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Green Chicken Enchiladas

These deliciously cheesy enchiladas are stuffed with tender chicken and bathed in a spicy, zesty green tomatillo sauce. Tomatillos, related not to tomatoes but to gooseberries, give the sauce its color and tartness; a jalapeño chile provides just the right amount of heat; and Monterey jack cheese delivers a good dose of richness.

Ingredients:

  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 lbs. total)
  • 2 cups chopped white onions
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 6 sprigs fresh cilantro, plus 1/3 cup coarsely chopped
  • 2 lbs. tomatillos, husked
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 Tbs., plus more as needed
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Chopped white onions, sour cream, chopped cilantro and crumbled cotija cheese for serving 

Directions:

Place the chicken breast halves, skin side down, in a saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of the onion, 2 cloves of the garlic, 1 tsp. salt and water to cover. Bring to a simmer over high heat, skimming off any foam. Add the peppercorns and cilantro sprigs, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially and simmer until the chicken is opaque throughout, about 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, but keep the broth simmering. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and return them to the simmering broth. Dice the chicken meat and set aside. Continue simmering the broth 30 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container.

Let stand for 5 minutes, then skim off any fat from the surface.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the tomatillos, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently (do not boil) until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the tomatillos to a bowl, taking care that they don’t burst. In batches, in a blender, combine the tomatillos, the remaining 1 1/2 cups onions, the chopped cilantro, the remaining 4 garlic cloves and the chile and process until smooth. In a large saucepan, heat the 2 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat. Add the tomatillo purée (it will splatter, so be careful) and 1 cup of the reserved broth and bring to a boil. (Reserve the remaining broth for another use.) Boil, stirring frequently, until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. To assemble the enchiladas, spread 1/3 cup of the sauce in the dish. Mix 1 1/2 cups of the cheese with the reserved chicken. Pour 2 cups of the sauce into a pie dish, and place near the stove. In a frying pan, heat the 1/2 cup olive oil over medium heat. Using tongs, dip 1 tortilla in the oil for a few seconds to soften, and then into the tomatillo sauce. Place the tortilla on a work surface, add a few tablespoons of the filling down the center and roll up the tortilla. Place it, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling. Spread the remaining sauce on top, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm with onions, sour cream, cilantro and cotija. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009)