Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cafe Tacuba-Style Creamy Chicken Enchiladas (Rick Bayless)

I've been on a cookbook diet, for at least a year. I don't mean Diet Cookbooks. I mean that I'm resisting the urge to buy too many cookbooks.  That's not easy to do, because I love cookbooks. 
My collection has, over the years, taken over Craig's teak bookcase. (I don't think he's too amused by that.)

Today, is an exception, because it's time to add a Rick Bayless Cookbook to my carefully chosen collection. I love Mexican food (no surprise, given my father's heritage) and this recipe was outstanding-- and different than the more traditional red enchiladas.  Thanks to Kim at "Stirring the Pot", she has been cooking, and sharing Rick Bayless recipes for the last five months-- and I have been drooling over all of them.  This particular recipe caught my attention, because Kim says, "This recipe, for Cafe Tacuba-Style Creamy Chicken Enchiladas, is hands down my favorite Rick Bayless recipe from the whole five month period."  Now, that's a good recommendation!

The sauce has a blend of fresh spinach and Poblano peppers, and is blended with milk and chicken stock into a silky white and green sauce.   Only recently, have I discovered how easy it is to char, peel and chop Poblanos (sometimes labeled as Pasilla Peppers), when I made Chicken-& Cheddar Stuffed Poblano Peppers.

You can do this directly onto a gas burner, but I found that placing them in a cast-iron skillet, under the broiler worked great.  Cover them with plastic wrap and let them sweat a bit-- and the peels come right off.  If you're afraid these peppers might be too hot, they aren't. They're very mild, in fact.

You can use a Rotisserie chicken, and purchased chicken broth, to save a lot of time.  But, that's not how I roll, on a Sunday.  That's when I enjoy slow cooking.  Sooooooooo.... I used chicken thighs, bone-in (less expensive to buy and quite moist).  I added chili powder, cumin some peppercorns and bay leaves and covered it with water.

I let them chicken simmer for a couple of hours, removed the chicken and drained the broth, and reserve two cups of the broth.

 The chicken shreds easily. So, now for the sauce...

Rough chop a "bunch" of fresh spinach...

...and the Poblanos

Add the chicken broth to 2 cups whole milk and heat.

Add three minced garlic cloves to 6 tablespoons melted butter and cook long enough to release the aroma. Add some flour and cook for a minute or two.

Whisk the milk & chicken broth in, slowly, until thickened.

The finishing touches for the sauce:  I love cilantro, so I decided to add about a cup of roughly chopped cilantro with the chopped spinach and peppers.  Pour half the milk mixture into a blender (or a food processor) and blend it together.

Pour the mixture back with the remaining milk mixture. 

Give the sauce a taste, and season with salt, to your liking.

I ended up with six cups of sauce.  I felt as though I wanted a little something "more" for flavor.

Lime.  That's it! I added about 1/2 lime.  There!

To assemble the enchiladas, I poured enough sauce to coat the bottom of my baking dish.

Then, added a little sauce to the shredded chicken.  I took the easy way (just like Kim) and didn't roll individual enchiladas. I went casserole style.  So, I evenly layered the chicken, added soft corn tortillas to cover and completed the casserole with freshly grated Monterey Jack Cheese.  
HINDSIGHT: I should have dipped the tortillas into the sauce, before layering them, which would have softened them even more. Plus, I wish I had used 8 chicken thighs, instead of four.   So, I didn't use all of the sauce, and froze the remaining 2 cups of sauce for another time.

Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes, until bubbling and just turning golden brown.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

TASTING NOTES:   The flavor of the sauce is very mild and lovely.  The poblanos have such a gentle heat to them, and while I used three (instead of two), it was not overpowering. You can't really distinguish the spinach, and it sort of made me think the sauce was healthy.  I guess it is, in a way, if you don't think about all the cheese. MMMMmmmm.   Because I chose to cook my own chicken, and use the broth, I spent more time than it would take if you use Rotisserie chicken.   I just never buy one of those, at my grocery store, because of my fool-proof roast chicken recipe. I digress.  I would make this again, and I think it would be a fun texture for me to add corn kernels, and cooked onion,  to the mix.  

These tasted even better the next day.  All of the flavors really had a chance to blend together. I think, next time, I'd make the sauce a day ahead of time.  Then it would be quick to put together the next day.

Thanks, Kim, for sharing this recipe.A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.

Pin It


Kate said...

Oh, Debby, this sounds wonderful. I am so exhausted from vacation (how can that be?) that I will take the shortcuts...I think I may through in a couple of jalapenos also....yummy!

Joanne said...

I definitely remember Kim's rave review about these! They really sound super tasty.

bellini said...

Over the years I have slowly cut down on bookmarking recipes knowing full well that I will never live long enough to make all these delicious treats, but for this recipe I make an exception.

Roz said...

When both Kim and you prepare a recipe and both give it your thumbs up, then it HAS to be a winner/keeper. Plus I love enchiladas and the special word "creamy"!

Jenn Nahrstadt said...

you had me at Rick Bayless. used to live in Chicagoland and RB's restaurants, Topolobompo and Frontera Grill, were our favorite places to dine for special occasions.

if you EVER go to Chicago, these HAVE to be on your must-eat-at list.

thanks for sharing!

Noelle Marie said...

I'm with Jenn. Love Rick! My sis brought me back some of his hot sauce from his Chicago. How perfect for enchiladas! Sooooo excited to try these. Maybe with the corn or bell pepper addition? These pregnancy cravings are getting to be very fun.

Karen said...

Sounds great... and I agree about the onions. I rarely make a recipe without adding onions!

Axelle the french cooker. said...

This looks delicious !

Reeni said...

This recipe is making the rounds! I saw it on Kim's sight too and bookmarked it to make soon. It looks incredibly delicious!

Velva said...

That is one rocking enchilada dish! Wow! I have a couple of Rick Bayless cookbooks ( I have the same cookbook affliction as you) well worth, adding his books to the collection.


Penny said...

This sounds incredibly delicious and I appreciate all of the detailed pictures. Thanks Debby.

Axelle the french cook said...

I come on your blog since some years now. And I have always been fill with wonder by the quality of your dishes.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Oh wow! That sounds and looks outstanding!

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

If it's one of Rick's recipes I know I will like it. This one is literally making my mouth water, Debby. Can't wait to try it.

Karen June Miller said...

YUMMY!!! I have been convicted lately to use the massive amounts of cookbooks that I have sitting on my kitchen shelves. The problem is, online makes finding, saving, and sharing recipes so easy that I tend not to look at my books. Even on my iPhone, I am able to take screen shots that instantly become accessible on my Mac.

Thanks for sharing this recipe!


P.S. I am having a FREE TEA GIVEAWAY, just because. Drop by if you would like. :)

Lily McNamara said...


Plate and Pour said...

As a former Chicago resident, I am a huge of fan of Rick Bayless' cuisine. These enchiladas look wonderful. I agree that dipping tortillas in the sauce first helps to soften them. Sometimes I wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave for 12 seconds before dipping in the sauce to make them extra pliable. Thanks for the recipe!