Cooking From Memory ~ A Recipe Journal

Enchiladas Verdes (Green Chicken Enchiladas)


I get an email from Epicurious every morning which features a ‘recipe of the day’ and I’m never disappointed. You know how it is with some of these services how, when you realize about halfway through the recipe that you’ll need to special order some ingredient from some far away country? Not so here. Accessible from top to bottom. This is a fabulous alternative to what I call the “rolled, stuffed and smothered” versions of enchiladas. Nothing wrong with that—I actually love standard enchiladas. But this recipe is terrific and doesn’t leave you feeling ‘heavy’. Unless you eat all of it yourself. The author of the recipe urges us to think “deconstructed lasagna” when layering this on the plate. Here’s what she writes:

“Typical Mexican enchiladas arrive rolled up and stuffed, but at my favorite enchilada street stand—the inspiration for this recipe—they’re stacked in a messy, luxurious pile, with separate individual layers of corn tortillas, fresh cilantro and onion, green enchilada sauce, shredded cheese and chicken. The whole thing is topped with a blanket of crema and more cheese. It’s almost like a deconstructed lasagna. The dish is enough to make you fall deeply in love with Mexico City—particularly when the corn tortillas are homemade, and the green sauce is prepared with a slow-simmering pot of fresh chicken stock.”

Serves 4-6. Enjoy!

Ingredients ~

  • 3-4 boneless chicken breasts
  • (original recipe calls for 3 pounds skinless chicken legs, thighs, and breasts, fat trimmed and 1 pound chicken backs, fat trimmed
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 dried Mexican bay leaf
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1-2 large serrano chiles
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons lard or canola oil, or butter
  • 24 corn tortillas
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 cups Mexican crema (or sour cream)
  • 1 cup mild, shredded cheese, such as Monterrey Jack or Colby


Method ~

Prep the Chicken

At least 2 hours before you’d like to eat, place the chicken, 1 garlic clove, the bay leaf, peppercorns and a quarter of the onion in a large stockpot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to very low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

Remove the chicken legs, thighs and breasts with tongs or a slotted spoon and let cool. Discard the chicken backs and strain the stock; set aside.

Once cool enough to handle, shred the meat and season with ¾ teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Set aside.

Prep the Tomatillo Sauce

Place the tomatillos in a large saucepan. Add the remaining 2 cloves garlic, peeled, and ½ of the onion. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium heat until the tomatillos turn pea green and soften, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. (Vegetarians can reserve the cooking water, turn up the flame, and reduce for 15 to 20 minutes, to use in lieu of chicken stock, if they choose.)

Stem the chiles and chop roughly with the cooked garlic. Add to a blender jar with half of the tomatillo mixture, and ½ cup of the strained chicken stock. (If you have a high-powered blender, toss all the ingredients in at once.) Blend until smooth. Add the remaining tomatillo-onion mixture and 1 teaspoon salt, and blend again until smooth.

Warm 1 Tablespoon lard (or butter) in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the sauce in one quick pour, being careful as it might splatter. Cook until the flavors meld, about 5 minutes.

Prep the Tortillas

Heat 2 teaspoons lard (or butter) in a small skillet over medium heat and swirl to coat the bottom. Fry the tortillas lightly, one at a time, until slightly tougher but still pliable, about 30 seconds per side. (They shouldn’t be crisp.) As you work, remove the fried tortillas to serving plates—I like to serve 4 tortillas per person. Fold the tortillas in a half-moon shape and make sure they sit in an even layer on each plate.

Dice the remaining quarter of onion. Ladle ¾ cup sauce over each serving of tortillas, spreading slightly so the tortillas are entirely smothered in sauce. Add a layer of diced onion and cilantro, a layer of shredded cheese, a layer of chicken, some crema and another layer of sauce. Top with another light sprinkling of diced onion.

Cooks’ Note

I recommend making your own light stock here, using the water in which you’ve cooked the chicken. If you can find a hen, which Mexican cooks consider to be the most flavorful stock base, use that. If you’re vegetarian, this dish can still be pretty wonderful, especially if you use homemade vegetable stock.

(Source… and with thanks to Epicurious at

%d bloggers like this: