Okay, not exactly a Mediterranean dish, but it’s certainly seasonal and made with local ingredients, and not all that far from the Mediterranean wheelhouse. By the way, there are affiliate links on this page.
One of the quintessential signs of autumn in the American Southwest–and New Mexico in particular–is the intoxicating smell of roasting hatch chiles. The ripe red ones are typically preserved by drying, but the fresh green ones? They’re roasted in large roasting cages over searing hot fire until the skins are blistered and charred black. They can then can be preserved for the winter by freezing them. People have roasting parties to put in a supply for winter. Some people rub off the charred skins, seed and chop them, and place them into individual serving ziplock bags, but others just freeze the whole charred pepper.
Much to my delight (and wow, I sincerely mean delight) I discovered that this autumnal chile-roasting ritual actually occurs at various places in my fair city, Portland, Oregon. In fact, there’s really no reason it can’t happen wherever you live too. Just order a few cases of hatch chiles from New Mexico in the fall and roast away. You’ll be the coolest kid on your block! Since mid-September I’ve seen–and before seeing I smelled–chiles roasting on two separate occasions.
To my surprise, I’ve also recently discovered that there are a few farms here in the Pacific Northwest that actually grow various New Mexico chile varieties. I bought the chiles in the photo above from the Portland Farmer’s Market. They’re not hatch chiles, but rather Nu Mex Sandias, from Westwind Gardens, in Forest Grove, Oregon. That’s right locavore, these are sourced just down the road a few miles from Portland. What’s a Nu Mex Sandia chile, you ask? Well check out this description from New Mexico’s own Chile Pepper Institute (by the way, I love that New Mexico has a chile institute!).
Finally, to my surprise and delight (I seem to be surprised and delighted by chiles a lot lately), these Nu Mex Sandia chiles are hot! They’re not quite jalapeño hot, but they’re also not many Scoville units off from that level of heat either. That makes for a pretty spicy enchilada sauce. I was a bit concerned, actually, after sampling my sauce from the blender. But once you factor in the tortillas and the chicken and the cheese, the heat dilutes to a nice background warmth.
About These Smoked Chicken Green Chili Enchiladas
About these enchiladas: I actually went to the trouble to smoke the chicken. Yep. I really did. And you can skip this step but it won’t be a good. My inspiration was basically any dish made with chicken–and especially the Stacked Chicken Enchiladas–from a New Mexican restaurant here in Portland called The Goose. They also go to the trouble to smoke their chicken and it makes everything over-the-top delicious. I’d go so far as to say it actually makes everything in life a little bit better. I swear the sky is brighter, people are kinder, and I’m slightly better looking every time I eat that dish.
I know smoking can be a bit of project, but I actually smoked the chicken indoors with The Original Camerons Stainless Steel Stovetop Smoker (by the way, this is the Amazon affiliate link I mentioned earlier). It’s pretty slick. It’s a pan with another little pan insert inside of it, and a lid that slides on and seals fairly tight so your kitchen doesn’t fill with smoke. You place some fine wood chips in the bottom, load the rack with whatever you want to smoke, seal the lid, and put it on the stove top until the wood starts to smoke. I used Alder wood. If you don’t have an outdoor smoker, or if you live in an apartment in the city, it’s a pretty decent alternative. At any rate, just like at The Goose, the smoked chicken made everything in life a little bit better.
I like to make my enchiladas casserole style, stacking the little corn tortilla-wrapped packets of goodness in a tight row a glass casserole dish and baking it in the oven. You then let it cool and set a bit and cut out a row as thick as you can handle and plate it up all gooey and hot. It’s not a fancypants presentation by any means. This is comfort food–about as comforty as comfort food gets in my view.
- 6 Skinless and Boneless Chicken Thighs
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
- 2 Cloves Fresh Garlic, Chopped
- ½ Teaspoon Dried Mexican Oregano
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 2 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
- 1 Large Tomato, diced
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 6-8 Medium Fresh Tomatillos
- 1 Small Shallot, Diced
- 1 Small Yellow Onion, Diced
- Pinch of Salt
- 1 Clove Garlic, Chopped
- 1½ Cups Roasted Nu Mex Sandia Chiles, Seeded and Diced
- 1 Cup Plain Yogurt
- 6 - 8 Corn Tortillas
- 8 Ounces Monterrey Jack Cheese, Shredded
- Place alder wood chips in the bottom of a stovetop smoker (or use alderwood to smoke outside). Place chicken thighs on smoker rack. Smoke on stove top until chicken is good and smokey--approximately 20 minutes. Chicken should be smokey but only partially cooked.
- While the chicken smokes, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and saute until translucent (about 10-15 minutes).
- Add the garlic, oregano, and cinnamon and cook a few minutes more, until garlic is fragrant.
- Add the stock, the tomato, and the smoked chicken. Bring to a simmer and cook until chicken is cooked through (10-15 minutes).
- Drain and reserve the broth. Coarsely shred the chicken and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350°. Peel tomatillos and cut in half. Coat in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, peel, seed, and chop the chiles. Add 1 cup to a blender, reserving the remaining ½ cup.
- Heat remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and shallot and a pinch of salt and saute until onion is translucent (about 10 - 15 minutes).
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add contents of skillet to blender with the chiles. Pulse until smooth. Add the yogurt. Mix to combine. Pour sauce mixture into a bowl.
- Stir the remaining ½ cup of chiles into the sauce.
- Place a few tablespoons of enchilada sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish to coat.
- Heat the broth you reserved from cooking the chicken in a skillet. Dip a tortilla into the broth to coat. Place a few tablespoons of cheese and a few tablespoons of the chicken along the center of the tortilla and roll it up into a roll. Place it into the casserole pan.
- Repeat the step above with the remaining tortillas until the casserole dish is filled, reserving a few tablespoons of shredded cheese.
- Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the casserole and top with remaining cheese.
- Bake in a 350° oven until heated through and the cheese on top is melted and bubbly (approximately 30-40 minutes).