Tag Archives: cheddar cheese

Grilled, Beer-Brined Chicken Enchiladas

I usually use poached chicken in enchiladas, but have even used rotisserie chicken, which is always moist and gives me chicken from all parts of the bird. Just for something a little different, I decided to grill some flattened and beer-brined chicken breasts for these enchiladas, and it made all the difference. The brined chicken was the definition of succulent.

We were fond of red and white enchiladas—using both enchilada and cheese sauces—until my husband’s lactose intolerance, so I’m skipping the cheese sauce, using a little more enchilada sauce, and less shredded cheddar. I make my own enchilada sauce, which has been posted on this site a few times, I think, and it makes a big difference. If you have never tasted enchilada sauce that doesn’t use tomatoes, I urge you to try it. Here’s the recipe again, adjusted to make 3 cups:

Enchilada Sauce

  • Servings: about 3 cups
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Prepare Reconstituted Dried Chiles

  1. Rinse 6-8 dried ancho chiles, remove stems and seeds
  2. Tear into pieces so they fit in a small container or bowl
  3. Cover with 3 cups boiling water, submerging the peppers as much as possible; cover container with plastic wrap
  4. Set aside for at least 45 minutes; reconstituted peppers will be dark red, soft, and pliable
  5. Place reconstituted chiles in blender with half the liquid and puree, adding the rest of the liquid through the lid opening
  6. Strain puree through a fine strainer to remove large pieces of pulp—stir slowly in the strainer with a spoon until all the liquid is out and only the pepper fiber remains in the strainer (about 5 minutes)

Prepare Enchilada Sauce

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil  and 2 cloves of grated garlic in saucepan over medium heat until you can smell the garlic
  2. Stir in 2 tablespoon flour until smooth
  3. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  4. Pour in pepper puree and 2 tablespoon white or rice vinegar
  5. Stir and simmer until slightly thickened

Grilled, Beer-Brined Chicken Enchiladas

  • Servings: 8-10 enchiladas
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

At least 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 cups enchilada sauce

1 small onion, diced

1 3/4-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

8-10 8″ flour tortillas

Prepare chicken:

  1. Flatten breasts to a uniform thickness, maybe a little less than 1/2″, between plastic wrap.
  2. Place chicken in large dish with brine (see below).
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and brine for at least 4 hours.
  4. Remove chicken from brine and grill over direct heat, turning once, closing grill lid between turnings. The chicken cooks after about 5 minutes per side at 300° but use a thermometer to test for an internal temperature of about 165°
  5. On a large cutting board, pull the grilled chicken into large shreds. I only used 3 of the breasts for 7 good sized enchiladas. The two breasts left over will not go to waste!
  6. Mix the pulled chicken with about 1 cup of enchilada sauce and 1 small diced onion.
  7. Fill 8″ tortillas (mine were whole grain) with about 1/3-1/2 cup of the meat and sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.
  8. Place filled tortillas in large baking dish with about 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce spread over the bottom.
  9. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce down the center of your row of enchiladas and sprinkle with more cheddar.
  10. Bake at 350° for about 25 minutes, until cheese is melted and edges of tortillas are beginning to brown.

Brine:

  1. 2 12 oz bottles beer
  2. 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  3. 1 tablespoon chili powder

I also made a small pot of black beans, but I’m retired, so don’t feel like you have to go all out.

Cheddar-Ricotta Mac and Cheese

I can’t believe I don’t have a mac and cheese recipe on the site. My go-to recipe is Martha Stewart’s “Macaroni and Cheese 101” from her 1999 magazine issue. I should have either the magazine or the recipe cut out somewhere. I can’t do better than her combination of white cheddar and nutty Gruyere, but today I’m doing a yellow cheddar and adding some ricotta for the second cheese just for a change. It should be a milder cheese flavor, but still have a nice creamy texture.

I see a lot of mac and cheese recipes that use the no-boil method, but I don’t like the fuss of the long cooking under foil and then the second cooking without it. Plus, some of the photos of those dishes show that the whole thing has bubbled up over the sides, because of all the extra liquid needed to cook the macaroni. I’m just going to stick with a cheese sauce made from a traditional white sauce, and boil the macaroni first. The one extra step today is pulsing the ricotta in a food processor, so it’s creamy and not gritty. I also do that when I want to add it to an Italian tomato sauce.

I’m halving my traditional recipe that uses a whole pound of macaroni, because there are just two of us, and while big dishes are lovely to look at, they are hard to consume. We’ll eat it again tomorrow or the next day, but that’s enough.

Cheddar-Ricotta Mac and Cheese

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven to 375°; butter a 2 1/2 quart baking dish, one with plenty of room to hold any bubbling sauce. You can see that mine came right up to the top.

8 oz elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions

1 1/2 cups ricotta, whole or part skim, pulsed in food processor until creamy

8 oz (about 1 1/2 cups) cheddar cheese, shredded

2 cups white sauce:

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups milk

crumb topping:

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

2-3 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

  1. Prepare the macaroni and the cheeses; set aside.
  2. Make white sauce: melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat until bubbling. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg until the flour is completely incorporated with no lumps. Stir in milk, stirring or whisking often until sauce is thickened.
  3. Stir cheeses into white sauce, stirring until melted.
  4. Pour cheese sauce over cooked macaroni in buttered dish. Stir to cover all the macaroni.
  5. Make crumb topping: combine all three ingredients in a large bowl, stirring/tossing quickly with a fork, to coat all with the butter. Crumble over the casserole.
  6. Bake the casserole for about 30 minutes until the topping is browned.

