My love and appreciation for Mexican food developed when I moved to Chicago in 2001. What does Chicago have to do with Mexican food?
While Chicago is of course nowhere close to Mexico, it has the second largest population of Mexican immigrants in the United States (Los Angeles is first). That statistic is from 2014, so not sure if if it still holds true? Nonetheless, with a large Mexican population, Chicago is, without a doubt, a great place for Mexican food if you so happen to find yourself there.
The Windy City is where I first discovered the complex Mexican sauce known as mole (at a great little spot called Ixcapuzalco [unforunately, now closed] and later at Sol de Mexico), goat tacos (at Birrieria Zaragoza), grilled quail in an ancho honey sauce (at Salpicon), my favorite trio of salsas and deep-fried whole snapper topped with nopales (at Taqueria la Oaxaquena), and then there’s always Rick Bayless’ restaurants… oh, I could go on, but those are just a few that immediately come to mind.
It’s summer, so that means tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, and chiles. Perfect time to make some salsa. But why not take that salsa and make it a meal. Fill some corn tortillas with your favorite ingredients, be they meat, beans, cheese, and/or vegetables; layer on the salsa; top with cheese; and briefly bake in the oven — in no time you’ve got enchiladas for dinner (or breakfast, lunch, or an anytime snack).
In the past I’ve made red enchiladas, so opted to go a different route today with green enchiladas (or enchiladas verdes) since I spotted some tomatillos at the market (the first of the season here in PA). Make a big batch of salsa. You’ll want leftover salsa for spooning over the finished enchiladas (or atop eggs or with tortilla chips).
You can simplify these enchiladas by using jarred salsa verde. That being said, making salsa is straightforward, not to mention way tastier than what you’ll typically find lining the shelves at your grocery store. The good thing is that you can prepare the salsa a few days in advance.
The filling is also flexible. Today, I added spinach, roasted poblano chiles, shredded chicken, and cheese. You could just as easily omit the chicken and make it vegetarian. Totally up to you.
Typically, you find green tomatillos, but occasionally you may come across the yellow variety. Yellow tomatillos tend to be sweeter than green tomatillos. Personally, I prefer the green ones…
This is my favorite way to roast peppers — over an open flame (in this case, a gas range) until the peppers are uniformly charred all over. After the peppers cool, their skins will slide right off. Seed and slice your peppers and they’re ready to use.
Tomatillo Salsa (recipe below)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 scant cup loosely packed, cilantro, chopped
8 corn tortillas
Shredded melting cheese (such as queso chihuahua, mild cheddar, gruyere, asiago, fontina, etc.)
~3 cups cooked, coarsely shredded, chicken (used a store bought rotisserie chicken)
4 medium poblano peppers, roasted
12 ounces spinach
shredded melting cheese
thinly sliced onion
thinly sliced (watermelon) radish
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Roast the poblanos on an open flame: Place a poblano pepper on an open flame on your stove top (medium heat). Cook turning every few minutes until completely charred on all sides. Place the peppers in a paper bag for 10-15 minutes to help loosen the skins. Scrape the charred skin (don’t worry if a few charred bits stick). Remove the seeds and slice the peppers into strips.
Sauté the spinach: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the spinach, season with salt, and cook until just wilted.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. When hot, add the roasted tomatillo salsa and let simmer until reduced and concentrated, stirring it frequently, for about 4 minutes. When thick, stir in the broth and cilantro. Reduce the heat down to medium low and let it simmer while you prepare the filling.
Place the shredded chicken in a bowl and spoon some of the hot salsa over the chicken to generously coat. Stir to combine.
Spoon a thin layer of tomatillo salsa on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish (or equivalent oval dish).
Place a corn tortilla over medium heat on an open flame on your stovetop. When browned in spots, flip and brown on the second side. Be sure to keep a close eye on your tortillas.
Add some roasted poblano strips, spinach, shredded chicken, and cheese to the tortillas. Roll them up. Place seam side down in the baking dish. Continue with the rest of the tortillas. Spoon some more tomatillo salsa on top of the tortillas. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5 minutes.
Garnish the enchiladas with the topping(s) of your choice: crema, cheese, white onion, radish, avocado slices, cilantro leaves, etc.
Serve with a side of the warm tomatillo salsa.
Can be made several days in advance. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.
1 1/2 pounds (about 12 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
5 to 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 to 3 fresh serrano or jalapneo chiles, depending how spicy you like it
1 medium white onion, sliced ½ inch thick plus a few slices for garnish
1 teaspoon salt
Place the tomatillos, garlic, serrano chiles, and white onion on a rimmed baking sheet. Place under the broiler. After 4 or 5 minutes, when everything is blotchy black and softening, turn the vegetables and roast the other side until the vegetables are soft and charred in places.
Remove from the broiler and cool. Slip off the skins of the garlic and pull the stem off the chiles. In a blender, combine the tomatillos (and any juice on the baking sheet), garlic, chiles, onion, and salt, and blend to a coarse puree.