Hot and cheesy, enchilada easy

Casey Barber

Sometimes I feel a little guilty. Because I work from home, I can have nachos for dinner every night if I want, while I send my husband off to work with something a little more sensible and microwaveable. (Note: This doesn’t happen.)

We save our nacho-fests for nights when we’re together (preferably also in the company of some good beers and a good baseball game); for regular weeknight meals any time of year, Dan gets his Tex-Mex fix with these chicken enchiladas.

This recipe is a standby in our house and exemplifies everything great about freezable big-batch cooking. It’s great for assembly line-style prep, it’s versatile and adaptable (leftover ground beef instead of rotisserie chicken? Awesome!), and I won’t even make you make your own enchilada sauce. The Hatch brand is just as tasty as what I used to make from scratch, and it’s one less thing I need to worry about when my week is hectic. But use your favorite brand if you already have one.

Chicken Chile Enchiladas

1 15-ounce can Hatch red enchilada sauce (or your favorite brand)

1 8-count package taco-size soft tortillas

1 pound cooked shredded chicken (from a rotisserie chicken, or 2 to 3 cooked chicken breasts)

1 small to medium red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 4-ounce can diced green chiles

2 1/2 cups (12 ounces) shredded cheese — Mexican blend, Monterey Jack, and/or cheddar are all equally lovely

Sour cream, to serve (optional)

If you’d like to bake your enchiladas to serve right away, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. If freezing, line two small (8-by-8-inch) pans or one large (9-by-13-inch) pan with parchment — this allows you to lift the enchiladas out of the dish and store them as a solid block in your freezer.

Ladle enough enchilada sauce into your dish(es) to cover the bottom in a thin layer of sauce — about 1/4 to 1/3 cup for smaller rectangular dishes that hold two to three tortillas, and about 1/2 to 2/3 cup for a 9-by-13-inch pan that holds six to eight tortillas.

Line up as many tortillas on your work surface as will comfortably fit in the dish, using the side “flaps” of each tortilla to prop them open against each other.

Scoop about 1/2 cup chicken into each tortilla. Divide the bell pepper and green chiles evenly between the tortillas, sprinkling the pieces on top of the chicken. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons shredded cheese into each tortilla, then drizzle about 2 tablespoons enchilada sauce over the filling.

Roll the tortillas up, folding them over as you roll so the seamed side of each tortilla is face-down in the pan and the sauce-covered “bottom” is now on top.

Sprinkle the tortillas evenly with the remaining cheese, then drizzle the remaining enchilada sauce on top. At this point, the enchiladas can be baked immediately and served for dinner, baked and then frozen once cooled, or frozen now and baked later.

If baking right away: Bake freshly assembled enchiladas for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Serve immediately.

To freeze unbaked enchiladas: Let the enchiladas cool completely; then cover the casserole dish with a lid or wrap tightly with foil. Freeze directly in the dish for up to three months. Once frozen solid, lift the block out of the pan and wrap tightly in foil to freeze. Don’t forget to write reheating instructions on the package.

To reheat frozen enchiladas: For not-yet-cooked enchiladas, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the foil from the frozen block of enchiladas and transfer to a casserole dish (you can leave the parchment on or remove it). Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes; then uncover and bake for 15 minutes more.

For precooked enchiladas, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the foil from the frozen block of enchiladas and transfer to a casserole dish (you can leave the parchment on or remove it). Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 10 minutes; then uncover and bake for 10 to 20 minutes more. Timing depends on the size of the pan: A large 9-by-13-inch casserole will take longer to heat through than a small casserole dish with only two enchiladas in it.

Frozen individual servings of precooked enchiladas can be zapped in microwave-safe dishes for 3 to 5 minutes.

Serve the enchiladas with sour cream, if desired. Serves 4.

Recipe notes: Before assembling your enchiladas, make sure the dish you’re making them in is freezer-to-oven safe (and potentially microwave-safe, too, if that’s how you’ll be reheating them). I prefer using sturdy oven-to-table glassware like a Pyrex container, but there are similar brands and sizes on the market. Just check the manufacturer’s instructions before heating or freezing.

Per serving: 700 calories; 33 g fat (16 g saturated fat; 42 percent calories from fat); 39 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 168 mg cholesterol; 1,744 mg sodium; 58 g protein; 3 g fiber.