Welcome to one of my favorite recipes in the Course — Ancho Enchiladas!
The Anchos give this enchilada sauce an incredible flavor that somehow tastes familiar to me, as if it’s the way enchiladas are supposed to be.
I hope you’re hungry — ready to start cooking?
I filled these enchiladas with chicken but keep in mind that there is some leeway on the protein choice. The Ancho sauce is the key to this dish and the protein choice is less important, so feel free to customize to your liking.
Here’s a look at the key ingredients for the sauce:
We’ll use four Ancho dried chilis and start by wiping off any dusty crevasses. After de-stemming and de-seeding, we’ll wake them up in a 400F oven for 1-2 minutes. (More info on using Ancho chilis.)
Once they are warm and fragrant, cover the Ancho pieces in a bowl with the hottest tap water you’ve got. If they float to the surface you can use a plate or small bowl to keep them submerged.
Let these reconstitute for 20 minutes or so, depending on how hungry you are. (It’s worth taking a taste of the chilis’ soaking liquid to see how your palate reacts to it.)
We’ll also roast two tomatoes in the oven at 400F. They’ll be mostly roasted when the Anchos are done reconstituting.
While all this reconstituting and roasting is going on, saute a roughly chopped onion and 2 whole garlic cloves in a dollop of oil.
Before adding the onion to the skillet, set aside a couple tablespoons to be used for the inner mixture of the enchiladas.
Don’t worry about chopping too fine because all of this is going in the blender eventually.
Drain the reconstituted chilis and add the chili pieces to a blender along with the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and 2 cups of stock.
I used chicken stock for this recipe, but you can always use the chilis’ soaking liquid in place of the stock if you want to. Basically, if the chilis’ soaking liquid tastes good to you then feel free to use it, but if it tastes bitter to you then I would recommend using stock.
Blend until smooth.
Look at that sauce!
Strain the blended sauce through a fine-mesh sieve. You might have to push down on the sauce once the sieve gets a bit clogged. You’ll end up with about 1/2 cup worth of seeds and skin that can be discarded.
Add a big dollop of oil to a saucepan and once heated you can add the strained enchilada sauce.
Add 1 teaspoon of Mexican oregano, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground black pepper.
Mix well and let the sauce simmer for 30-45 minutes. It’ll eventually reduce down to a thicker, velvety consistency.
Give it a final taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.
If all has gone according to plan, you’ve got a rich, otherworldly enchilada sauce on your hands. Yum!
Okay, you’ve got choices on the innards of the enchiladas. Shredded rotisserie chicken works great. Or you can poach 2 boneless chicken breasts while the sauce is simmering. That’s what I did and the final product, 8 enchiladas worth, used up about 1.5 chicken breasts.
To poach the chicken, simply cover two chicken breasts with cold tap water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to let simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
For this batch of chicken, I also added salt, pepper, onion, and cilantro to the saucepan. This won’t flavor the chicken as much as you might hope it would, but it does make your kitchen smell good!
Once the chicken is cooked through, set aside to cool and then shred it using two forks.
One of the tricks to making enchiladas is getting the tortillas to roll without cracking open. Warming up the tortillas helps with this. You can either put them in some foil and stick them in the oven for a few minutes, or you can cover them with damp paper towels and nuke them for 60 seconds or so.
Add a few tablespoons of your delicious enchilada sauce to a plate. Dredge a tortilla in the sauce and flip it over. Fill the tortilla with chicken, cheese and some finely diced onion.
Roll tight and set them seam side down in a baking dish. (You can add some sauce to the baking dish to prevent sticking.)
Continue rolling the enchiladas but be sure to leave enough sauce leftover to generously coat the tops of them in the baking dish. You can jiggle the baking dish a little bit to let some of the sauce fall between the enchiladas.
Bake for 10-15 minutes in the oven at 400F.
Cilantro, Cotija cheese, and Crema are all great options as final touches. I think the sharpness of Cotija cheese sprinkled on top works well in combination with the melted Jack cheese inside the enchiladas.
Serve immediately and savor the first few bites of your Ancho enchilada sauce. Well done!
I’ll put the recipe box for these Ancho Enchiladas below if you want to print it out for kitchen use.
And since this is the last recipe in the Module, click ‘Enchiladas! – Quiz!’ to take the Quiz and complete the Module.
Ancho Chicken Enchiladas
- 4 ancho dried chilis
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 medium-sized onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 cups stock
- 3 cups shredded chicken (2 boneless breasts or rotisserie chicken)
- 1/2 cup Jack cheese
- 8-10 corn tortillas
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
- freshly ground black pepper
- cotija cheese (optional)
- cilantro (optional)
- Crema (optional)
- Wipe off any dusty crevasses on the Anchos, then de-stem and de-seed them. Roast them in the oven at 400F for 1-2 minutes. Cover the Ancho pieces with hot tap water and let reconstitute for 20-30 minutes
- Roast 2 tomatoes in the oven at 400F. They'll be mostly roasted by the time the Anchos are done reconstituting.
- Roughly chop 1 medium-sized onion. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the onion for the inner mixture of the enchiladas. Saute the onion in a dollop of oil over medium heat along with the 2 whole, peeled garlic cloves. Cook until lightly browned.
- Drain the Ancho chilis. Add the chilis, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and 2 cups of stock to a blender. Blend until smooth. Strain the blender sauce through a fine mesh sieve and discard the leftover seeds and skin.
- Saute the strained sauce in a dollop of oil over medium heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and some freshly cracked black pepper. Let simmer for 30-45 minutes or until it reduces down to a thick, velvety consistency.
- You can use rotisserie chicken for the enchiladas, or now you can start poaching 2 chicken breasts. Simply cover 2 chicken breasts with cold tap water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to let simmer for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through. I typically salt the poaching water and for this batch I added pepper, onion, and cilantro to the pot. Once the chicken is cooked, set aside to cool and then shred it using two forks.
- Warm the tortillas in the oven for 1-2 minutes or nuke them in the microwave for 60 seconds.
- To build the enchiladas, start by adding a few tablespoons of the enchilada sauce to a plate. Dredge a tortilla in the sauce and flip it over. Fill with chicken, cheese, and finely chopped onion. Roll tight and set them seam side down in a baking dish (You can add some sauce to the baking dish to prevent sticking). Continue rolling the enchiladas but be sure to save enough sauce to cover the tops of them generously in the baking dish.
- Bake the enchiladas for 10-15 minutes in a 400F oven.
- Serve immediately. Optional garnishes include Cotija cheese, cilantro, and Crema.