I don’t do Halloween. Of course, as a kid it was my favorite time of year, what with the candy and all. I used to spend weeks thinking about my costume, and they were almost always homemade. I was Darth Vadar one year in a navy blue blanket and German helmet a neighbor kid’s grandfather brought back from World War II. One year I had chicken pox and my brother shared his candy with me. It was probably another fifteen years before he did anything that sweet again.
But as an adult, I have given up on Halloween. I am not good at the clever costumes. Two failed attempts put me off the idea for good. My neighborhood is a popular trick-or-treating area, but I lock the doors, turn off all the lights and retreat upstairs where I can’t be seen. It is all feeding what I fear may be my growing reputation as the Crazy Old Miss Lady who lives down the street.
But I have tried to establish one Halloween tradition of my own, these super-seasonal enchiladas. They a perfect warming meal after a night of trick-or-treating or a great dish for a grown-ups only party. I usually make the big family sized batch, but divide them between smaller dishes to deliver to family and friends. You can cook and shred the chicken ahead of time and store in a ziptop bag in the fridge, or the enchiladas will keep covered in the fridge for a whole day, so they are just ready to pop in the oven when the little monsters return from their mischief. This recipe would also be a great way to use leftover cooked Thanksgiving turkey, and a real departure from plain old leftovers.
Chicken Enchiladas in Pumpkin Sauce
Serve a little sour cream on the side.
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 cups chicken broth
1 large bunch cilantro
juice of 2 limes
8 green onions, white and some dark green parts, sliced
2 (15 – ounce) cans pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
6 garlic cloves
1/2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from can
1 jalapeno chile, ribs and seeds removed
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 ½ cups water
salt and pepper to taste
12 – 16 corn tortillas
3 cups white cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, shredded
Place the chicken breasts in a large saucepan with the broth, juice from one lime and a handful of cilantro, leaves and stems. Bring to a boil, lower the heat then poach the breasts until thoroughly cooked, about 15 minutes. The juices should run clear when a breast is pierced with a knife. Remove from broth and leave to cool; discard the broth. Shred the chicken using fingers or a fork and set aside.
Working in two batches, place pumpkin puree, juice of one lime, green onions, garlic cloves, chipotles and adobo sauce, jalapeno, chili powder, cumin, water, salt and pepper and half the remaining cilantro leaves in a blender. Puree until smooth and combined. Pour into a bowl. Repeat with the second batch, pour into the bowl and stir to combine. The sauce will taste raw at this point but don’t worry, it will be great when cooked.
Finely chop the remaining cilantro leaves. Put aside 1 1/2 cups of the grated cheese.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large 13 by 9 inch ovenproof casserole. Pour in about 1 cup of pumpkin sauce and spread to cover the bottom of the casserole.
Wrap the tortillas in a damp tea towel or a few damp paper towels. Microwave for 30 seconds to soften the tortillas and make them pliable. Keep the tortillas covered with the damp cloth while assembling the enchiladas. You may want to zap them again during the process to keep them soft.
Lay a tortilla on a work surface. Pile a small handful of chicken and a small handful of cheese on top and sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Roll the tortilla up and place seam side down in the casserole on top of the sauce. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Stuff the tortilla rolls closely together in the casserole.
Pour the remaining sauce over and around the enchiladas to cover. Sprinkle the top with the reserved cheese. There may be a little more sauce than needed to cover the enchiladas.
Bake the enchiladas until cooked through and bubbling, about 45 minutes. Cover with foil halfway through baking time if the cheese begins to brown.
The casserole can be covered and refrigerated several hours before cooking.
Serves 8 – 10