I was talking to my cousin on the phone last Monday afternoon, while perusing cookbooks in local cooking store, and I found a ridiculously trendy kale cookbook. Kale is so outrageously trendy; being the contrarian that I am, I would love to declare that I despise it, but I can make no so such statement. It is such a fantastic vegetable. It can pleasantly beef up the vegetable quotient of nearly any dish. Unlike spinach, for example, it is difficult to overcook, and it doesn’t have that vicious, gum-gripping, tannic quality. It can be braised, roasted, sautéed, or it can stud your favorite soup, and it simply tastes delicious. My taste buds tend to veer more towards heavy cream rather than vegetables, so you know if I’m singing the praises of its favor profile, it must be good.
Anyway, while idly thumbing cookbook pages, I found a recipe for kale and chicken enchiladas. To be clear, I am using the term “enchiladas” loosely; these are by no means authentic. In fact, they are not even authentic to the original recipe; not only did I veer wildly off course when I made them initially, but I have now reworked several renditions of my initial swerve from the published recipe. It now resembles a sort of pseudo-Mexican lasagna, with corn tortillas acting as pasta, and store-bought green chile instead of red sauce. It is delicious and satisfying, and possibly even healthy.
There is, of course, cheese within the depths of this dish. (Sidenote: I recently went on a random and ill-advised bout of cheeseless-ness. In other words, I was completely dairy-free for about 3 weeks. I am relieved to say that I felt terrible, and I was able to bring cheese back into my diet, with a feeling of belonging and destiny. Needless to say, my love affair with cheese is back on track, if in a slightly more moderate format.) The cheese in this meal is pivotal, but overall I think it is fairly healthy. I used a combination of smoked Gouda, and a cheddar-gruyere conglomerate I found at Trader Joe’s. Smoked Gouda doesn’t melt well, but I think the flavor is worth it. High-quality white cheddar would be more than adequate as a substitute for both cheeses (this is what I used in my first version).
In its evolved stated (compared to the original recipe), this layered enchilada masterpiece revolves around a mixture of kale, onion, tomatoes, and chicken breast. This is layered with tortillas and cheese. Instead of enchilada sauce, I decided to make it a little more interesting (but just as easy) by employing some medium heat 505 Green Chile in its place. In case you aren’t familiar with this product, it is fabulous. It is spicy, hearty, vegetarian, and nowhere near the calorie-laden, artery-clogging mess that you might think. In fact, the entire 16 oz. jar has less than 100 calories. Initially, I made this as rolled enchiladas, but corn tortillas crack so easily that I reformatted it to something layered. Why do my corn tortillas crack? Are they simply not fresh? Am I doing something wrong? Is it karmic retribution? I’m not sure, but I do know they are so flavorful that changing the presentation of the dish seemed the best solution, as opposed to subbing them out for their mild-mannered cousin, the flour tortilla. Every time I open a bag of corn tortillas, the aroma overwhelms me. When I think of super flavorful foods, fresh corn does not immediately spring to mind; however, this bland starch transforms into a different species when plied into a tortilla. This dinner was delightful, and as all dishes must be in the psycho kitchen, it yielded abundant and delicious leftovers.
Kale and Chicken Enchilada Bake
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed, minced
1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 bunch of kale, ribs removed and chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 jar medium heat 505 Green Chile
3/4 cup smoked Gouda
3/4 cup white cheddar or cheddar-gruyere mix
9 small corn tortillas
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat chicken breasts in olive oil and season with seasoning salt, garlic salt, and pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes, then set aside. Thinly slice when cooled. Reduce heat to 350.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion, chile pepper, and garlic, seasoned with salt and pepper, for 10-15 minutes until translucent and soft.
Add chopped kale, 1/2 cup chicken stock, and tomatoes with juice. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Stir until kale is wilted slightly, then add chicken. Turn off heat and stir to combine.
In a greased 9x13 pan, spread out 1/2-3/4 cup green chile. Then top with 3 small corn tortillas, tearing into smaller pieces to create one layer. Then top with half of the kale mixture, and half of the cheese. Top with 3 more tortillas, and more green chile. Add remaining kale mixture, and 3 more tortillas. Top with additional green chile and cheese.
Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350, or until hot and bubbly. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.