Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce

Last week I tried a new recipe for making chicken in the slow cooker. Long story short, it was kind of a bust – the chicken was flavorless and bland. I probably could have doctored it up, but well, I was lazy so instead we went ahead with the plan to use the chicken to make tacos, loading them up with tons of good, flavorful ingredients to compensate for the boring chicken. After three straight nights of tacos though I realized we’d barely made a dent in this giant bowl of chicken, and as much as we love taco night, I think we were both ready to move on.

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce

Enter these chicken enchiladas, which rescued us from our predicament. I’d seen the recipe on a number of blogs, always with rave reviews, and we definitely weren’t disappointed. From the homemade enchilada sauce to the flavorful chicken filling and of course the melty cheese on top, these were a home run! I served the enchiladas with this Mexican rice on the side. Both recipes make enough food to feed just the two of us for several nights; I’m not sure we’ve ever looked forward to leftovers quite so much :)

If you don’t have shredded chicken on hand, you can cook chicken breasts in the enchilada sauce (see Laura’s post for instructions). Also, if you’re really short on time, you could substitute canned enchilada sauce for the homemade, though I wouldn’t recommend it – this stuff is good!

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce
adapted from Tide & Thyme and America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook (originally seen on Fake Ginger)

1 teaspoon canola oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sugar
2 (8-oz) cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
1 (4-oz) can chopped green chiles
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 425 F.

To make the sauce: Add the oil to a medium saucepan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds – 1 minute, just until fragrant. Mix in the tomato sauce and water. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer, really pressing on the onions to extract all the liquid you can. Transfer the onion mixture to a medium bowl. Season the strained sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken, half of the cheddar cheese, the chiles, the parsley, and 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce to the onion mixture. Stir to combine.

Place 2 tortillas at a time on a microwave safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave for 25 seconds, or until the tortillas are soft and pliable. Spoon 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture onto the lower third of each tortilla, and roll tightly. Place seam side-down in a 13×9 baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling.

Lightly spray the tops of the enchiladas with nonstick cooking spray. Cook, uncovered, for about 7-8 minutes, or until the tops of the tortillas just start to brown slightly. Remove the enchiladas from the oven and reduce the temperature to 400 F. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over them and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the enchiladas are heated through.

Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese browns. Let the enchiladas stand for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional parsley and serve with your favorite toppings.