No, these Colorado Enchiladas are not from Denver.
Taken from Spanish, colorado roughly translates as reddish in color. These days, Colorado Sauce has come to signify a wide range of sauces that are, you guessed it, red.
Remember when we tasted the dried chilis’ soaking liquid in the Anchos Module? For those of you who liked that flavor you’ll love this recipe — it’s a rich, rustic sauce with serious potential to be your new favorite.
My palate demands a bit of sweetening in the form of dark chocolate and adobo, but you can consider these sauce adjustments optional.
For this batch, we’re using 4 New Mexican chilis and 3 small Ancho chilis. Similar to Guajillos, New Mexican chilis have a mild flavor and work well in tandem with Ancho chilis.
Start by wiping off any dusty crevasses with a damp paper towel. Cut off the stems, discard the seeds and veins, and then tear the chilis into smaller chunks.
Meanwhile, roughly chop half an onion and peel 3 garlic cloves. Saute the onion and whole garlic cloves in a dollop of oil over medium heat.
Once the onion starts to brown, 5-7 minutes, add the dried chilis along with:
3 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
Note that I am combining a few steps here not because this is the only way to make this sauce, but to show how you can make a version if you don’t have stock on hand.
So we’ll cook the chicken in this mixture to add just enough stock undertone to our sauce. The chicken cooking time, 10-15 minutes, will also be enough time to reconstitute the dried chilis.
Bring this mixture to a boil and add a chicken breast that’s been sliced in half lengthwise.
Reduce heat to a simmer (mediumish) and partially cover. Depending on the width of the saucepan, you may need to add additional water to submerge the chicken.
10-15 minutes later, the chicken will be cooked through. Remove the chicken and cover with some foil to keep it moist.
Add the rest of the mixture to a blender and combine well.
And now the most important part. Take a taste!
What’s your first impression?
It will depend a little on your palate. If it tastes bitter to you then you are a candidate for some sauce sweetening. If it doesn’t taste bitter to you then you can consider the further additions to the sauce optional.
First though give the sauce a strain, this will leave behind seeds and skin that we don’t need in the final product.
Push down to force the sauce through the strainer. You’ll end up with 1/2 cup of skin remnants that can be discarded.
Add the strained sauce back to the original saucepan on medium heat. Depending on how much water you added during the chicken simmer, you’ll need about 15-30 minutes to reduce the sauce down to a thicker consistency.
To complement the earthiness of the dried chilis, I’ve been adding one tablespoon of adobo sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo.
And a corner of dark chocolate.
This creates an incredibly rich flavor that works perfectly for my palate.
Stir frequently. 15-30 minutes later the sauce will reduce to a thicker consistency, to the point where it will cling to a spatula.
Give a final taste for salt and make an agreement with yourself not to eat it all before you make the enchiladas.
You’re left with a rich, otherworldly sauce that is a total keeper once you calibrate it to your taste buds.
I usually shred the chicken using two forks and then combine it in a bowl with a pinch of salt, some finely chopped onion, and a couple spoonfuls of the Colorado sauce.
This batch is enough for at least two people, so you’ll need about 8-10 corn tortillas. I warmed up the tortillas in the oven for a couple minutes to make them easier to roll.
Add a few spoonfuls of the sauce to a plate. Dredge a tortilla in the sauce and flip it over, filling with chicken, cheese and some finely chopped onion.
Roll tight and add to a baking dish seam side down. You can add a few spoonfuls of sauce to the baking dish to prevent sticking.
Keep going until the chicken mixture is gone. Add the remaining sauce to the enchiladas.
Don’t eat them yet!
Bake in the oven at 400F for 8-10 minutes, just enough time to bring everything to a uniform temp and melt the cheese.
Okay, now you can eat them.
Garnishes are optional but of course a little Crema and Cotija cheese never hurts.
Serve immediately as is or with a side of Arroz Rojo.
Don’t forget that the most important step to this dish is taking a taste after blending the sauce. Everyone’s taste buds will have different sweetening requirements. Once you’ve got the balance right though you’ve got an unbelievably satisfying sauce that will always be a mere 30 minutes away. So good!
The recipe box is below. Next up we’ll take a look at a hybrid enchiladas version that is wildly popular in Mexico: Enfrijoladas! Click the ‘Mark Complete’ button down below to check it out.
- 2 Ancho dried chiles
- 4 New Mexican dried chiles
- 1/2 onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
- sliver of dark chocolate
- 1 chicken breast
- 3-4 cups water
- 8-10 corn tortillas
- Monterey Jack cheese
- 3-4 tablespoons finely chopped onion
- Mexican Crema (optional)
- Cotija cheese (optional)
- Roughly chop 1/2 an onion and peel 3 garlic cloves. Add the onion and garlic to a dollop of oil in a saucepan and saute on medium heat for 5-8 minutes.
- Remove the stems and de-seed the dried chiles. Wipe off any dusty crevasses and tear the chiles into smaller pieces.
- Add the chiles to the onion mixture along with 3 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
- Bring mixture to a boil. Slice a chicken breast in half lengthwise and add it to the mixture. If the chicken isn't fully submerged add a bit more water. Reduce heat to a simmer and partially cover.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Set chicken aside, covering in foil to retain moisture.
- Add the remaining sauce mixture to a blender and combine well. (Always use caution when blending warm ingredients.)
- And now take a taste of the sauce. If it tastes bitter to you then you're a candidate for some sauce sweetening.
- Strain the sauce, pushing the mixture through a sieve using a spoon.
- Return the strained sauce to the saucepan and simmer over medium heat. Add 1 Tablespoon of adobo sauce and a sliver of chocolate (both are optional).
- Let simmer until reduced to a thicker consistency, approximately 15-30 minutes
- Take a final taste for salt.
- Shred the chicken using two forks and combine in a bowl along with a pinch of salt, some finely chopped onion, and a few spoonfuls of the sauce.
- Warm up 8-10 corn tortillas in the oven for a couple minutes. (Or cover them with damp paper towels and nuke them for 60 seconds.)
- Add a few spoonfuls of the sauce to a plate. Dredge a tortilla in the sauce and then flip it over, filling it with the chicken mixture and cheese.
- Roll tight and add to a baking dish seam side down. You can line the baking dish with sauce to prevent sticking.
- Continue rolling until all the chicken is gone. Add the remaining sauce to the top of the enchiladas.
- Bake at 400F for 8-10 minutes. Serve immediately. Optional garnishes include Crema and Cotija cheese.