2 ¾ lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp ground cumin
12 tortillas (small to medium, roughly 7” in diameter)
2 cups Queso Quesadilla, shredded
2 cups Monterey Jack, shredded
2 cups White Cheddar, shredded
2 cups Asadero, shredded
4-5 cups salsa verde:
2 ½ lbs. medium tomatillos, husks and stems
removed, rinsed, whole
1 small white onion, halved, unpeeled
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 serrano peppers, seeded
1 cup cilantro leaves
2 TB fresh lime juice (approximately 1-2 limes)
3 tsp sea salt
Heat oven to 350.
Place chicken thighs in a large baking dish. Dust with sea salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and ground cumin. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. When the chicken cools enough, cube or shred the thighs.
Salsa Verde – Yield 4 ½ – 5 cups
While the chicken is baking, heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add tomatillos, onion, garlic and serrano. Cook – rotating to cook all sides – until blackened on all sides (around 20 minutes).
Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to handle with bare hands (or not melt your food processor). Peel the garlic and onion.
In a food processor or blender, pulse the charred ingredients, cilantro, lime juice and salt until you have chunky salsa.
Assembling the Casserole
In a 13×9 baking dish, spoon in a layer of the salsa, covering the entire bottom. Line with three whole tortillas plus one torn tortilla to fill in gaps. Layer: salsa, chicken, ½ cup of each type of cheese, salsa. Then repeat until you run out of ingredients or space in the dish. The top layer should be tortillas covered with salsa and cheese.
Heat uncovered in oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes.
*Casserole – When you’re served enchiladas in restaurants, your plate will arrive with one, two or three perfectly formed tubes. It takes skill to form those and skill to keep them formed that way. I take the easy way out by making a casserole instead of true enchiladas.
*Prep and cook times – I’m a slow ingredients-gatherer, prepper and chopper, so you might not need a full hour. Some of the cook time can happen simultaneously. For your first time making this, allow two hours so you’re not rushed. If you finish much earlier than expected, cover the casserole and keep it on Warm in the oven.
*Chicken – Thighs will stay moist; chicken breasts tend to dry out. When I first learned to make enchiladas, I was taught to boil the chicken, then shred it. As long as your chicken is seasoned, cooked and bite size, it doesn’t matter how you prepare your chicken.
*Large baking dish – You’ll need one larger than a 13×9 for the chicken or you can use two pans.
*Salsa recipe – It’s based on a recipe from Joanne Weir of Copita.
*Cast-iron skillet – If you don’t have one, a stainless steel skillet will work. If you don’t have a pan large enough to fit all of the vegetables, split the ingredients into two batches.
*Serranos – If you love spicy food, leave the serrano peppers whole; just trim off the stems.
*Tomatillos – Try to purchase all the same size so they’ll cook uniformly. If you’ve never shopped for tomatillos before, feel them like you would a tomato to make sure there aren’t any soft “rotty” spots, and do your best to peak under the husks to check for worm holes. (If I’m going to consume worms, I prefer they be in mezcal.)
*Charring – If smaller vegetables char more quickly, set them on top of the larger veggies to absorb the heat and aroma, but not get overly charred. Make sure your kitchen is well-ventilated. If not, the fumes will make you cough, and your eyes will water. But it’s so worth it!
*Food processor – Ensure your food processor or blender can hold five cups of liquid. (Many food processors can only hold half the amount of solids – or less.) If you’re not sure or if it doesn’t, blend half the batch at a time, then combine in a bowl.
*Salsa quantity – If you don’t want your enchiladas too runny, you probably won’t need all of it, so have chips on hand to eat the extra! If I’m stingy during the layering, we sometimes end up with a good cup leftover with still plenty of flavor in the casserole.
*Tortillas – Corn tortillas are typically used, but you can select any kind. We use a white corn and wheat blend. You can also use any size since you can easily cut or tear them to fit.
*Filling in gaps – You don’t need to have 100% wall-to-wall tortillas. It’s OK if you see lines of salsa peeking through.
*Cheese – You can mix all of the cheeses together and spread two cups on each layer, or you can leave them separate. Have fun experimenting with the types of cheese you use.
*Baking the casserole – There is nothing raw, so your goal is to melt all of the cheese and get the interior piping hot.