Monday, August 26, 2013

Freezer Friendly Chicken Enchiladas

I used to be very lukewarm towards enchiladas. In fact, I really didn't like them much at all. Then a couple years ago, Rob pressured me to make some because he really wanted them. It was the first time I'd ever had homemade enchilada sauce, and it opened up my world to so much awesomeness.

Enchiladas are quite possibly one of my favorite meals now, so long as there's no tinny store bought sauce to be found anywhere nearby.

And these just elevate my love for enchiladas to a whole different level because this recipe makes 3-4 casseroles that can cook straight from the freezer. Oh yes, you heard me right.

It's a bit of work to make this big batch, but so worthwhile. Just think about how satisfying it will be to pull a ready made casserole from the freezer after a long, hard day while you're chopping a mountain of onions. You can also break up the assembly - I often make the sauce and store the chicken mixture until the next day before rolling the enchiladas - to make things easier on yourself.

Freezer Friendly Chicken Enchiladas
adapted from The Best Make-Ahead Recipes

makes 3-4 13x9 inch casseroles

1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 medium onions, chopped
9 cloves of garlic, minced (about 3 Tbs)
6 Tbs. chili powder
4 tsp. ground cumin
4 tsp. ground coriander
4 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/4 inch strips
6 (8oz.) cans tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 (12oz) can pickled jalapenos, drained and chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
24 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded (about 6 cups)
30-40 soft corn tortillas

In a large pot, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine spices.

Add garlic and spices to the pot and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken to the pot and stir until it is completely coated with the onion-spice mixture. Stir in tomato sauce and water, bring to a simmer and cook until chicken is done, about 8-10 minutes.

Pour the chicken mixture through a large mesh strainer over a large bowl, pressing on the chicken mixture with the back of a wooden spoon to extract as much sauce as possible. Store enchilada sauce in freezer-safe containers in 2 - 2 1/2 cup servings. (Let cool to room temperature before freezing)

Place chicken mixture in a large bowl and refrigerate until cool enough to handle. Add jalapenos, cilantro, and 4 cups of cheese (the remaining cheese is for topping the casseroles), and stir until combined.

Place 1/4 - 1/3 cup of filling in the center of each tortilla, roll, and place into casserole dishes. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, then aluminum before freezing. (or bake immediately, instructions below)

To Serve Immediately: Preheat oven to 350F. Top casserole with 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce and 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until cheese is melted and filling is heated through, about 20-30 minutes. Serve additional sauce alongside enchiladas.

To Serve From Frozen: Preheat oven to 400F. Remove plastic wrap and aluminum foil from casserole dish and bake, uncovered for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, defrost enchilada sauce in the microwave (3-5 minutes on high).

Remove from oven and top with 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce and 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and continue to bake until cheese is melted and filling is heated through, another 20-30 minutes. Serve additional sauce alongside enchiladas.

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