Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cheesy chicken & bean enchiladas

After I spent the holiday weekend indulging in some of the most American foods I could sink my teeth into (lobster rolls!  milkshakes!  ballpark hot dogs!  French fries...?! ), it was time to plan some meals and restock my very empty fridge.  First up?  Enchiladas.  I've had a hankering for them since the end of May when a bunch of friends headed to our favorite Mexican restaurant for lunch after a fun wedding-filled weekend.  I ordered a taco, a chalupa, and an enchilada, which was saved for last since it's my favorite.  I got to thinking -- why haven't I tried enchiladas in my own kitchen?  I've made tacos, burritos and a Mexican lasagna, while Matt has made fajitas... it can't be that difficult, can it?

I am happy to report that no, this dish wasn't difficult at all.  Probably the most challenging part of it was restraining myself from munching all of the cheese that was set aside for the recipe.  That didn't stop me from having just a little :)  I'm not sure why making foods like this seem like such a daunting task when Taco Bell can whip up the stuff and somehow profit while charging $1 and under for most of the items from the menu.  (Actual quote uttered at lunch that day: "Wow, I thought chalupas were only a Taco Bell thing."  Sadly, I must admit, me too.)

This homemade version was so much better than anything you could get from a drive-thru.  And, another note, this dish wasn't heavy at all.  No oil, lots of veggies and lean protein, and a nice spicy kick from the enchilada sauce.  My apartment smelled incredible while making this so my stomach was growling when dinnertime rolled around.  The veggies still had a slight crunch to them, the beans and chicken were filling, and the cheese was melted and made for some nice fork twirling.  Oh yeah, and do accept my apologies for no plating picture.  If there's one thing enchiladas are not, it's photogenic.  Or maybe it was due to my impatience taking them out of the dish.  I prefer the former reason.

A few notes: If you'd like to make this a vegetarian dish, feel free to substitute another can of beans or corn for the chicken, or even try a package of frozen spinach (thawed and drained super well).  For extra heat, you could add some chopped jalapeno peppers or a little hot sauce.  But don't worry, I won't tell if you omit them both.  I'm a wimp, too.

Cheesy Chicken and Bean Enchiladas

-serves 4, 2 enchiladas each

Nonstick cooking spray
1 small white onion, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
1 (10-ounce) can enchilada sauce
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded (about 8 ounces)
1 (15-ounce) can of black beans, drained well
3/4 cup + 1/2 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Sour cream, for serving

Preheat broiler or oven to 450F.  Coat a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add onion and pepper, and sauté about 2 minutes just to soften vegetables.  Add the entire can of enchilada sauce and bring to a boil.  Cover pan (a sheet of foil will do), reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine chicken, black beans, 3/4 cup of cheese, and cumin and toss well.  Warm tortillas in a microwave for 20-30 seconds, in order to make rolling easier.  Coat an 11-inch by 8-inch glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Set up a little assembly line and spoon a generous (slightly more than a) 1/4 cup of the chicken-bean mixture onto the center of a tortilla, spread along the middle, and roll up.  Place tortilla wrap, seam side down, into the baking dish.  Repeat with remaining 7 tortillas.  Pour enchilada sauce mixture over tortilla rolls, spread with rubber spatula to evenly coat.

Bake in oven for 5 minutes.  Remove, sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of cheese evenly over top, and return to oven for 2 to 3 minutes, or until cheese has melted.  Remove from oven to cooling rack.  Serve with sour cream and chopped cilantro, if using. 

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