New Mexico chile peppers are a pure culinary treat. As much as I love all variety of chiles, those grown in New Mexico put the rest to shame. Some say it’s the New Mexico soil, some say it’s the climate, and some say it’s simply the soul and legacy of generations upon generations of New Mexicans who have painstakingly labored to make chile peppers the state’s largest agricultural crop.
Note: Spelling these “chilies” or “chili” peppers instead of “chiles” or “chile” is pretty much a hanging offense in New Mexico.
Whatever the reason, if you ever get the chance to get your hands on real New Mexico chile peppers — frozen, dried or fresh — buy up a bunch. I usually try to mooch some off my parents (see My Dad’s Red Chile Sauce recipe), who receive them from my aunt in Albuquerque whenever she visits.
Late last summer, I was thrilled to discover a new source from whom I/we could mooch these peppers — one of Jeff’s friends was among the throngs of Southern Californians who stand in line for hours on a handful of select weekends each summer to pick up their pre-ordered packages of fresh Hatch green chili peppers that get roasted on the spot — grown and trucked in to Southern California since 1970 by El Rey Farms from Hatch, New Mexico (the “chile pepper capitol of the world”). We were gifted 1-1/2 pounds of glorious roasted Hatch chiles, which we promptly froze and saved for a special dish. This year, however, we plan to participate directly in this annual tradition!
So, what dish did we grace with our prized Hatch green chiles? Enchiladas!
These enchiladas are delicious, simple and surprisingly Weight Watchers-friendly due to softening the tortillas in chicken broth instead of oil. I was able to use even less oil than called for, and the enchiladas are so good, that I didn’t feel the need for sour cream. Unlike enchiladas that are smothered in sauce and cheese, this version provides just enough of each, yet allows you to really taste and enjoy the flavor of the roasted chiles and chicken (in our case, smoked chicken).
Make your life easier by assembling and freezing a batch ahead of time for a busy work night. Leave off the cheese and and freeze the sauce in a separate container. Thaw the bare enchiladas in your fridge while at work, pre-heat the oven when you get home, top with sauce and cheese, and bake as directed.
- 1 pound roasted skin-on green New Mexico chiles
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
- 10 (7- to 8-in.) corn tortillas
- 2½ cups shredded cooked chicken (we smoked ours)
- 2 cups coarsely shredded cheddar or jack cheese, divided
- Sour cream (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400°. Peel, stem, seed, and chop chiles.
- Heat oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chiles, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add 1 cup chicken broth and simmer until reduced by one-third, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare tortillas: In a small frying pan, bring remaining 2 cups chicken broth to a gentle simmer. Working one at a time, very briefly dip tortillas into broth to barely soften. Transfer each tortilla to a large baking sheet (you may need 2 or 3 sheets). Do not overlap or tortillas will stick.
- Divide 1¼ cups cheese equally among tortillas and top each with shredded chicken, dividing evenly. Wrap tortilla around filling and transfer, seam-side down, to a 9- by 13-in. baking dish.
- Pour chile sauce over enchiladas and top with remaining ¾ cup cheese. Bake until cheese is bubbling and browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream (optional).