trip to the Isles of Hawaii, one week for work, one week for play and to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.
Well, BB had to work for one week. I, on the other hand, got to lay by the pool and beach, soaking up the rays.
Tough work, I know, but someone has to do it, right?
As on every "work" related trip, there is food and wine involved, so it's not like we didn't eat well...we certainly did...
From fine dining
Such as we enjoyed at Mei Grill, by Allen Hess, a new and innovative dinner menu being served at the local golf club...
To our beloved, casual Poki from da Poki Shack eaten at our favorite beach/snorkel spot...
Not to forget our "elegant" Father's Day Bruch on our Lanai with beautiful ocean views...
Or our delicious celebratory 25th Wedding Anniversary dinner at Hy's Steakhouse
But in Hawaii, just like in Northern California, there just isn't any good Mexican food to be found.
So once we got home, making some was on my "to do" list.
I love enchiladas and make many different kinds. Beef, shrimp, crab, chicken, turkey - but this time, I wanted something new and different. My mind had been coming up with flavor combinations during the 6-hour flight home, and I knew I wanted a nice flavorful filling and I wanted to keep it lighter by using chicken breasts, or in my case, chicken tenders.
The problem I have with white meat chicken enchiladas is, usually the meat is uninteresting.
So I set out to change that.
And I did.
How to Create a Flavorful Chicken Filling
First off, I start the meat off with a full flavor poach in full-flavored poaching liquid. I can't tell you how much of a difference this makes. You just have to taste it to believe it.
The second problem I have with shredded chicken enchiladas is; the meat is generally shredded without embellishments.
What, I thought, would be a great flavor in shredded chicken without making the chicken a non-player? Thinking through some of my other enchilada recipes, I decided that tomatoes are a natural...so diced canned tomatoes are used, along with some diced green chilies, Ortega® came to the rescue on that, and of course the usual spices, chili powder, oregano, cumin...
What is American Style Chili Powder
If you are not familiar with American style chili powder, know that it is not cayenne pepper, or straight up ground chilies.
American chili powder is a combination of chilies, and some spices, mostly oregano and cumin, along with salt. It's generally pretty mild in heat, but with great flavor. You could make your own, but I find store-bought, pre-made brands to work well. I generally use Gebhardt's but have used Schilling and McCormick's brands with good success.
On to what completes the dish ...
I love BB's mother's recipe for chili gravy. It's a rich brown sauce made of oil, flour, chili, oregano, cumin, and beef stock.
But it does, at least to me, lack a certain depth of flavor.
When making my recipe Mexican "Lasagna" Enchiladas Casserole I mixed my can sauce with Gail's Gravy and came up with what I deem a "perfect" combination of flavors.
So this is what I used for this recipe, a combo of both Gail's Gravy and canned sauce.
BB and I are both fans of black olives in our enchiladas, so I added them. But you don't have to if you don't want to. Top it all off with cheddar and jack cheese, and for us, some cotia, and 'Ole!
Shredded Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce
LindySez: I can guarantee you these enchiladas are far more delicious than this photo is pretty. Really, seriously good. I hope you try them soon.
Shredded Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce
- For the Flavorful Poaching Liquid
- Water enough to cover the chicken
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 large sprigs cilantro with stems
- 2 large cloves garlic crushed
- ½ onion roughly sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 1 pound chicken tenders OR 1 pound chicken breast cut into 2 inch slices
- For the Filling
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil I like grapeseed oil
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon or to taste chili powder, such as McCormick's or Gebhardt's
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano crushed between your fingers
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup diced tomato with its juice, lightly chopped
- 1 4-ounce can diced green chili, with its liquid
- ½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- Shredded Chicken
- For the Rest
- ½ recipe Gail's Enchilada Sauce
- 1 10-ounce can red enchilada sauce, such as Las Palmas or La Victoria
- 8 corn tortillas
- Cooking spray or oil
- 2 ounces 2% shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 ounces 2% shredded jack cheese
- 1 ounce crumbled cotia cheese* optional
- 1 small can sliced black olives lightly chopped, optional
- Prepare the poaching liquid: Combine water, salt, cilantro, garlic, onion, bay leaf and peppercorns in a skillet with a lid, bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, or until the water is very well seasoned. Add the chicken and simmer over low heat, just barely a bubble, for 5 minutes, turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken, set aside to cool. Discard the poaching liquid. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it using your fingers or two forks. Set-aside.
- While the chicken cools, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes, add the seasonings, and stir in well, then add the tomato, green chili, and chicken stock, mix well. Add the shredded chicken, mix well, then allow to simmer 5 minutes or so. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
- As the chicken and sauce cool slightly, heat the oven to 350°F. Spray the tortillas on both sides with cooking spray, or lightly coat with oil, place, in a single a layer as possible, some overlap is ok, on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for about 3 minutes, or until soft and pliable. Remove from oven and stack to maintain softness and heat. Increase oven to 375°F.
- Combine the cheddar and jack cheese together. Mix the two enchilada sauces together. Put about ½ cup of the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish just large enough to hold the enchiladas, about 12" X 9". Fill each tortilla with about 2 heaping tablespoons of filling, placing the filling in the center, add a small amount of chopped black olive, if using along with a pinch of the cheese mixture. Take one end of the tortilla and fold it over the meat/cheese mixture, pull back slightly to encase the filling, then roll the tortilla and place, seam side down into the prepared pan. Continue until all the tortillas have been filled, placing each new enchilada closely next to the others. When done, spoon the rest of the enchilada sauce over, making sure to cover all the tortilla, then sprinkle the remaining cheese mixture over, along with the cotia cheese, if using. Spray a piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray, then cover the casserole. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, remove the foil and cook for 10 - 15 minutes more, or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from oven, allow to sit for 5 minutes, then serve on warmed plates.