Chicken enchiladas with the works

Dinner includes refried beans and Mexican rice

Dinner includes refried beans and Mexican rice

September 17, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

WILLIAMSPORT - Say "chicken enchilada," and watch the eyes of Tricia Renn's family.

"I took a poll. That's definitely the family favorite," said Renn, a 34-year-old stay-at-home mother from Williamsport.

Dinner gets served every night at the Renn household, which includes three children. But chicken enchilada nights are an elaborate affair and occur when her husband, Mike, is "really good."

With the enchiladas comes refried beans and a tolerably spicy serving of Mexican rice, which can be made spicier by topping it with Renn's tangy-spicy cilantro dressing.

Renn prepares the enchiladas mostly with fresh ingredients, sometimes making the tortillas from scratch. She balks at the idea of using canned refried beans. But she will use canned tomatoes and tomato sauces for the enchiladas.


If she's entertaining friends, Renn will serve margaritas with the meal. But even those come with a twist: She splashes a bit of beer in the drink before she serves it.

Q: So, how did you learn to cook?

A: My mom. She was a stay-at-home mom until my freshman year in high school. She wasn't always home when we got home from school. She would leave notes with recipes for us to follow. That's kind of how I learned to cook.

Q: Do you cook every night?

A: Even though I'm a stay-at-home mom, I still have my SpaghettiOs and grilled cheese nights sometimes.

Q: So, tell me about these enchiladas.

A: This is my husband's most favorite meal. I adapted it from a low-fat cookbook. My friend taught me how to make the tortillas from scratch. I prefer flour tortillas, because of the texture.

Q: How often do you cook them?

A: Whenever my husband's being really good.

Q: And about those beans?

A: I put sugar in the refried beans. I also got that from my friend. She makes them in mounds. You never drain the beans because you use the cooking liquid. The original recipe calls for lard, but I use butter. That's the real fat saver.

Tricia Renn's Chicken Enchiladas

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups water
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules
1 (10-ounce) package of mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 small onion, chopped, not too finely (optional)
1/4 cup minced, fresh cilantroo
Salt and pepper to taste
12 (6-inch) flour tortillas
Shredded cheese (Mexican blend, asedero or quesadilla) to taste
Sour cream, garnish

For the sauce:

1 (8-ounce) can of tomato sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 cup of reserved cooking liquid
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup water

Add chicken, water, bouillon, mushrooms and onion into the pot. Cook chicken until juices run clear when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken, mushrooms and onion with a slotted spoon, reserving 1 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Cook to room temperature. Shred chicken when cool. Add cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Combine tomato sauce, chili powder and cumin in a medium skillet. Stir in reserved cooking liquid and bring to a boil. (Combine flour and water and then add to the sauce.) Simmer until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9-inch pan with cooking spray. Dip one tortilla at a time into the sauce, coating each side. Lay tortilla on a flat surface and place 1/4 cup shredded chicken mixture along one end. Roll the tortilla and lay in the pan, seam side down. Leave about 1/4 inch between each enchilada to prevent sticking. Pour sauce over the enchiladas and cover with cheese. Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream if desired.

- Recipes courtesy of Tricia Renn

Mexican Rice

Olive oil, enough to coat bottom of a pan
1 medium onion, chopped
4 to 5 cloves of garlic
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced, seeded serrano chile
2 cups long-grain or basmati rice
3 cups chicken stock (can be substituted with vegetable stock)
Cilantro dressing (optional)

Saut onion, garlic and pepper with olive oil until soft, about 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat. Add chicken or vegetable stock, rice, chile, tomatoes (with the juice) and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until liquid is absorbed. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Can toss with cilantro dressing.

Refried Beans

1 bag dried pinto beans
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
Shredded cheese, garnish (Mexican blend, asedero or quesadilla)

Sort beans and soak in water for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain. Refill pot to cover the beans. Add 2 tablespoons of butter, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the beans are tender and begin to split. Melt stick of butter into a skillet. Saut onion, adding the sugar once the onion softens. Remove beans from the pot with a slotted spoon and hand mash to desired consistency, adding the cooking liquid as needed. Serve warm. If desired, top with melted cheese.

Cilantro dressing (optional for Mexican rice)

1 1/4 cups cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves
5 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon seeded serrano chile (add more, if desired)

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor. Blend to a smooth consistency. Bring to room temperature before tossing with rice.

Can be made in advance and stored in refrigerator.

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