My house is a revolving door of neighbors and visitors and my kids’ friends and family all summer long. The windows are open, and something about the warmer air is inviting to the outside world. They show up at lunch and stay through to bedtime, running in the grass, lounging on the patio, soaking up every bit of summer possible.
The most important part of summertime entertaining for me is not how clean my house is, for bare feet track dirt and bits of grass in no matter what. Nor is it the spread of food I lay out, carefully planned and purchased as if I could tell they were coming.
No. Instead, it’s about being flexible and having something to feed a crowd quickly without a lot of forethought. Enchiladas might not seem like they have those qualities, but if you make a few ahead, stock your freezer, and then just generally keep the ingredients for pitchers of margaritas, some lime-ready beers, chips and plenty of watermelon around, you have the makings of a backyard party at the drop of a hat.
These enchiladas use Hatch green chilies, which come from Hatch, New Mexico, for their characteristic flavor and heat. While I don’t live anywhere near New Mexico, these babies are available to order online from The Hatch Chile Store, and they are worth every penny. The flavors are complex, and they need little in the way of dressing up. They’re just good, complex peppers that make for easy meals that will taste better than any canned chilies you can find at the supermarket.
You can adjust the heat level of your enchiladas to suit your guests and your personal preferences. Choose mild or hot chilies first, and then decide whether you want seeds for a hotter enchilada sauce or to scrape them out for a less-fiery one.
Serve them on the patio with friends, and this is all your summer needs for successful last-minute get-togethers and enjoying the longest days of the year well into the evening.
Green Hatch Chile Enchiladas
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 3 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons flour or arrowroot
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups roasted and peeled Hatch green chilies, diced
- 20 small corn tortillas, warmed
- 1/2 cup queso blanco or queso fresco
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or queso Chihuahua
- 2 cups shredded lettuce
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1/4 cup diced red onion
- 1/4 cup diced red pepper
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan. Cook the chicken in the pan until cooked through. Remove from pan and cool.
- Add the additional tablespoon of oil to the pan. Cook the onion until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes, and then stir in the garlic. Add the flour, cumin and salt and cook for 3 minutes, until the flour starts to take on color. Slowly stir in the water. Once the water is incorporated, stir in the chilies. Cook until the mixture boils, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Salt to taste.
- Pour 1/3 of the sauce into a separate bowl. Shred the chicken and add it to the bowl. Add in the queso blanco and stir to combine.
- In a large casserole dish, pour one cup of the green enchilada sauce (the sauce without chicken) and spread it to coat the bottom of the pan. Stuff the warmed tortillas with the chicken mixture, rolling them and placing seam side down in the casserole dish.
- Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over all the rolled tortillas. Top with the Monterrey Jack cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, until the sauce is hot and bubbly and all the cheese is melted.
- Remove from oven. Mix together the avocado, red onion, red pepper, lime juice and salt. Serve the enchiladas on lettuce with the fresh salsa on top.
Makes about 8 servings.
Notes: You can use precooked leftover chicken rather than cooking it on the spot, or buy a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket.
Make enchilada sauce ahead of time and freeze to have it on hand. You can also make pans of enchiladas and freeze them so they’re ready for the oven with no prep involved.
Photo credit: Shaina Olmanson