Finding good Mexican food in the UK is a feat that will give you both a headache and a belly ache. There are now a handful of good, cheap places around, such as Tortilla and Poncho No. 8 (or so I hear, I haven’t yet been able to take a trip to one of their stores, but they sell barbacoa! Win), but finding authentic Mexican grub? Not bloody likely.
What other choice do we have, then, but to make it ourselves? Exactly. Not only is this recipe easy and tasty, it uses up all of that lovely chicken you saved from your stock (if you used fresh chicken pieces) – double win.
When my very good friend Andres took me to eat Mexican food whilst we were hanging out in San Antonio, I remember being very dubious. The only experience I’d had of Mexican food was crappy Tex-Mex, the type that would guarantee a rush to the john roughly twenty-five minutes after you’d eaten. The food Andres introduced me to was a revelation – I could have this delicious, creamy, cheesy goodness with little spice and chewy soft tortillas, yellow as the maize they were made from.
“My mother,” Andres told me, “would have these incredible meals on the table every night for dinner with homemade tortillas and she never complained. We were a military family and it was what was expected of her – I guess we took it for granted because every night, without fail, dinner was waiting for us. We were really lucky.”
It wasn’t too dissimilar to my own experience growing up (as I mentioned in my last post). In fact, Andres’ mother and my own are very similar in many ways and Mama Sanchez (as she is known to Andres’ friends) welcomed me with open arms when we had dinner together one evening – it was impossible not to love her instantly.
One place Andres took me to, Tito’s, was the establishment where I experienced my first enchiladas. I had the chicken enchiladas poblanas, a delicious soft corn tortilla filled with chicken and poblano peppers, then smothered in a creamy sauce and oaxaca cheese – a Mexican cheese similar to mozzarella. Suddenly I was in love with Mexican food and the thought of returning to London where I wouldn’t be able to find such fare again was bleak indeed.
I did what anybody would – I decided to make it myself.
Sadly, poblano peppers were not something I could find on hand easily (anybody in London know where I could find some?) so I substituted with a couple of large green chillies (but you may notice in the above photos I didn’t have these when I made this rendition so was using a Thai red chilli, but shhh, don’t tell Mama Sanchez…), nor was oaxaca so I substituted mozzarella, but even so it turned out pretty decent. Decent enough that I made this two days in a row…
Sadly, unlike Mama Sanchez, I did not even attempt to make my own tortillas and this is where the Mexican purists amongst you will assemble the lynch mob: I used Old El Paso‘s corn tortillas. Don’t hurt me: they were pretty good. Clearly they’re nowhere as good as they’d be if I made them myself but I’m a relative novice to Mexican food and as far as ready-made tortillas go, these corn ones are actually quite tasty. Salty with a little maize sweetness, they’ll do in a pinch until I learn – or ask Mama Sanchez to teach me – how to make my own.
So the next time you’ve got some chicken that needs using up, consider the humble enchilada and then smother it in cream and cheese – it’s well worth it.
CHICKEN ENCHILADAS POBLANAS
(the cheat’s version)
2-3 green chillies (or 2-3 poblano peppers, if you can find them)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped finely
Cooked chicken from 4 whole legs, shredded
500 ml double cream
8 corn tortillas (recommended: Old El Paso)
Large handful of shredded mozzarella
Salt & pepper (to taste)
A medium-sized casserole dish
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
2. Toast the chillies briefly (this will release the flavours) in a dry pan, until lightly charred. Let cool then de-seed and cut into strips.
3. Over a medium-low heat, fry the onion and garlic in a splash of vegetable oil together until the onion is soft and the garlic fragrant, then add the chicken and chilli, stirring until well combined. Season with the salt and pepper and fry for a couple of minutes over a low heat.
4. Add about 200 ml of the cream and stir regularly over a medium heat until the cream has reduced. Turn off the heat and set aside.
5. Heat a large frying pan and warm the tortillas one at a time for just under a minute on each side, to soften. Place about a tablespoon of the creamy chicken mixture along the length of the tortilla in the centre, then roll the tortilla around it and place into the casserole dish. I find it easier to actually do this in the casserole dish as my fingers aren’t heat-proof enough to handle transferring the hot tortilla around the kitchen, plus my total lack of co-ordination probably means that there’d be more enchiladas on the floor than in my mouth.
6. When you’ve got all of your little enchiladas lined up next to each other in the casserole dish like a little enchilada army (you want them to fit snugly together so plan for a casserole dish big/small enough), pour the rest of the cream over the top and smother with a shredded mozzarella blanket.
7. Bake in the center of the oven for about 20-25 mins, or until the cheese has melted and is golden and bubbling. Keep an eye on it. Serve with arroz rojo or simply spoon into a bowl and devour. Enjoy.
Two more recipes coming up with ways to use up your delicious homemade chicken stock so until then, peace and love.