Saturday, March 03, 2012

This Texas chicken-spinach enchilada has attitude

You may love the place or hate it, but Texas won’t go away. And most Texans don’t give an armadillo’s rear-end what you think. Similar to how we described the Army back when I was in it, there’s the right way, the wrong way and the Texas way.

A friend from the Dallas area, now an Atlantan, professes to dislike cooking. She certainly dislikes being fussy in the kitchen. But her “go-to” entertainment dish, a Mexican-influenced, old family recipe, makes Pat seem quite a chef. Her ingredients include prepared foods. Now, I haven’t done the “take a can of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup” routine recently, but I will for this dish.

These spicy chicken and spinach enchiladas are based on Pat’s recipe, but I modified the ingredients somewhat and added spinach, wine and nutmeg.

Enchiladas, a mainstay at Tex-Mex restaurants, and traditional in real Mexico, are simply tortillas wrapped around a filling and covered with chile sauce. The name is the past participle of the Spanish verb enchilar, meaning “to add chile pepper to.”

Classical Mexican enchiladas were made with corn tortillas. Some modern versions, including in Texas, use flour tortillas. Pat’s dish is what in Mexico might be called “Enchiladas Suizas,” or “Swiss-style” enchiladas, indicating milk and cheese rather than red or green sauce.

Beer would be the drink for a dish like this. But for wine, something fragrant and crisp with a little acidity would stand up to the richness of the cheese and sauce. And if the full jalapeño amount is used, which I would, something slightly sweet would help. The dish pairs well with a Riesling — not too sweet — or an Albariño, Viognier or Chardonnay.

The recipe serves five. Serve with rice cooked with chicken broth.

Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas

1 rotisserie chicken (save bones and skin for broth)

11⁄4 teaspoons salt plus more for sauce

1⁄4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

1 (12-ounce) bag frozen leaf spinach

1 (2-ounce or 4-ounce) can diced jalapeño peppers

10 (8-inch — fajita size) flour tortillas

1 (101⁄2-ounce) can Campbell’s condensed cream of chicken soup

1 can unsalted chicken broth (see method, below) or water

1 cup milk

1⁄2 cup sour cream plus more for serving

1⁄4 cup white wine

1⁄2 pound grated white cheddar cheese

Cut meat off chicken. Reserve skin and bones. Pull meat apart into long pieces. Mix salt, nutmeg and pepper and sprinkle chicken evenly. Toss to mix.

In a pot, boil chicken skin and bones with 2 quarts water for 20 minutes. Skim off foam and excess fat. Strain broth. Use some in recipe, the remainder for cooking rice.

Defrost spinach in microwave (or overnight in refrigerator). Partially squeeze out juice.

Drain jalapeños.

Lightly oil large casserole dish. Set oven for 350 degrees.

Lay tortillas out on flat surface. Place chicken down the middle of each. Distribute spinach over chicken. Sprinkle evenly with jalapeños. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Roll up tortillas and arrange in a single layer in casserole, seam side down.

In bowl, whisk together condensed soup, broth or water, milk, sour cream, wine plus 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Spoon mixture evenly over enchiladas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake until thoroughly heated, bubbling and beginning to turn golden on top, 25 to 30 minutes.

Accompany with sour cream.

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