My brother is my parent’s favorite child. And yes, I am saying this as a well-adjusted adult. My parents and brother will dutifully deny any favoritism, but they are wrong. The reason I know? Two words: chicken enchiladas.
You see, in the WASP-y family that is our original foursome, we didn’t have a ton of food traditions. Each night as we sat down together for dinner, it was not cultural heritage that filled our plates - it was my mom’s holy trinity: a protein, a starch, and a vegetable.
Then 1992 struck and Family Circle came out with a cookbook New Tastes for New Times. In that daring tome of culinary adventure was one very special recipe - Microwave Chicken Enchiladas*. It was a dinner table game changer.
These chicken enchiladas, with their creamy white sauce so daringly dotted with jarred mild green chilies, became a favorite for me and my brother. Lovingly rolled and lined side by side into a casserole dish, they were covered in just the right amount of tomato sauce and mild salsa. For two kids who had not developed a taste for anything spicier than cinnamon, these enchiladas were our walk on the wild side. An additional, and hearty, covering of cheddar and jack cheese took dinner time to a stratosphere of perfection.
As adults, my brother and I still love my mom’s chicken enchiladas. Our tastebuds and spice tolerance have developed considerably, but there’s still nothing like the mild goodness of Mom’s original recipe.
I should edit that - there’s nothing like the original recipe when my brother migrates north for a weekend visit or holiday. Because it is only at these mini reunions that we ever see chicken enchiladas. As the adult child who lives not 10 miles away, there is nary an enchilada in sight. But when my brother comes home, suddenly they are available in such an abundance that my brother not only eats his fill, but sets off on his return journey with a pack prepared, frozen enchiladas nestled in a cooler. God forbid he might not have chicken enchiladas until he return home again.
Now sure, I am completely capable of making these enchiladas myself - and I have. In fact, this is a great, and fairly quick recipe. But it’s never quite the same as when my mom makes them - that's how it's supposed to be with beloved family recipes, right? And anyways, that’s not the point. The point is that in the friendly sibling battle of who is Mom and Dad’s favorite, my brother is the clear victor - the proof is in the enchilada.
*My mother is always quick to note that she never microwaved the enchiladas, and always made them in the oven. And, technically, these are turkey enchiladas - use whichever bird you prefer.
Here is the non-microwaving version of the Microwave Chicken Enchiladas - Courtesy of Family Cooking: New Tastes for New Times.
Servings: 10 Enchiladas
1/4 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (these never made it into my family's version)
1 1/2 cups lowfat milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked, cubed or shredded chicken
1 can (3 1/2 oz) whole mild green chilies, rinsed & sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro OR parsley (also omitted back in the day...we really were plain eaters)
1 1/2 cups shredded jalapeño jack cheese or plain Monterey jack cheese (go ahead and throw more on if you like extra cheese-y enchiladas)
1 can (8oz) no-salt added tomato sauce
1/4 cup medium or hot salsa
10 flour tortillas (6 inch)
1. Pre-heat oven to 350°. Poach your chicken - cube or shred depending on preference
2. In a pot over medium heat whisk 3 tabespoons of milk and flour until smooth. Stir in remaining milk and salt. Whisk until boiling and thickened.
3. Stir in chicken, chilies, 2 tablespoons of cilantro and 1 cup of cheese until well-blended.
4. In a separate bowl, combine tomato sauce and salsa.
5. Spoon 1/4 cup of the tomato/salsa mixture into the bottom of the 13 x 9 x 2 inch casserole dish.
6. Warm tortillas in microwave or toaster oven. If using a microwave, wrap in a damp paper towel, and microwave for 45 seconds.
7. Keeping the tortillas covered, spoon about 1/4 cup of chicken mixture into the center of 1 tortilla. Roll up and place, seam-side down, in prepared casserole dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
8. Spoon remaining tomato/salsa mixture over the top of the rolled enchiladas. Cover loosely with aluminum foil.
9. Bake at 350°. Bake for 25 minutes. Turn off oven, remove aluminum foil and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Let the enchiladas sit in the oven until the cheese is melted.
10. Remove from oven, let stand for 5 minutes before serving.