1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped into ¼ inch chunks
8 Roma tomatoes
4 ripe avocados
1 bunch cilantro
2 Serrano peppers
First, do not use a food processor. What gives this salsa it’s wonderfulness is fresh ingredients and the texture that comes from chopping by hand. Be sure to use ripe avocados but not mushy over ripe ones. Hard green avocados give a rough texture and have no flavor. Mushy black ones have a bad taste. Ripe Roma tomatoes with good flavor are usually easy to find but any flavorful tomato works fine. It is important to use a sweet onion. Yellow and White onions give a sharp bad taste and should not be used raw. If you do not have a sweet onion, use a smaller red onion. Red onions can be slightly sharp, but generally work well.
For each tomato, thinly slice off the ends and slice it in half lengthwise. It’s a good idea to chop the tomatoes in several small batches. With the skin side down, thinly slice each half tomato. You want about 1/8 inch thick slices. Starting with a pile of slices on your cutting board, use a large sharp knife to chop the slices into pieces. Place the chopped tomatoes in a large bowl.
Add the chopped onion to the bowl.
The avocados are a bit messy and there is no best way to chop them, but one method is to slice each avocado around the middle, remove the pit, cut each side in half, and remove the skin. With the cup side down (skin side up), slice each piece into ¼ inch slices and then chop the slices into small pieces. Add the chopped avocado to the bowl.
Chop the cilantro by first slicing the outer bunch at an angle to get most of the leaves and not much of the stems. Chop the leaves as you did the tomato slices using your hand on the backside of a large knife. Add the chopped cilantro to the bowl.
Slice off the ends of each Serrano pepper and then slice then in half lengthwise. With a spoon or your finger, remove the seeds. If you have a small food processor this is an okay step to use it. If not, slice each half into small pieces and finely chop as you did the cilantro leaves. If you like the salsa spicy, use more peppers or leave in the seeds. The seeds contain most of the heat. Add the chopped pepper to the bowl.
Using a large spoon, mix all ingredients in the bowl. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze all of the juice into a cup and add about half to the bowl. Thoroughly mix the ingredients and assess the texture. You want everything a bit sticky and some juice, but not too juicy. Add more lemon juice as needed. Mix a bit more, cover, and refrigerate for an hour or so. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.
Way back in my early working days my friend, who grew up in Mexico City, taught me this family recipe. It’s more of a 3-part recipe actually, but they’re all simple, fresh, and something the whole family can work on together. Keeping with tradition, we make chicken enchiladas with green sauce, re-fried beans, and salsa with chips. This dinner is best made on a weekend where the whole family can come together and cook.
Estimated time to cook, assemble, and bake: 2 hours
Makes about 24 enchiladas
Green sauce and/or enchiladas can be made 1-2 days in advance, keep refrigerated.
Variation: use a pre-made red sauce in place of making the green sauce, there are good quality imported options available in most markets, but the green sauce is more authentic.
2 lbs tomatillos
½ large sweet (preferred) or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
5 cloves fresh garlic
1 bunch fresh cilantro
3 lbs dark meat chicken or 2 lbs if boneless (chicken breast is too dry, use thighs or drumsticks)
1 lb good quality Monterey Jack cheese
1-2 cans large black-pitted olives (avoid extra large or jumbo size olives)
2 bunch green onions
24 corn tortillas
2 cups canola or olive oil
There are 4 steps to making the enchiladas (3 if you use store bought red sauce)
Cook the chicken in the pot of water used for the tomatillos for about 20 minutes or until fully cooked. Remove from the water and set aside to cool. Coarsely grate the cheese into a bowl, set aside. Cut the olives in half, set aside. Slice the green onions into 1/8 inch pieces including the light green and some of the dark green chive, but not all of the chive and set aside. When the chicken is cool, remove the skin and roughly chop or tear the meat into small pieces and set aside.
3. Corn tortillas
This is a critical step and takes some practice. The idea is to quickly deep-fry the tortillas before softening them in the green sauce. Using a frying pan large enough to fit the tortillas (cast iron is best), add a generous amount of oil. There should be enough oil to cover the tortillas, about 2 cups. We recommend using non-saturated oil—such as canola because it imparts minimal.
After adding the oil, heat the oil until it is very hot. To test the temperature, drip some water into the oil and if it sizzles/pops, the oil is hot enough. Add the first tortilla and cook for about 20 seconds until it is lightly crisp. Using tongs, flip the tortilla and cook the other side for another 10 to 20 seconds. Remove the tortilla by lightly shaking off excess oil. Dip the tortilla in the green sauce so that both sides get covered in the sauce. Set the tortilla aside in small stacks. Repeat this process until all tortillas are cooked.
Be careful to not let the oil get too hot—it will start to have a burnt smell and over sizzle. It is usual that the oil cools after several tortillas so adjust temperature as needed. In addition, do not let the amount of oil in the pan get too low otherwise the tortillas will not cook properly.
4. Baking the enchiladas (pre-heat the oven to 350°)
On a clean surface, lay out a cooked tortilla and place small amounts of chicken, sliced olive, green onion, and cheese. Using your hands, push the stuffing to one side and roll the tortilla. Adjust the amounts to your liking, but be sure you can get a small overlap on the roll.
Place the stuffed tortilla in a backing dish and repeat until you run out of ingredients. You will need several backing dishes. Pour the remaining green sauce and left over ingredients over the enchiladas.
Since this makes such a large batch, we only cook one baking dish of enchiladas on the first day. We cook the rest later in the week. Place the enchiladas in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the tortillas are a bit crisp.
½ pound of chorizo sausage
3 cans of pinto beans
½ cup Monterey Jack cheese (optional)
1 Serrano pepper (optional)
Variation: add leftover items from the enchiladas such as chopped olives, tomato, green onion, and Monterey Jack cheese after cooking and mashing the beans into a paste.