Macaroni and cheese is a great meal by itself, but we had bacon on the side and a frozen vegetable mix.

Cheddar Ham and Rice Casserole

The third of the ham dinners, this casserole is a variation of the Cheesy Chicken Rice Casserole, with more focus on making a sauce. In the original, the chicken partially cooked in the casserole, and the sauce formed from sour cream and the juices from the chicken as it finished cooking in the oven. It never fails. But I wanted something more reminiscent of a scalloped potato dish, so I did make a white sauce, to which I added a little cheddar cheese. Jasmine rice, carrots, and peas rounded out the flavors that I felt would complement the smoky ham.

Cheddar Ham and Rice Casserole

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Prepare rice:

1 cup long grain Jasmine rice

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water

salt, if not using a salted stock

  • Prepare rice as directed on package, usually simmering in stock or water for 45 minutes. Mine needed about 1/4 cup more water before the time was up.
  • Set aside to combine with other ingredients.

Prepare casserole:

Preheat oven to 350°; grease a 13″ x 9″ baking dish.

1 1/2-2 cups leftover ham, diced

2 medium carrots, diced and precooked in microwave for about 4 minutes

1/2 bag frozen green peas (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 tablespoons butter (for sauce)

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/4 cup milk

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

1/3 cup dry bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter, melted (for topping)

  1. In large skillet, saute diced ham and carrots in 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat until heated through.
  2. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour until well blended with no lumps.
  3. Slowly stir in milk until all the flour/butter mixture is incorporated. Continue stirring until the sauce is slightly thickened, then stir in 1/2 cup cheese until melted.
  4. Stir in rice and then the frozen peas.
  5. Pour all into a greased 13″ x 9″ baking dish.
  6. Stir together bread crumbs, 1/2 cup cheese and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle over casserole.
  7. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned.

Beef Enchiladas

Well, these happen to be beef, but they work with a variety of fillings. Today I used ground beef, but most of the time I use pulled chicken or beef from a chuck roast. Pulled pork is another great filling, or you could just use an all cheese filling. Enchiladas are always impressive in a restaurant, all filled and rolled and baked in a sauce smothered with melted cheese, but they are really easy to make. With chicken, I often make a red and white version, using two sauces, cheese and enchilada. That version does take a little more work.

I do go the extra step of making my own enchilada sauce, but maybe you have access to a good quality commercial version. I’m afraid the canned ones around here are just not as flavorful as mine—plus they have tomato sauce in them, which just doesn’t mesh with our idea of enchiladas. I think I’ve posted my enchilada sauce recipe before, but here it comes again:

Enchilada Sauce

  • Servings: about 2 cups
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Prepare Reconstituted Dried Chiles

  1. Rinse 6-8 dried ancho chiles, remove stems and seeds
  2. Tear into pieces so they fit in a small container or bowl
  3. Cover with 2 cups boiling water, submerging the peppers as much as possible; cover container with plastic wrap
  4. Set aside for at least 45 minutes; reconstituted peppers will be dark red, soft, and pliable
  5. Place reconstituted chiles in blender with half the liquid and puree, adding the rest of the liquid through the lid opening
  6. Strain puree through a fine strainer to remove large pieces of pulp; stir slowly in the strainer with a spoon until all the liquid is out and only the pepper fiber remains in the strainer

Prepare Enchilada Sauce

  1. Heat 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil  and 2 cloves of grated garlic in saucepan over medium heat until you can smell the garlic
  2. Stir in 1 tablespoon flour until smooth
  3. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  4. Pour in pepper puree and 1 tablespoon white or rice vinegar
  5. Stir and simmer until slightly thickened

Beef Enchiladas

  • Servings: 8 enchiladas
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preheat oven to 350°

1 lb ground beef, 80% lean or higher

1 medium onion, diced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground ancho pepper

1 cup sour cream

1 lb cheddar cheese, grated

2 cups enchilada sauce

8 whole wheat flour tortillas (8 inch soft taco size fits well in most rectangular baking dishes)

  • Brown ground beef in large saute pan. Add onion and seasonings, continuing to stir until the onion is beginning to soften and the spices are fragrant
  • Turn off heat and stir in sour cream*
  • Spread about 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce in bottom of baking dish to prevent sticking
  • Fill each tortilla with beef mixture and top with 2-3 tablespoons of grated cheese; roll and place in baking dish
  • Top with remaining enchilada sauce; as you can see, I don’t worry about covering all the tortilla edges—the dish should not be soupy
  • Top with the remaining cheese
  • Bake at 350° for about 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and beginning to brown and sauce is bubbling at edges

Other enchilada ideas:

  1. Use a drier meat mixture, serving sour cream as a garnish at serving
  2. Mix chicken with cheese sauce for filling, using enchilada sauce for topping
  3. Prepare shredded beef or pork that has been seasoned during roasting for filling
  4. Use uncooked diced onion in filling for more texture and a stronger onion flavor
  5. Skip the enchilada sauce and use only a cheese sauce—plus grated cheese—for topping