Pepper Chicken Enchiladas
This is the fifth post in a five part series called Expecting Nugget! I took the liberty to insanely stock our freezer with lots of good eats in preparation for our first baby. I figured I would share them all because everybody needs good freezer meals!
Well, I saved the hardest freezer meal for the last one! The idea of having frozen enchiladas at the ready was really appealing to us, but I was worried about how enchiladas would hold up in the freezer. I’ve never had a great (and possibly not even a good) batch of frozen chicken enchiladas.
The problem is that you have a lot going on including filling, soft tortillas, sauce, and cheese. All of these things work together beautifully, but can wreak havoc on a frozen dish, especially the tortillas. If you don’t take the time to freeze them right, they will end up as a soggy mess on the reheated end.
But, as the great(?) Montell Jordan once said, “This is how we do it.”
1) Poach chicken in barely simmering water until just cooked through, 12-15 minutes. Once cooked, drain and let cool slightly. Then shred the chicken.
2) In a large skillet, add a drizzle of oil over medium heat. Add diced onions and peppers and cook until they start to soften, 3-4 minutes. Stir in cumin and season with salt and pepper. Finally stir in shredded chicken and tomatillo salsa. Stir to combine, then remove from heat and set aside.
1) In a medium pot, whisk together butter and flour over medium heat. Keep whisking until the mixture turns a light, tan color, about 5 minutes.
3) Whisk in all the spices and cook for another 30 seconds. Then start whisking in chicken stock in a thin stream. Once stock is whisked in, bring gravy to a slight simmer and cook until it thickens nicely, about 2-3 minutes, whisking occasionally.
TO make Enchiladas:
1) Add 1/4 cup oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Working with one tortilla at a time, let it heat in the oil for 5-10 seconds per side. Then remove tortilla and let drain on a paper towel.
2) Once a tortilla is warmed and flexible, work with one at a time. Fill it with some of the filling and a small handful of cheese. Roll it tightly.
3) Spoon some of the sauce into the bottom of each dish, then start laying in enchiladas. You should get 6 in each dish. Once all enchiladas are in the dishes, divide sauce between the dishes and top each with cheese.
TO Freeze: Let the enchiladas cool completely and then transfer to the freezer on baking sheets (still uncovered). Let the enchiladas freeze uncovered. Then remove them and wrap them tightly in a plastic wrap and a layer of heavy duty foil. Return the dishes to the freezer where they will store great for 4-6 months.
To reheat: Let the dishes thaw in the fridge slowly. Then reheat in a 350 degree F. oven for 25-30 minutes until the enchiladas are hot and the cheese is bubbly in the center. Serve with cilantro, sour cream, etc.
Frozen Chicken Enchiladas
Really any enchilada could be frozen if you take the time to do it right, but I wanted a lighter enchilada with really clean, fresh flavors. So I chopped up a lot of peppers and onions!
I sauteed my veggies in a little oil over medium heat until they were just starting to soften. You don’t want to overcook them at this point or they will turn mushy. Some texture is good.
Season the peppers with some cumin, salt and pepper.
You could keep these vegetarian by adding beans, but I wanted to add some chicken so I just blanched about two pounds of chicken in lightly simmering water for 12-15 minutes until it was just cooked through. Then I let it cool and shredded it up!
Stir the chicken into the veggies with a good amount of tomatillo salsa. The salsa works as a sauce for the filling and ties everything together.
This makes a lot of enchiladas!
Enchilada Sauce Time
While the filling cooks, you can make the sauce. This is a riff on my chili gravy enchilada sauce which is my hands-down favorite situation.
Start by melting some butter and then whisking in flour to form a roux. Let that cook for a few minutes over medium heat and then whisk in all the spices. This kind of spice addition can only be described as a boat load.
Once the spices are whisked in, slowly add the chicken stock until it form a light gravy.
This is all you need for a great sauce!
Making and Freezing
Making enchiladas is kind of a pain if you want to do it right. I like to use corn tortillas, but you could just as well use flour tortillas.
Specifically if you’re using corn, you want to heat them gently in some oil so they get nice and flexible. Then add a spoonful of filling to each one and a pocket of cheese. Don’t over-do it on the cheese here.
For each casserole dish, spoon some sauce into the dish and then layer in about six enchiladas (or as many as you can fit). I was able to fit six in each 8×8 casserole pan I had.
I got four of these pans out of this recipe.
Once all your pans are made, spoon the sauce over each to make sure it’s divided evenly and then sprinkle on a little extra cheese.
The trick to freezing these guys is simple. You need to freeze them uncovered until they are frozen solid. Let them cool at room temperature and then stick them in the freezer on a baking sheet. Let them freeze solid and then remove them, wrap each one in plastic wrap and foil, and store them in the freezer for 4-5 months.
Letting them freeze uncovered allows all the extra moisture to pull away from the enchiladas which will mean less soggy mess when you reheat them!
Reheating is simple! I like to let them thaw in the fridge slowly and then pop them in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until the center is bubbly and hot (remember to remove the plastic wrap before reheating them!)
Betsy and I actually ate a reheated batch of this a few nights ago and they reheated really nicely. They weren’t quite as good as fresh, but still quite good and a huge time saver!