R and I share a love for authentic Mexican cuisine…at least, that’s what I thought! Luscious red Chimayo chiles dotted a garden bed, signaling perfect timing for making enchilada sauce. I handpicked 12 beautiful specimens and got down to my Mexican roots in the kitchen with Calexico playing in the background.
An hour and a half later: Perfect sauce. Perfect chicken. I was proud and satisfied. Then R came home…
At first, he was awed by smells of roasted garlic, cilantro, and fresh chiles. R grinned boldly, exaggerating his dimples, when I revealed what kind of dish I was preparing. He happily poured an IPA into two glasses. For R, it was about to be a perfect end to the work week- a warm, sunny afternoon, a solid refreshing beer, and a home cooked meal on the way. Then, something unexpected happened. After scanning the kitchen counters a few times, R’s grin changed to a grimace as he asked where the olives were. Olives? With half an IPA in him on an empty stomach, he began to reminisce on something from his childhood called enchiritos. Much to his dismay, we did not have any black olives in the house. The reminiscing turned into ranting, which is not unusual. R went on about enchiritos, Taco Bell, and three black olive slices. I’m Mexican, and I had never heard of enchiritos, nor is it ever my goal to be on par with Taco Bell. Come to find out, an enchirito is a Tex-Mex dish topped with a signature row of exactly three black olive slices. Apparently, R was thinking I should bring back the enchirito, his #1 Taco Bell staple pre-1985. I think not.
Below is an authentic NewMex Mexican recipe: no mush meat, no tin tubs, and black olives not required.
Fresh Red Chimayo Chile Sauce
- 3-4 tbsps vegetable oil
- 12 red Chimayo chiles (chopped with stems and seeds removed)*
- 1 chopped white onion
- 4 chopped garlic cloves
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp Mexican Oregano
- salt to taste
- fresh juice from a quarter slice (or half, to taste) of orange- our Valencias are super juicy, so a quarter slice sufficed
- 4 cups water/chicken broth (I used 3 cups water and 1 cup of the water I boiled chicken in for enchiladas)**
- 2 tbsps fresh minced cilantro
*You can substitute any red or green Hatch, serranos, jalepenos, or combination for red Chimayo chiles.
**If you plan on using the broth from your chicken, prepare the chicken first (see below).
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add chiles, onions, and garlic. Sautee until soft.
Add the cumin and oregano.
Add salt to taste.
Add the liquids and cilantro.
Bring the ingredients to a boil, stirring, then turn the heat down to a simmer.
Simmer uncovered for an hour.
In a blender, purée the sauce and return it to the saucepan. Cook until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency. Add salt to taste.
- 2 chicken breasts (I used boneless, skinless)
- 2-3 tbsps vegetable oil
- 6-7 corn tortillas
- 1-2 crushed garlic cloves
- dash of cumin
- chopped white onion
- minced cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
- shredded cheese (I used a sharp cheddar and Monterey jack mix from Trader Joe’s)
- black olive slices optional!
*Prepare cooked shredded chicken. Boil two boneless, skinless chicken breasts in just enough water to cover the meat. After the chicken is cooked, drain and use the broth for the chile sauce. Shred the chicken.
Cover the chicken and set it aside while preparing the chile sauce.
When your sauce is ready:
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
In a frying pan, add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil.
Heat the corn tortillas in the oil until soft.- about less than10 seconds on each side. Set the tortillas aside.
In the same skillet, add the garlic clove(s) and about half the chopped onion. Sautee on high for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add cumin, salt, pepper, and the shredded chicken and brown. When chicken is browned, remove the skillet from the heat and pour a few tablespoons of the chile sauce over the chicken and toss. Add more if desired, but just enough to get the flavor in. You don’t want your chicken dripping in it.
Line the bottom of an 8x8x2 (or similar) casserole dish with a spread of chile sauce.
Roll shredded chicken and cheese in corn tortillas and place in the casserole dish with the seams down.
Pour the prepared red Chimayo sauce to cover the enchiladas and top with cheese.
Save the extra chile sauce as a condiment. The sauce is so delicious, you’ll probably want even more on your enchiladas when they’re served.
Place the enchiladas in the oven and bake until cheese melts.
Top enchiladas with fresh chopped onion and cilantro. Oh yes, and three sliced olives each (if desired)!
Needless to say, R devoured six enchiladas, sans olive slices, and sprawled out on the couch in complete bliss and satisfaction.
The morning after, as I write this, he’s finding remnants of chile sauce on the table and his laptop- splatters from delightfully stuffing himself at dinner. Although R is still talking about enchiritos, he admits, my enchiladas are better, even without olives 😉