Actor and chef David Burtka shares from his cookbook Life Is A Party his version of the Tex-Mex staple.
"This dish is an homage to Neil's roots in New Mexico, the land of hot green chiles," David says. "I make sure to have a tray of these in the freezer at all times. When he gets home after a trip, I just pop them in the oven, garnish with cilantro and pickled onion—and it's his home state on a plate."
David likes to garnish this recipe with his Pickled Red Onions.
Adapted from Life Is A Party by David Burtka. Copyright © 2019 by David Burtka. Used with permission by Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for frying
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Kosher salt
- 1 large yellow onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 ounces tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed well, and finely diced (about 2 cups)
- Two 4-ounce cans mild or hot diced Hatch chiles, undrained
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 dried bay leaf, halved crosswise
- Eight 6-inch corn tortillas
- 1 ½ cups shredded Mexican cheese blend, 6 ounces
- Mexican crema, for drizzling
- Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
- ¼ cup Pickled Red Onions, for garnish
In a small dry skillet, toast the cumin and coriander seeds over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer to a plate to cool completely, then grind in a spice grinder until fine.
In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium-high heat until the oil starts to shimmer. Season the chicken liberally on both sides with salt. Working in batches if necessary, sear the chicken on both sides until light brown, 6 to 8 minutes total; transfer to a baking sheet or plate and reserve, leaving any fat in the pot.
Add the onion, a pinch of salt, and a splash of water to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and cook until the garlic has softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the ground toasted cumin and coriander, the tomatillos, chiles, stock, and bay leaf.
Nestle the chicken into the liquid until mostly submerged. Increase the heat to medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, covered with the lid ajar, until the chicken is cooked through and very tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate or bowl and let cool.
Remove and discard the bay leaf halves and carefully blend the sauce directly in the pot with an immersion blender until completely smooth. (Alternatively, carefully transfer the sauce to a regular blender and blend until smooth.) Simmer the sauce over medium heat, uncovered, until it has reduced by one-quarter of its volume and thickened to a consistency similar to marinara sauce, about 20 minutes (there should be about 3 cups sauce left).
In a medium bowl, shred the chicken with two forks. Add ½ cup of the sauce and toss to coat. Taste and season with salt.
Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Spread ½ cup sauce over the bottom of an 11-by-7-inch baking dish.
Fill a large cast-iron skillet with canola oil to a depth of ½ inch and heat the oil over medium heat until it just starts to simmer. Spoon 1 heaping cup of the sauce onto a rimmed medium plate. Working with one tortilla at a time, use a pair of tongs to quickly dip the tortilla into the hot oil just until it becomes malleable.
Drag both sides of the tortilla through the sauce on the plate, then place the tortilla on a clean work surface and let cool slightly. Spoon one-eighth of the chicken mixture down the center of the tortilla and sprinkle with 1 ½ teaspoons of the cheese.
Fold the tortilla over the chicken and cheese and roll it up so the filling stays snugly within the tortilla. Place the filled tortilla seam-side down in the baking dish and repeat with the remaining tortillas, chicken, filling, and cheese.
Spoon the remaining sauce evenly over the enchiladas and sprinkle with any remaining cheese. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Drizzle with the crema and garnish with the cilantro leaves and pickled onions.