It’s the weekend before Cinco de Mayo and, if you’re like me this year, you’re planning a small, safe gathering with family and friends to celebrate.
The holiday is not something that I celebrated growing up in a Mexican-American household. It got more popular as I got older and it has become part of the American fabric. What I do love about it is that it gives me an opportunity to share the food, culture, and traditions of my heritage with friends who are not familiar with these things. It’s time for iconic elements like marigolds, piñatas, paper crafts, norteño and mariachi music, embroidered huipil dresses, and lots of food! Starting today, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite party friendly recipes and decorating ideas with you every day up until Cinco de Mayo to get you in that fiesta mood. Today we start with food!
If there’s one dish that truly reminds me of my Mexican heritage, it’s enchiladas. This is a dish that my mom made for my family quite often and not only was it a staple of our dinners, it was something served for special holidays as well. I remember enchiladas being served alongside turkey at Thanksgiving and as the second main dish next to a spiral ham for Easter. They’re quite easy to make, can feed a lot of people and are just so good! They can be made with flour or corn tortillas and with ground beef or chicken (sometimes even shrimp), but my favorite is with corn tortillas and shredded chicken.
This is the perfect dish to make for a Cinco de Mayo get together. It’s not complicated to make, it can go in the oven while you’re entertaining guests, and it’s a hearty dish that your guests will love.
Mom’s Enchilada Recipe:
Ingredients (Serves 6)
• 1 lb cooked shredded rotisserie chicken (you can substitute cooked, seasoned ground beef or cooked shrimp)
• 12 – 18 corn tortillas
• 4 cups grated cheddar cheese
• 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
• 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional for garnish)
• toothpicks (optional)
• 1/4 cup shortening (you can use olive oil if more readily available)
• 1/4 cup masa harina (dry)
• 3 tsp chile powder (California chile powder is good as it’s not overly spicy and adds great color to the sauce)
• 2 tbsp tomato paste
• 1 1/2 cup water or chicken/vegetable broth
• Cumin to taste
• Black pepper to taste
• Garlic powder to taste
• 1/2 tsp salt
If you want to make the shredded chicken yourself, you can use this recipe:
1 lb boneless chicken breast or thighs
Coarse Kosher salt
Coarse black pepper
1/4 large onion
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves
Preheat the over to 350F.
Place the chicken in a large Dutch oven or pot and season it with coarse kosher salt and pepper.
Add in 1/4 of a large onion, 2 bay leaves and 2 cloves of garlic.
Cover all the ingredients in the pot with water. The water should be 1 inch above all the ingredients. Bring everything to a boil over high heat.
Once boiling, reduce the heat to simmer and cook the chicken for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breasts. You could also use chicken thighs if you prefer. Since thighs are usually smaller and thinner you can lessen the cooking time to 15 minutes.
Finally, remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate for shredding.
For the sauce, melt the shortening in a wide sauce pan. Stir in the dry masa harina and mix with the shortening for 1 minute to create a roux. Next add the chile powder and tomato paste mixing well. Add the salt, and a bit of black pepper, cumin, and garlic powder to taste. Slowly stir in liquid (either the water or broth) and cook until thickened.
Lay one tortilla in the sauce briefly so it becomes pliable and does not break. Take it out of the sauce and lay it in a rectangular baking dish. Add the shredded chicken, layer the onions and grated cheese, add another tablespoon of the sauce and roll the tortilla up. You can either turn the seam down in the dish or leave the seam up securing the tortilla closed with 1 to 2 toothpicks each.
Continue with the rest of the tortillas in the same way, softening them in the sauce, filling them up and rolling them, laying them next to each other in the rectangular dish. If your sauce starts to get low and you still have some tortillas to fill, you can keep adding water or chicken broth to maximize what’s left. When your dish is filled, spoon the remainder of the sauce over them and sprinkle more onions and cheese on top.
Place the dish in the preheated oven until the cheese is melted (approximately 25 to 35 minutes).
Once cooked, sprinkle the cilantro on top for a garnish and they’re ready to serve your Cinco de Mayo guests!
Check out what more I have planned in days to come with more favorite recipes and party decorating ideas!