Robb Walsh, one of my favorite cookbook authors, released a new book this year that is all about hot sauces. I quickly added it to my Amazon cart. I mean, I would, of course; I’m such a chile-head. And it’s a very cool book for those that like it spicy.
One sauce in particular really intrigued me – an ancho tomatillo sauce. Reason being, I’ve always thought about Mexican hot sauces in a somewhat binary fashion: it’s either a red sauce, the base of which is tomatoes and dried red chiles, or it’s a green sauce, the base of which is tomatillos. But here two prominent ingredients, one from a red sauce and one from a green, are combined to make one sauce. How creative!
I was immediately dying to try it. And chicken enchiladas sounded like the perfect vehicle. Well. Can we say utterly delicious? The flavors of ancho and tomatillo complemented each other and made for a rich, deeply flavored sauce that was soaked up by the chicken and corn tortillas. I decided to go easy on the cheese so that the sauce wouldn’t get drowned out. A little Cotija was perfect. Enjoy!
Source: adapted from The Hot Sauce Cookbook by Robb Walsh
2 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
4 tbs olive oil
½ medium onion, sliced
1 serrano chile, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
6 tomatillos, husked and quartered
1 tbs lime juice
¼ cup chicken stock
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup diced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups cooked, shredded chicken (can be homemade or just buy a rotisserie chicken; can be light or dark meat, or a combination)
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
10 corn tortillas
¾ cup finely grated Cotija cheese
2 tbs minced fresh cilantro, for garnish
First, make the sauce. Place the dried chiles (anchos and guajillos) in a small to medium saucepan. Toast them over medium-high heat for about 1 minute, just until fragrant. Cover the chiles with water and place back over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, shut off the heat and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Leave it be for 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tbs olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the serrano, garlic, tomatillos, and chicken stock. Lower the heat and simmer until the tomatillos are soft, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the onion mixture to a blender. Add the softened dried chiles, as well as the lime juice and cilantro. If it’s a little dry or your blender is a little stubborn, add up to half a cup of the chile soaking liquid. Puree the mixture until very smooth. Be careful when pureeing it as it is very hot.
Add salt to taste.
Wipe out the cast-iron skillet. Return it to the stove over high heat. Add the remaining 2 tbs olive oil, then pour the sauce into the skillet. Bring to a boil, 1 to 2 minutes. Keep warm.
Now make the enchiladas. Preheat the oven to 300 F. Grease a 9×13” baking dish.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Now add the chicken and cook until the chicken is heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove from the heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl and toss with ½ a cup of the ancho-tomatillo sauce. Set aside.
Now warm the tortillas. You can do this in the oven, the microwave, or by passing them over your gas stove with the flame on medium-low. Place in a tortilla warmer or wrapped in foil or clean kitchen towels.
Working one at a time, dredge each tortilla through the sauce. Lay it on a flat surface and fill with a spoonful or so of chicken mixture and about 1 tbs of the Cotija cheese. Roll the tortilla and place it seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining 9 tortillas.
When all the enchiladas are assembled in the baking dish, pour the remaining sauce evenly over them. Sprinkle the remaining Cotija cheese evenly over the sauce. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until bubbling hot. Remove from the oven, garnish with the cilantro, and serve warm.