Chicken, Black Bean, and Spinach Enchiladas

Tex-Mex is one of my most longed for foods. You would think living in New Mexico that I would have plenty of Mexican food options to choose from. But that’s just it. They are all too New Mexican for me. Nothing lives up to Pappasito’s – my favorite place to celebrate just about anything from birthday to graduations to ” just because” dates with my dad. Thinking about all of those family meals definitely brings back fond memories of growing up in Texas (even though I hated the humidity). I no longer live in Texas, so instead I’ve been left to perfecting the art of Tex-Mex in my own home.

I can’t say that I’ve made it too far on the perfection scale, but I think I’ve finally done it with these enchiladas. The filling is full of flavor and texture, plus a little spinach thrown in for good measure. And the two sauces balance each other out in taste and color. All it all, I thought it was a delicious meal and something that could easily grace the pages of a Pappasito’s menu.

For the chicken, I like to cook it in the crock pot with salt, pepper, a chopped onion, garlic, cilantro, lime, chili powder, and cumin. The chicken becomes so tender and moist that it is incredibly easy to shred. Alternatively, you can bake the chicken or used leftover rotisserie chicken, but I recommend seasoning it with the above listed spices and flavors.

Though these enchiladas might look time intensive, the great thing about them is that the individual elements can all be made ahead. The chicken can be made ahead and combined with the beans and spinach and refrigerated for up to 2 days until use. The tomatillo salsa can be made ahead as well and stored for up to 2 days, or even frozen for up to a month. And the sour cream sauce easily reheats in the microwave and returns to proper consistency with a few whisks with a fork.

See? There is absolutely no excuse why you wouldn’t have time to make these!

Chicken, Black Bean, and Spinach Enchiladas
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  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cooked and shredded)
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 5 ounces baby spinach, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup monterrey jack cheese, grated
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Tomatillo Salsa, recipe follows
  • Sour Cream Sauce, recipe follows

Spray a 9×13 inch pan with spray oil. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the chicken, spinach, salt, pepper in a medium to large bowl. Stir until ingredients are evenly distributed. Add the beans and carefully stir in so as not to mash up the beans.

Steam the tortillas using a tortilla warmer. If you don’t have a tortilla warmer, see the bottom of this article at Food & Wine for alternative methods. Set tortillas aside and keep warm.

One by one, fill a tortilla with a small handful of filling, about 1/4 – 1/3 cup. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cheese on top of the filling and roll tortilla up, placing the seam side down in the previously prepared pan. Repeat until all tortillas have been filled. Drizzle sour cream sauce on top, followed by the tomatillo salsa. Top with additional shredded cheese, if desired.

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until tortillas are heated through. Makes 1 dozen enchiladas. Serve with a tomato and avocado salad.

Alternatively, the enchiladas can be assembled on individual oven proof plates for a prettier look (as pictured). Tent the plate with foil to cover the enchiladas; bake for 10-15 minutes and serve.

Tomatillo Salsa
This tomatillo salsa is simple to prepare and can be served alone with tortilla chips for dipping.

  • 6 tomatillos, husks removed
  • 1/2 – 1 jalapeno, remove seeds to adapt heat
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, packed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place tomatillos in a medium sized sauce pan. Cover with hot water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove tomatillos from water and place in a food processor with remaining ingredients, starting with only half the jalapeno. Process until smooth. Test for heat and add the remaining half of the jalapeno if desired. Set aside.

Sour Cream Sauce
To save on fat and calories, feel free to substitute low-fat sour cream. However, I would not recommend fat-free sour cream.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the flour, whisking until golden and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk the broth into the flour mixture. Stir in the sour cream, whisking if necessary to remove any lumps. Simmer until sauce is thickened. Season with salt and pepper.