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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Make delicious, authentic enchiladas verdes from scratch

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
You can always use leftover salsa verde to eat with corn chips or pour over eggs —trust me, they are delicious. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Like many great recipes, enchiladas owe at least some of their popularity to the fact that they can be made using leftover proteins and even stale tortillas. 

Though they are usually made using chicken or turkey, you can stuff them with just about anything. Purists may get after me for saying this, but you can even use beans, roasted chickpeas, or lentils. But for this recipe, we will be preparing our enchiladas the classic way, with chicken. 

First, the sauce. Salsa verde is a staple of all Mexican cooks and is used in an almost infinite amount of ways.  Store-bought options in cans or jars are usually decent, but of course, nothing compares to the taste you get from using fresh ingredients. 

The ingredients you will need to make a delicious salsa verde are readily available in just about every market, grocery store, or corner shop in Yucatán and beyond. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Ingredients

  • 1 kilogram green tomatoes or tomatillos
  • 2 serrano peppers
  • 1 habanero pepper (optional)
  • Bunch of cilantro
  • Half of a white onion
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • Salt 
  • Pinch of sugar (you’ll see why)

Wash the green tomatoes and serrano chiles and put them to boil in a medium-sized pot, ensuring that all ingredients are fully submerged.

Keep in mind that the size and weight of the green tomatoes may vary somewhat, but usually between 8 and 12 will be enough to make up a kilogram. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

In the meantime wash the cilantro after removing half of the stem, and let it soak for 10 minutes. Add a few drops of a cleaning solution, such as Biopur, for fruits and vegetables. Peel garlic and chop onion into quarters for easier blending. 

Sometimes bunches of cilantro carry small insects, so make sure to rinse them off really well before cleaning with a few drops of Biopur or a similar product made for purifying fruits and vegetables. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The tomatoes and serrano chiles are ready once they change color. Be careful to not over-boil them to the point where they start to fall apart. The water in the green tomatoes is what will give your salsa the majority of its liquid. If you are afraid you have overcooked the tomatoes, make sure not to throw out the water you used to boil them. 

When your green tomatoes are looking like this, it’s time to take them out. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Combine tomatoes, chilies, cilantro, onion, and garlic in a blender and season with salt. You can always add more salt later on if it’s needed. Also, add habanero pepper if you want your salsa to have a little kick — a single pepper will not make it too spicy. 

Add a pinch of sugar to the ingredients in the blender to counteract the green tomatoes’ acidity. While blending the ingredients, place a clean kitchen cloth under the lid, as the ingredients will be hot, and a tight seal may cause your blender to crack. 

Blending for 30 seconds or so should be enough. If you lack moisture, add a little of the tomato/pepper water you saved.

Use a small spoon to taste your salsa and add more ingredients (particularly salt) if you feel it’s needed.

 

You can also add more cilantro, onions, or another habanero if you are feeling brave. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Set a pot or pan on your stove at high heat. When the pot is hot, add cooking oil, which will begin to boil almost immediately. Add your salsa, and after a couple of minutes, reduce heat down to a simmer. Taste the salsa again and adjust the seasonings if you feel it needs it. Voila, or should I say, ¡listo! — your homemade salsa verde is ready. 

Now on to the enchiladas.

Ingredients
(serves 4)

Flour tortillas won’t really work well for enchiladas (especially store-bought), as they do not absorb the salsa verde well enough. Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
  • Plenty of salsa verde (we have that covered already)
  • 20 corn tortillas (preferably from a local mill/molino; it does not matter if they are a bit dry or stale)
  • Cooking oil (canola or olive)
  • Shredded chicken or turkey (half a chicken should suffice for 20 enchiladas)
  • Queso sopero (a type of crumbly salty cheese)
  • Cream (can be whole, skimmed, or without lactose)
  • Shredded lettuce 

Pour salsa verde in a pot (if it’s not already thereafter you’ve followed the salsa verde recipe) and keep it at low heat. There is no need to cover the pot. It should be smelling mighty good by this point. 

Shred your chicken or turkey (or prepare whatever protein you have chosen) and place it in a bowl. It is important to do this first, as there will be no time to do it later on without having your tortillas get cold and become unmanageable.

Grate the queso sopero. As it is already extremely crumbly, a knife or fork should be enough to do the job. If you try a little, you will notice that this type of cheese is extremely salty and a bit chalky. It is mostly used as a topping and is not really intended to be eaten on its own. 

Add a few dabs of cooking oil to a preheated pot or pan. The oil should boil almost immediately after hitting its surface. 

Now, sautéing the tortillas. Take your tortillas and lay them flat on the hot oil. You may want to use kitchen tongs to avoid getting burned. Don’t add more than three or four tortillas at a time, depending on the size of your pot, as you want all of them to get properly sautéd until crispy.

Remember we are only sautéing the tortillas, not frying them. We do this to give the tortillas a more solid consistency which will keep them from falling apart once we add the sauce. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Once they start to get nice and toasty, remove them using your tongs and place them on a flat strainer to drain the excess oil. Repeat until your tortillas are ready. 

Give your salsa verde pot a good stir. Take your tongs and dip each tortilla (individually) into the salsa verde and then lay them out. Don’t worry if it looks like the salsa is dripping off. 

Ah, yes, this is truly a thing of beauty. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Take your shredded chicken or turkey and place some inside each tortilla, then fold them in half. Even if you have plenty of protein, don’t overstuff your tortillas, as this will likely break them (a very common newbie mistake),

Place four of your freshly made enchiladas on each plate and use a ladle to add more of your homemade salsa verde.

 

Don’t be shy, your enchiladas should be practically swimming in the salsa. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Once you have enough salsa add some shredded lettuce on top, followed by a generous dollop of cream and finally the grated queso sopero. Your enchiladas verdes are now ready to serve!

Feel free to tweak the recipe as it’s pretty hard to mess up. You can also try using other sauces, beans, and even mole to add a little variety. Eat enchiladas using your hands, or with a knife and fork if you rather not get messy. Either way, enjoy and buen apetito.

Enchiladas breakfast are commonly thought of as breakfast food (at least in my case) but are great at any time of day. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Thanks to Yesica Benitez for her invaluable assistance.

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