Maggie is one of the best cooks I know, and she is the author of today’s Enchiladas Verdes recipe.
As a cook, Maggie is a traditionalist, remaining true to recipes—but she is not inflexible, adapting recipes when needed. Although she loves traditional Mexican cuisine and cooks some of the best mole and cochinita pibil around, she is always open to new cuisines and she knows how to ejecutarse any recipe. In Spanish, “ejecutar” literally means to execute or to implement something, but in my family it is a verb that means to copy a recipe from a restaurant or a friend so well that it’s better than the original.
Maggie is an authority in the kitchen. Efficiently chopping, slicing, sauteing and blending all at once, she can beautifully present a delicious meal in an impossibly short amount of time. She can seem a bit harsh when you cook with her because she is very serious about doing things the right way, which often happens to be her way, but she is right 100% of the time so there’s no use in arguing with her.
Who is Maggie, you ask? Maggie is my mom! Her real name is actually Maria. Maggie became my mom’s name when she immigrated to the states. It was a name given to her by her first employers in Houston. They thought that Maria was too hard to pronounce so they suggested the name Maggie. My mom took on the new name unfazed. In fact, she liked the name so much she has claimed it as her own ever since.
If I am honest, 90% of the recipes on this blog should have the name Maggie before them because they are all inspired by my mother in some way. I learned to “cook” under her strict tutelage. Potatoes needed to be cut this way. Rice should only be stirred this many times. And why is there such a mess? Under my mom’s watchful eye, I became a very competent assistant, but not truly a cook.
Thinking back, it’s no wonder I only began to cook in earnest when I went away for college. My mom was such a great cook that there was never a need for me to even attempt to cook anything. She was also so strict about what was good food that I was too wary to experiment beyond the occasional sandwich, or my signature dish—velveeta ramen.
In college I began to truly cook as I had the new found task of keeping myself alive. I was also homesick and craved the Mexican food that I had grown up eating. Although I had very little experience cooking full meals before college, I found that the years of training under my mother had given me a knack for cooking. I had a sense of how to prepare foods, and an even bigger surprise to me: I loved to cook. The rote actions of slicing and dicing were therapeutic. Trying to replicate familiar taste profiles with stolen ingredients from my cafeteria, a mish mash of cooking utensils in the ever grimy communal kitchen and a limited spice cabinet was an exhilarating challenge.
Since those first moments clumsily working my way through the most basic dishes, Mexican rice and beans, I’ve learned to cook and I’ve become pretty good at it. The questions that I used to call my mom with on a daily basis—How do I know when chicken is fully cooked? Does that recipe call for parsley or cilantro? Should I eat garlic with a green bud inside?—have diminished.
Now when I visit my mom in Houston, I cook some of the meals, eager to share my new favorite salad, or a new Korean dish that John and I love. My mother is still the boss and I the protegé. But there is more of an exchange in the kitchen. When my mom asks, “What do you think about this?” as she moves a spoonful of sauce towards my mouth, the question is less rhetorical now.
Thanks for teaching my everything I know, Mom!
Notes: I have made these enchiladas more than anything else on this blog and they are truly crowd pleasers. The creamy tomatillo salsa is accentuated perfectly by the subtle nuttiness of the almonds. You can prepare these ahead of time and pop them in the oven right before dinner. They are also incredibly easy to veganize by omitting the heavy cream from the sauce and the cheese from the top of the casserole (or using vegan cheese if you’re into that). Give them a try and let me know what you think!
Maggie’s Enchiladas Verdes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Yields: 10 enchiladas
- 1 lb of tomatillos, peeled and washed
- 2-3 jalapeno or serrano peppers, destemmed
- ⅓ bunch of cilantro
- ½ small onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- ½ cup of sour cream
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- ¼ cup almonds
- Salt, to taste (for me roughly 1 teaspoon)
- 4 cups of cooked shredded chicken
- 2 tomatoes, diced into small pieces,
- 1 small onion, finely minced
- 3 cups of fresh spinach
- 2 cups of monterey jack, or Mexican blend, cheese
- 10 tortillas
- Peel and wash tomatillos, peppers, ½ small onion, 2 cloves of garlic and place in a small pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Once water comes to a boil, remove from heat.
- In a non-stick pan, combine 2 minced cloves of garlic, a small minced onion, and the diced tomatoes with a small glug of oil and cook for a few minutes. Then add chicken, spinach and salt and cook for a few minutes.
- In a small pan, add about ¼ cup of vegetable oil and fry all of the tortillas briefly, 1 minute, until gleaming and softened. This will prevent breakage when rolling.
- In a blender, combine the cooked tomatillos, pepper (one at a time to prevent the sauce from being overly spicy), onion, garlic, dairy, almonds, cilantro and salt and blend until smooth and creamy. Add peppers until you reach your desired spice level.
- Set up your enchilada assembly station by placing your green sauce, tortillas, chicken filling and cheese out. Add a generous 2 tablespoons of filling to the tortilla, a sprinkling of cheese and then roll tortillas. Place rolled tortillas in an oven-safe container, pour remaining sauce on top, then add your cheese.
- Finally, bake at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until cheese begins to bubble.
- Serve and enjoy!