Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bonus Enchiladas – Green Chicka Green Green

Green chile enchiladas redux. © Ryan Schierling
This one is inspired by that perennial layered "green chile enchilada" casserole recipe that many of us grew up with. Tasty as it may be, it's probably more heart-attack inducing than the Velveeta in enchiladas Dan Jenkins – what with all the cheese and that obligatory can of Cream of Something soup involved.

Our family recipe (included below in all its quantity unspecific glory, and strictly for educational purposes, of course), was made with Cream of Mushroom soup. But I understand that the non-vegetarians among us would quite often add chicken to this dish and even use Cream of Chicken soup on occasion. So, perhaps a little more protein there, but still not a dish that's going to get any healthy-living bonus points. You see, while there was something of an attempt to eat a "nutritious" meatless diet, our family was also a product of its time – a time when we all fell victim in some form or other to the put-a-can of Campbell's-in-it school of cooking that was all the suburban cultural rage.

These days we like to think we're a little more sophisticated in our preparation of food and sourcing of ingredients. What I remember loving best about this layered casserole was the saltiness of the olives (I've always loved olives) with the flavor of the green chiles. Plus, there was something distinctive about the copious addition of cheddar cheese that also went into that baking dish. Contemplating this childhood favorite in light of our recent "5 days, 5 ways" foray into enchiladas started me thinking about how I might be able to enjoy that flavorful goodness in a lighter, more traditional enchilada form.

Oh, hey! We also just happened to have some Boca chicken patties kicking around in the freezer and a pretty little zucchini from our recent CSA delivery. So I lightened it up with a little veg and added a bit of "protein" in the process (you could certainly mince up some left-over roasted chicken if you wanted the real deal instead). Ryan's favorite trick of adding a touch of cream to your favorite green enchilada sauce got me the rest of the way to the velvety feel of the gravy, familiar in the old family version.

This simple recipe is what happened, and I'm rather pleased with the results. It's satisfying and reminiscent of its predecessor in all the ways I desired. Thanks for the inspiration, Mom – I hope you can once again enjoy green chile enchiladas with a clear conscience.

Green-chicka-green-green Enchiladas

1 small zucchini, grated (1 to 1-1/2 cups grated)
1/4 large sweet onion, finely chopped (or white onion)
1/3 cup chopped green olives (or black olives – see note below) **
8 ounces mild green chiles (fresh roasted or canned), finely chopped
2 (or 3) Boca chicken patties, thawed slightly and minced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or a mix of sharp cheddar + muenster)

15 ounces mild green enchilada sauce (or medium, if you prefer spicier)
1/4 cup heavy cream, or half and half

8 corn tortillas

In a small mixing bowl, combine zucchini, onion, chopped green olives, green chiles (drain any excess liquid into a separate bowl), minced chicken patties and at least 3/4 cup of your shredded cheese mixture (save a small sprinkling of cheese for the top of the enchiladas).

In a separate bowl, mix together the green enchilada sauce, heavy cream and any excess liquid you might have drained from the green chiles. Pour about 1/3 cup in the bottom of an approximately 2-quart rectangular baking dish (roughly 7"x11") and spread evenly.

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Heat corn tortillas one at a time on a cast iron skillet lightly-greased with olive oil. Remove from heat and assemble each enchilada with a generous amount of filling down the center, rolling snugly, and placing seam side down in sauced baking dish. 

Cover enchiladas with remaining sauce mixture, top with a bit of shredded cheese and a few olive slices. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling around edges.

Serve at once. We might even suggest a touch of sour cream and a drift of Cholula hot sauce, if you're feeling sassy.

** A quick note about olives. I chose green olives primarily for the color, but it is critical that you use a pitted ripe green olive which is mild and not at all like the tart Spanish-style or martini olives which would be acerbic in this recipe. Ripe green olives can sometimes be a challenge to find, so use black olives if in doubt. (If you can find a local retailer, California brand Lindsay produces some of our favorite green olives.)
Now, as promised for the curious, here's the original family recipe I was referring to:

Green Chile Enchiladas

White sauce:
1/4 pound butter (1/2 cup or 1 stick)
3/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chicken seasoning
1 onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can chopped green chilies (4 oz. or 7 oz. can, depending upon your preference)

For layers:
Corn tortillas
Cheddar cheese, grated
Sliced Olives

Melt butter in large saucepan and stir in flour.  Gradually add water or milk.  Cook until bubbling and thick. Add remaining “sauce” ingredients in the order listed.

Spread a little sauce in the bottom of an approximately 8”x12” casserole dish. Lay tortillas flat over sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese and sliced olives. Add sauce and continue to layer tortillas, cheese and olives, then sauce. Top with tortillas then sauce and a light layer of cheese and a few more olives.

Bake in 350 degree oven until it bubbles.

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