The whole enchilada

I’ve never made much Mexican food, even though I love it. When I lived in California, there wasn’t much point—I could get superb Mexican food from all sorts of places, ranging from the gigantic burritos available around Berkeley, to the formica-tabled taquerias in San Francisco’s Mission District, and even high end Mexican cuisine. There wasn’t much need to cook it at home, although I would often make fajitas and I learned to make a decent guacamole.

But back here in Australia, until recently, Mexican food was a joke, greasy cliched menus and buckets of acidic margaritas. Even the ingredients were hard to get, unless you wanted Old El Paso taco kits. That’s changed with the arrival of a number of very popular Mexican restaurants and a slowly widening availability of ingredients like chipotle chilies in adobo sauce.

I recently aquired a bag of dried pinto beans, and cooked them up. But what to do with them? I decided to make some chicken and bean enchiladas. The challenge? They had to be kid friendly, as my kids haven’t yet acquired a taste for spicy food. I looked through my recipe books and finally found a recipe that I could adapt fairly easily in Rick Bayless’s book Mexico One Plate at a Time. In the interest of time, I decided to use a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, rather than cook my own chicken.

And the result? The flavours were there, although more heat would have been nice! I was a bit disappointed at how quickly the tortillas dissolved into the dish, but maybe that’s the difference between Australian store-bought tortillas and homemade ones. Still, at least one kid liked them and I will definitely make them again!

Chicken and bean enchiladas

Adapted from Mexico, One Plate at a Time, by Rick Bayless

Serves 4-6

1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
3 400g cans tomatoes, can use whole, diced or crushed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp mexican spice blend or to taste
2 c chicken broth
1/2 c sour cream
2 c shredded cooked chicken
1 c cooked beans (pinto, black, kidney, borlotti, can be canned or cooked from dry)
2/3 c mild cheese (colby, tasty cheddar, monterey jack)
10-12 corn tortillas
coriander for garnish

Preheat oven to 180C.

Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Cook the onion for about 5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the garlic and the spice blend and stir for 30 seconds or so. Poor in the tomatoes and turn heat up to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes until tomatoes have thickened to the consistency of tomato paste and darkened slightly.

Add the broth and simmer partially covered for 15-20 minutes, until it has thickened to the consistency of a tomato sugo or passata. Adjust seasoning and stir in the sour cream.

Meanwhile, combine 2 cups of shredded chicken with 1 cup of drained beans. Mix in about 3/4 c of sauce.

Spray or brush the tortillas on both sides with oil and lay out on a baking tray. Heat for 3 minutes or so in the oven, until they are soft and pliable. Remove and wrap in a teatowel while assembling to keep them warm and soft.

Ladle about 1 cup of sauce into a rectangular baking dish. Working quickly, spoon some of the chicken and bean mix into each tortilla, roll up and put seam side down in the baking dish. Pour remaining sauce evenly over the tortillas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is golden. Garnish with coriander and serve immediately.


1. For more heat, roast, de-skin and de-seed a couple of jalapeno chilis and add to the tomatoes before pureeing.

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