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Chilaquiles for Cinco de Mayo

It’s hard to believe that the year has flown by so quickly that we are imminently upon another big food and drink holiday. Next week is already Cinco de Mayo (not actually Mexican independence day but the anniversary of a significant battle). Maybe it’s all the food from last week’s Chinatown excursion, but my taste buds have already shifted gears and I’m craving the tastes of the country south of the U.S. border.

About a couple of months ago, I caught the episode of “Tyler’s Ultimate” where Tyler Florence made Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa. I think that it was one of the few cooking shows where I immediately just started to make a grocery list and went out that day to hunt down all the ingredients so that I could make it myself. I love enchiladas and with one batch, I have dinner leftovers for a week so it works out well to feed myself during those weeks, like the one coming up, where I know I’ll be pulling extra long hours.

Chilaquiles (tortillas fried, covered in tomatillo sauce and cheese – and sometimes with shredded chicken or pork – and then baked) are something else I’ve often enjoyed when I’ve gone out to eat Mexican. I’d never made them, but armed with the tomatillo sauce from the recipe I just mentioned, I did a little research and came up with my own version of this dish, just in time for the holiday.

I did cheat a little bit, I confess, in making this. Many recipes I found said to fry up a batch of tortillas oneself, but I just couldn’t do that. I bought tortilla chips instead from a local gourmet store, preferring not to have my apartment smell like a greasy diner (or chip shop, depending upon your frame of reference). If you also decide to go this route, you’ll have to be careful to cut back on adding salt, as the store-bought chips often have quite a bit on them.

If you like enchiladas, I recommend checking out the recipes from the Food Network episode I mentioned above. You can find it at http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,1977,FOOD_9936_35924,00.html (please be careful as the recipe has the ingredients listed twice). The rice and beans that Tyler Florence also put together with the main course make this a really great dinner or even a meal to entertain guests with next Saturday on the 5th.


Chilaquiles
Prep Time: 60 minutes, including making salsa
Serves: 4 adults

Ingredients:
1/2 batch Tomatillo Salsa (see recipe link above and photos below)
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken breasts
1 cup monterey jack cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups tortilla chips
olive oil
salt
pepper
Optional garnishes:
Tomatoes, chopped
Lettuce, shredded
Sour cream
Guacamole (see my recipe from this previous post)

Assembly:
Prepare Tomatillo Salsa and set aside. While the vegetables are cooking for the salsa, shred the chicken if using pre-bought or leftover meat. Grate the cheese.

If cooking chicken oneself, sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken breasts and coat in olive oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side. Then, place in 350 degree Fahrenheit oven (180 degrees Centigrade, Gas Mark 4) to finish cooking for another 10-15 minutes until cooked through. When chicken has cooled, shred it into 1/2-inch pieces.

In 8-inch by 8-inch ovenproof dish, coat the bottom with 2 Tablespoons of the Tomatillo Salsa. Layer 1/3 of the tortilla chips, 1/3 the chicken, and ½ of the cheese. Sprinkle ¼ cup salsa on top of that. Repeat layering with the chips, chicken, and cheese. Sprinkle ¼ cup salsa on top of the second layer. Finish the top layer with the remaining tortilla chips and cheese.

Bake, uncovered, in 350 degree Fahrenheit (180 degrees Centigrade, Gas Mark 4) oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted completely. Serve immediately, garnished with extra salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, and sour cream, if so desired.


Tomatillo Salsa

Here’s a look at how this dish starts and finishes:

Raw chopped veggies – I tossed them in a little bit of olive oil before putting them in the oven
Roasted veggies, straight from the oven

The finished product once it’s been puréed
(it makes about 2 cups of salsa)

Kitchen Witch Tip:

Tomatillos are distantly related to tomatoes, hence their similar-sounding name, and may be referred to as “husk tomatoes.” They are also considered to be part of the gooseberry family, and look very familiar to the same. The husks are generally very easy to remove. Running the tougher ones under water can help with this. Also, you should give them a quick rinse after taking off the husk, as they may be a bit sticky.

For hints on working with cilantro/fresh coriander, please see the link to the post about making Guacamole.

Buon appetito!