green chicken enchiladas

6    |   
Prep Time:
40 minutes    |   
Cook Time:
35 minutes

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green chiles

I was at Rancho La Puerta last week, the beautiful spa in Tecate, Mexico, where I teach healthy cooking. We were so virtuous, filling ourselves with organic vegetables from the garden, eggs from free-range hens, no meat, a little fish and no gluten.

I feel wonderful this week, but I have to admit…the whole time I was craving enchiladas. The way I see it, these can be as virtuous as spa cuisine. Make the sauce yourself (it’s as easy as blending a smoothie) and you cut down on sodium; use corn tortillas to avoid gluten; use lean chicken tenders for the filling (they’re cheaper and easier to chop than breasts); substitute lowfat yogurt for sour cream; et voilà (or should I say “y olè”?) — green enchiladas with a side of virtue….but still as much cheese.


1 pound chicken tenders or boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 poblano or Anaheim chile pepper or green bell pepper
3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried Mexican or regular oregano
kosher salt
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream, plus additional for garnish
2 cups grated Monterey jack or cheddar cheese

green sauce
1 can (about 12 oz) tomatillos, drained, or 12 oz fresh tomatillos (see note below)
2 green onions, sliced
1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
kosher salt
1 or 2 limes
12 corn tortillas (6- to 7-inch size)

garnish (optional)
additional yogurt or sour cream
shredded lettuce
crumbled cotija or feta cheese
thinly sliced radishes


Cut chicken into small pieces. Stem, seed and chop the pepper. In a wide skillet, warm the oil over medium-high heat and add the onion and pepper and cook, stirring, a few minutes until they start to soften. Stir in the chopped chicken, the oregano and a good pinch of salt. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 12 minutes. When the chicken is cooked, remove from heat and transfer the chicken and veggies to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Reserve the broth in the skillet to use in the sauce. Let the chicken stand until cool, then stir in the yogurt and 1 cup of the cheese and season with salt.

While chicken is cooling, make the sauce by putting the drained tomatillos, green onions, canned chiles, cilantro, the reserved broth from the skillet, and a good pinch of salt in a blender. Squeeze in the juice of one lime. Cover and blend until smooth. Taste the sauce then add more salt or lime juice as needed to balance flavors. Pour the sauce back into the skillet and set on a low flame on the stove.

To assemble the enchiladas, preheat an oven to 375°F. Get out a rectangular baking dish (7- by 11-inch works best because you want the enchiladas to snuggle, but you can use a 9-x 13-inch if that’s all you have). Set the tortillas in a stack on a cutting board alongside the warming sauce not the stove. Set the bowl of chicken filling next to that. First, ladle a cup or so of the warm sauce into the bottom of the baking dish. Now, with tongs, dip each tortilla briefly in the sauce, then set the tortilla in the baking dish and put a big spoonful of chicken filling down the center. Roll the tortilla around the filling, then roll it over on its seam. Continue with the remaining tortillas, filling and sauce, pushing the enchiladas against each other to make room in the dish to work. (NOTE: It’s a messy process and you can fill the tortillas on a board if you prefer. You can even NOT dip them in the sauce, but that is way less authentic.)

When all the enchiladas are filled and in the dish, pour any remaining sauce from the skillet over them. Scatter the remaining cheese in a band across the middle of the enchiladas. Bake until bubbly and cheese is melted, about 35 minutes. Top with shredded lettuce, additional yogurt or sour cream, crumbled cheese, and sliced radishes as desired.

note: canned tomatillos are easy to find if you visit a Mexican market, and some supermarkets carry them. If you find fresh ones instead, buy 12 ounces and peel off the papery husks. Drop tomatillos into a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes to soften, then drain and use as directed above.