Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cook Some, Freeze Some: Chicken Enchiladas

Cook Some, Freeze Some
Tonight I'm serving enchiladas - a favorite baked comfort food to which I applied my 'cook one, freeze one' method.  With the enchiladas, though, it's more of a 'cook some, freeze some' method.  I cooked a double batch of enchiladas a couple of weeks ago and froze some for later use.  Tonight is a night I need a quick dinner solution, so I am pulling some enchiladas out of the freezer for my husband and I.  The 'don't like spicy food' and 'refuse to eat meat' members of the family will enjoy an entree of cheese quesadillas.  We'll round out with a green vegetable and cuditee (the kids don't like salad either).

Cook Some/Freeze Some:
I use this method of meal preparation all the time.  Some call it investment cooking.  Others call it freezer cooking or make-ahead meals.  Whatever term you use, if you have the freezer space, it just makes sense to cook one and freeze one.  I often prepare double recipes of taco meat or sloppy joes to have on hand.  I do the same whenever I prepare pasta bake, chili and soups.

A word on Mexican Ingredients:
I am not Mexican, nor did I marry into a Mexican family.  I grew up in the Midwest, and did not even eat a  taco until age eight.  So, while I have traveled to Mexico, and have eaten fabulous authentic Mexican food on both sides of the border, I typically reach for flour tortillas over corn tortillas.  Much spirited debate exists over one should use corn or flour tortillas for enchiladas.  I use flour.  Feel free to use whatever you want.  I have the same sentiment with enchilada sauce.  Of course homemade chili gravy is better - especially a recipe passed down from generation to generation.  However, I do not usually have the time to make my own gravy and am perfectly happy using canned sauce from the grocery store.  Over the years, I have tried just about every red and green sauce on the market, from Mexican brands to store brands; organic to mass-produced.  While those produced by Mexican brands are my favorite, I use whichever sauce I have on hand.

Most Mexican restaurant menus feature at least 10+ varieties of enchiladas.  I make my enchiladas using rotisserie chicken flavored with fresh salsa, jalapenos, and (when I can get away with it) mushrooms or black beans/spinach.  The basic enchilada recipe lends itself to a variety of substitutions/combinations based on preference or dietary restrictions.  For a dairy-free diner, use soy- or rice cheese.  For gluten-free diets, use gluten-free tortillas and sauce.  Prefer beef, pork, seafood?  Want to sneak in more vegetables?  Care to control how much spice in dish?  You can do all this with a basic enchilada recipe of tortilla, protein, vegetable, cheese, sauce.

Keep reading to see how easy I cook some and  freeze some of my enchiladas:

Chicken Enchiladas:

  • Two pounds Shredded Chicken.  I  pick and shred the meat from one rotisserie chicken.
  • One large can (20 oz) Enhilada sauce.
  • One container (16 oz)  Salsa.  I use 16-oz container of my 'go-to' salsa.  Any fresh or jarred salsa works.
  • One small can (4 oz) Chopped Jalapenos or Green Chiles.  I use jalapenos - we like heat.
  • Two cups Shredded Cheese.  I use a Four-Cheese Mexican blend.  
  • Twelve 8-inch Flour tortillas.  I used 8" flour tortillas from my 'go-to' brand.  
  • Cooking Spray

General How To:
  • Pick meat from a rotisserie chicken.  Shred the meat and remove any residual bones.  Place to the side.
    Note:  Grocery stores always have rotisserie chicken available.  It is a huge time saver.  
Rotisserie chicken picked and ready to go.
  • In a large bowl combine the chicken, salsa, 1/2 cup of Enchilada Sauce, 1/2 cup cheese, and the jalapenos.
    Note:  Add, delete, substitute any ingredients at this point to craft your perfect enchilada.  
Mix all the ingredients to combine.
  • Spray a cooking dish with non-stick spray.  Pour some (about 1/4 cup) enchilada sauce on bottom of pan.
Non-stick spray helps remove the enchiladas after baking.
  • Spoon some filling (1/4 to 1/3 cup) onto each tortilla.
    Note:  If you want to be really authentic, dip each tortilla in enchilada sauce before filling.  
This step can get messy - work over the bowl.
  • Fold the tortilla into a tube shape and place seam-side down in baking dish.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.
    Note:  It's fine to crowd the enchiladas in the dish.
  • Pour remaining sauce over the rolled enchiladas and top with cheese.
Ready for the oven.
Cook Some:
  • Place baking dish in a 350-degree oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
    Result:  The enchiladas are cooked through and dinner is ready!  
Enchiladas cooked and ready to eat!
Freeze Some:
After dinner has been served, it's time to freeze some enchiladas for later.  Here's how I process the enchiladas for future meals:

  • Place two enchiladas a sheet of foil and wrap tight.  Repeat with remaining enchiladas.

Freeze individual portions of enchiladas for later.

  • Place the wrapped packs of enchiladas in a zipper freezer bag and label appropriately.

Ready for the freezer

  • Place the bag in the freezer.
    Result:  You are done.  Pat yourself on the back for your foresight and ability to plan ahead.

When you are ready to use the enchiladas, simply remove them and defrost.  Then, heat them up in the oven - conventional, toaster or microwave - and serve.  So easy.  So good.  

And, the Picky Eaters?
I told you the kids usually don't like what we like, right?  Cheesy quesadillas take just a few minutes and can be customized to accomodate all dietary restrictions.  Everyone's happy!
Quesadillas made easy! 

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