Week 6, Meal 2: Red chicken enchiladas with queso fresco and pickled red onion

It’s funny how authentic Mexican food contains very little soupy sauce or loads of cheese.

Take Week 6, Meal 2: Red chicken enchiladas with queso fresco and pickled red onion for example. These are hearty enchiladas, complete with tons of smoky red sauce and a smattering of cheese crumbles — a far cry from the calorie-laden enchies at El Torito, Cafe Rio, etc.

Try these when you’ve got the craving for great Mex, without all the fat.The Recipe (Yield: 2 servings)

3 oz. queso fresco
6 corn tortillas

Enchilada sauce
1 T oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 T paprika
3 T ancho chile powder
1 t cumin
1 t coriander
1 t Mexican oregano
15-oz. can tomato sauce
water, as needed

Chicken
1 pound chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
remaining seasoning mix, from Week 6, Meal 1

Pickled onion
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced or small diced
1 lime, juiced
1/4 tsp salt

Prep time! First, make the seasoning for the enchilada sauce by combining 2 T of paprika, 3 T of ancho chile powder, 1 t of cumin, 1 t of coriander, 1 t of Mexican oregano …

and chop 1/2 of yellow onion and smash 2 garlic cloves. This would also be a good time to preheat your grill to medium-high so you can throw some chicken on the char.

In a medium sauce pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook onion and garlic for 1 to 2 minutes, add spices and cook for 1 minute more.  Note: This sauce is more smoky than it is spicy. If you want some extra heat, feel free to add your favorite spices, like cayenne, etc.

Add 1 15-oz. can of tomato sauce and mix well. Simmer on low for 20 minutes.

Coat 1 lb. of chicken thighs with the seasoning mixture leftover from Week 6, Meal 1. You’re still not going to use all of it, but just make sure you coat it liberally.

Grill chicken until cooked through, about five minutes per side. While the chicken is cooling, you can finish your enchilada sauce.

You’ll want to thin the sauce out by adding water, until you achieve a soupy consistency. I was making double the portion above, and used about 2/3 cup of water. Season with salt and pepper.

When done simmering, blend the sauce until it’s smooth.

Once the chicken cools, use the back of a fork to shred it. Once shredded, combine with 1/3 cup of enchilada sauce. This would be a good time to preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place 2-3 oz. of chicken in each of the 6 tortillas. We warmed ours up on the stove to make them pliable first.

Cover the enchiladas with all of the sauce and pop in the oven for 30 minutes.

While the enchiladas are cooking, thinly slice or finely dice 1/2 of red onion and combine with the juice of 1 lime and 1/4 t of salt. Let sit about 20 minutes — you’ll notice the onion turning pink as it pickles.

Once the enchiladas are done, make sure you remove them from the pan delicately, because they will break, as expertly proven by yours truly in the picture above.

Each serving is 3 enchiladas. Split 3 oz. of queso fresco between the portions of enchiladas. Top that with some of the red onion and you’re good to grub!

What I liked most about these enchiladas was the restrictive use of cheese (both because it didn’t mask the flavors of the sauce or up the calorie count). The dish isn’t spicy, as I said before, but that can easily be altered at home. I’ll ask Chef Brian if he has any tips for kicking this dish up a notch.

As a parting note, I should say that Wifey Nadia — who has been fantastic shooting pictures for the blog alongside of me — was not an enchilada fan at all. She said she liked the acid provided by the pickled onions because it balanced the melange of spices in this complex, deep and smoky sauce.

So from her to you: “Enjoy!”

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3 thoughts on “Week 6, Meal 2: Red chicken enchiladas with queso fresco and pickled red onion”

  1. Made this recipe for my wife’s birthday dinner last night and she loved it.

    This recipe was really easy to make, and the sauce was excellent. Had to substitute for the annato seed on the chicken rub, used equal parts tumeric and paprika, as our rural grocery store falls short on a lot of ingredients for these recipes. The pickled red onions added some good texture and flavor to the dish. I did make one addition to this recipe by adding some diced, roasted anaheim chiles to the enchiladas. My local grocery store had the chiles, so I could not pass them up. I will definately make this recipe again.

    I think I will try some tuna recipes next, as I just purchased a 10lb case of Yellowfin.

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