Cooking 101

Cheesy, creamy chicken enchiladas are student chef’s nod to a family tradition

Chicken Enchiladas With Creamy Mushroom and Chili Sauce are chef Jade Macken’s version of a favorite family dish.
Chicken Enchiladas With Creamy Mushroom and Chili Sauce are chef Jade Macken’s version of a favorite family dish. Johnson County Community College

Jade Macken’s dad has been making flour tortillas for years. He has a penchant for red enchiladas.

They are really good, Macken says, but sometimes she is in the mood for a creamy sauce with a lot of cheese. In high school, she experimented with canned cream of mushroom soup doctored with spices and jalapenos. After more trial and error, her sauce has evolved into something uniquely her own.

Macken uses a roux of flour, butter, garlic, cream, chicken stock, mushrooms and onions cooked down with a little white wine to make a good thick soup. Most of the ingredients for her chicken enchiladas are easy to find. Roasted Hatch green chilies from New Mexico are available in cans at most supermarkets. A Spanish onion is really just a white onion. She also uses kosher salt because it is a little less salty than table salt.

Macken’s mom cooks too, as did her grandmother.

“My grandma, who was full Mexican, used to make tortillas and refried beans. When she passed away, my dad kind of took it on. It’s just as good, so it is awesome that he does it, and I will do it, too, someday.”

About the column

Cooking 101 is an occasional column exclusive to The Star designed to introduce home cooks to basic cooking techniques. The recipe, food styling and photography are a joint project between culinary students and instructors at Johnson County Community College’s Hospitality Management Program.

About the chef

Jade Macken, 21, from Parkville, is in her third year in the JCCC’s chef apprenticeship program. She is serving her apprenticeship at the Our Lady of Mercy County Home in Liberty. She’s still deciding how she will use her culinary knowledge when she graduates but so far is enjoying participating in catering events.

Chicken Enchiladas With Creamy Mushroom and Chili Sauce

Makes 12 to14 servings

1 1/2 pounds (3 to 4) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup small mushrooms, finely chopped (cremini, button — whatever kind you prefer)

1/2 cup diced white onion

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup dry white wine

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup diced green onion

1/2 cup diced white Spanish onion

2 jalapenos, seeds removed, minced (if you like a spicier kick, leave the seeds in)

3 (4-ounce) cans roasted Hatch green chilies, diced

1 cup sour cream

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

8 to 12 flour tortillas, 6-inch diameter

3/4 cup whole milk

Cumin, cilantro, avocado and lime, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch, 2- to 3-inch deep casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a bowl, toss together the cubed chicken, cumin, garlic salt, black pepper, cayenne and dried oregano. Mix until all of the chicken is evenly coated in spices. Set aside.

Add the olive oil to a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and onion. Sauté until the onion is translucent and the mushrooms are cooked through and soft, about 8 minutes. Season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste.

Turn down the heat to medium. Add the white wine to deglaze the pan, stirring the tasty bits off of the bottom of the pan. Let simmer until the wine has been absorbed and the mushroom mixture is completely dry; none of the wine should be left. Remove this mixture from the pan and set aside.

Next, add  1/2 cup butter to the same saucepan over medium heat and let it melt completely. Add the minced garlic and cook about 2 minutes, to just lightly sauté the garlic. Whisk in flour to create a roux. Cook another 2 minutes, while constantly stirring. (Continued cooking ensures your sauce will not have the “raw” flour taste to it.)

Quickly whisk the chicken stock and heavy cream into the roux; sauce should be smooth and lump-free. Bring to low heat and simmer for about 2 minutes, or until sauce is nice and thick. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the seasoned chicken breast. Stir and let cook until lightly browned or until chicken is cooked through (7 to 12 minutes). Pour into clean bowl and set aside.

In the same sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. When butter is melted and hot, add the green onion and Spanish onion. Sauté until translucent (2 to 6 minutes). Add the jalapeno and sauté for a minute more. Reduce heat to medium-low.

Add the Hatch green chilies and reserved sauce to the sauté pan. Stir until incorporated. Turn off the heat. Use an immersion blender or regular blender to puree the chili sauce until completely smooth. Return sauce to pan. Stir in the sour cream until evenly combined. Add reserved mushrooms and mix until well distributed throughout the sauce. Pour about  3/4 of the sauce into a bowl and set aside.

To the remaining  1/4 of sauce in the pan, add 1 cup of cheddar cheese and the reserved, cooked chicken. Fold in and mix until the cheese is melty and the chicken is evenly coated.

To assemble the enchiladas: Spoon about  1/4 cup of chicken filling into each tortilla. Fold over the parallel sides, and roll to seal. Place, seam side down, into the prepared baking dish. Repeat this process until all of the filling is used, and the casserole dish is full of the snuggly fit enchiladas.

To the reserved  3/4 of the sauce in bowl, whisk in milk until sauce is smooth. Spoon the sauce over the enchiladas until evenly covered, so that no tortilla is left without sauce. Sprinkle the top of the enchiladas with remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Place into 375-degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the top of the casserole is bubbly and lightly browned.

Remove from oven, and let cool slightly (about 2 to 4 minutes) before cutting into enchiladas. Garnish with a sprinkle of cumin, chopped cilantro, avocado and lime wedges, if desired.

Per serving, based on 12: 570 calories (55 percent from fat), 35 grams total fat (20 grams saturated), 121 milligrams cholesterol, 38 grams carbohydrates, 26 grams protein, 787 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.