I developed this adaptation of one of the most popular southwestern dishes with south-of-the-border origins to use green chiles, which are more easily available than the traditionally used tomatillos. Although canned chiles are acceptable, fresh ones or those you have parched and frozen have much better flavor. Always cook the chicken yourself so that you have the wonderfully rich stock to use for creating the sauce.
Yield: 6 servings
3 chicken thighs and legs, or 2 breasts
1 large carrot, cut into thirds
1 celery rib, quartered
1 medium Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 corn tortillas
The cooked chicken, removed from the bones and pulled or shredded
2 cups coarsely grated Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar, mixed together
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup finely chopped purple Spanish onion
2 tablespoons sweet butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups rich chicken stock from cooking the chicken
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped green chiles
2 teaspoons Caribe
Several whole sprigs fresh cilantro
1. Place all the chicken ingredients in a large pot, add water (or stock) barely to cover the tips of the meat, cover, and simmer until the chicken is tender. When the chicken is done, the bones should wiggle and the meat should be very tender to the touch of a fork (about 35 to 45 minutes).
2. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Melt the butter, add the flour, and stir together until slightly brown. Then slowly stir in the chicken stock, a little at a time, until a rich, thick sauce develops. Stir in the cilantro and the green chiles. Taste and adjust seasonings.
3. When the chicken is cool enough to touch, remove the skin and bones and shred the meat. Set aside. Strain the stock and skim off the fat.
4. Dip each tortilla into the sauce, place a strip of the cooked chicken and a sprinkle of the cheeses in the center, and roll, placing them seam side down in a casserole dish.
5. When all are rolled, distribute the remaining sauce and cheese evenly over the tortillas. Pour the cream evenly over the entire casserole. Top with a ribbon of a coarsely chopped onion.
6. Either freeze for up to 3 months, well covered in moisture-proof packaging, or bake immediately in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes. Serve hot.
Note: If frozen, bake 30 to 40 minutes or until bubbling hot. If you have trouble rolling the tortillas, you can fry them in oil, drain and then proceed.