As anyone who follows along with our exploits on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram knows, I recently made the long, lonely cross-country drive from sunny, smoggy Burbank, California to the seemingly eternal permafrost of Rockland, Maine. It’s about 3,200 miles, and I made the trip by myself in about five days.
Unlike our family trip west last year, where we took our time and saw some interesting sights along the way, this trip was all business. I rocketed along Interstate 40, a long, mostly featureless trucker route that runs right through the middle of the country and seems to be populated mostly with steakhouses, places to buy moccasins, fireworks stores, truck stops, adult bookstores, and nondescript hotels with rooms whose doors open directly into a parking lot, instead of into a hallway.
For someone who writes a world famous food blog, I ate pretty poorly. A Lunchable for breakfast here and there, or a bag of beef jerky. My breakneck pace kept me from enjoying a lot of time in any one city (except, of course, for a pit stop for Hot Chicken at Pepperfire in Nashville, and an enormous lunchtime ribeye steak covered in a pound of sautéed mushrooms at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo), and I mostly drove until my eyes started to cross. When the lights began to streak in my eyes and the horizon line played tricks on me, I’d stop at a budget hotel for a few hours of rest before doing it all again the next day.
One of the bright spots in the trip, and something that made me feel like someone was taking care of me at the end of each long day of driving, was the enormous Tupperware container of “Green Chile Enchilada Casserole” that my sister had sent me off with after a stop in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and which I would reheat in the relative comfort of whichever value motel I had stopped at for the night. It was a taste of home on a long trip, and I am grateful to have had it.
When the good folks at Mission tortillas sent me a few packages of their new “Carb Balance” flour tortillas, I knew that they would be a perfect vehicle for my attempt to recreate her amazing enchilada casserole. I’ve never tried a low-carb tortilla before, and I have to confess that I didn’t approach them with high hopes. Carbs are some of my favorite things, and I didn’t see how they could be stripped out of my beloved flour tortillas without making them totally inedible.
But the secret of these tortillas isn’t that the carbs have been stripped out; it’s that dietary fiber has been added, to reduce the total net carbs of the tortillas, because apparently you can balance your carb intake with a high fiber intake. Or, so my Internet nutritionist degree seems to tell me, after reading as much on the package. The resulting tortillas are nearly indistinguishable from their high-carb ancestors, and are chewy, foldable, and pleasantly starchy. In other words, perfect for wrapping high fat, high cholesterol fillings in.
Nooooowwwwwwww…my sister isn’t going to love this recipe. For reasons she never explained, one of the last things she said to me as she was packing me up my to-go casserole was, “Don’t try to reverse-engineer my recipe to put on your website. You’ll never figure it out.” And I know that when she sees I added a can of green chiles to the mixture, she’ll be downright apoplectic, since people in New Mexico seem to treat their Hatch green chiles with the sort of reverence typically reserved for religious celebrations. It’s a fact that every New Mexican keeps at least 25 jars of preserved green chiles in a special corner of their basement, in preparation for the impending chilepocalypse. I’m just kidding. I don’t think those guys even have basements out there.
So, it’s not my sister’s recipe. But it’s still damned good. The tomatillos lend a brightness to the sauce, the roasted jalapeños bring the spice and the fire, the poached chicken stays tender and moist, and the flour tortillas sort of melt, Borg-like, into a great unified consciousness that’s mightier than the sum of its parts. Try it. It’s just the thing to get you through the next six months of winter.
- 1 whole 4 pound chicken
- ½ jalapeño, sliced lengthwise
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- A few sprigs of cilantro
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 15 tomatillos, paper husks removed and cut in half
- 2 ½ jalapeño peppers, sliced lengthwise
- 4 cloves garlic
- The rest of the bunch of cilantro, divided
- 3 roughly chopped green onions
- ½ cup cooking liquid from the chicken (see instructions)
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6-8 flour tortillas
- 2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
- 1 can chopped green chiles
- 1-2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- Place chicken, jalapeño, cilantro, and spices into a large stock pot, and cover with water.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a light simmer and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Reserve ½-1 cup of the cooking liquid to use later in the recipe, and save the rest of the cooking liquid for use later, because you just made yourself some bonus chicken stock, son.
- Use tongs to transfer chicken to a plate, and let cool. Remove skin and bones, then use two forks to shred chicken, and toss to combine white meat and dark meat.
- Preheat oven to 425. Place tomatillos and jalapeños on a sheet pan, and roast 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven, and stir if they're starting to burn. Add garlic, and return to oven to roast for 15 minutes more.
- Remove from oven and transfer contents of pan to bowl of a food processor.
- Add cilantro, green onions, and ½ a cup of the cooking liquid from the chicken. Pulse until nearly smooth, then stir in sour cream and olive oil. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Grease a 9-inch or 11x13 casserole dish. Layer the bottom with 2-3 tortillas, cutting tortillas as needed to ensure maximum coverage.
- Top with half the chicken, then ⅓ of the sauce, then ⅓ of the cheese, then ½ the chopped green chiles. Add another layer of tortillas, then the other half of the chicken, ⅓ more of the sauce, and the other half of the green chiles.
- Finish with a third layer of tortillas, the rest of the sauce, and the rest of the cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until cheese begins to brown. Garnish with chopped tomatoes and a little more cilantro, and serve.