This is the year I turn thirty. While I have six months to prepare myself for this milestone, it seems as though the train is running full steam ahead. At times, I feel like this thing-this obstacle, or what have you-came out of nowhere. And while sometimes my stomach tosses and turns at the thought, I often feel anxious to get there already, especially as I watch my friends, one by one, make the leap. Mostly, thirty feels exciting. I’ve been told, and have written about this before, that thirty feels different. It feels good. There is less comparison to others, a sense of security and confidence in oneself. And I suppose I am tired of feeling out of place, too old to be lumped together with those in their early twenties but not officially thirty.
This age range 20-30 feels so gigantic, and has included a number of major of changes in my life. However, people often talk about how age 30-40 is all the same. (Note to self: watch reruns of Thirtysomething, I might learn something useful). When I started my twenties, I was in college. I was about to graduate with a B.A. in psychology, and I was living completely unsure of what lay beyond the safety nets of college. I was dating my now-husband (Nathan), living with a friend near campus, and working part-time at Starbucks as a barista. After graduation, I spent a few weeks traveling in Europe, before settling into work with my father in the world of insurance. A few years later, Nathan and I finally tied the knot just as I dived into a new venture as a graduate student. We moved to a quaint 1920s era apartment on the top of Queen Anne Hill, where we housed an illegal-or at least under-the-radar-kitten. Fast forward to my late twenties: I am five years into my career, and on my second job. We have purchased our first home (not an easy task in Seattle), remodeled it (my lord-never again, or at least not anytime soon), and managed to raise an energetic Goldendoodle puppy on the side (remodel + puppy = major hiatus in normalcy!).
While chicken enchiladas may seem somewhat unrelated to this narrative, I can’t help but think of them as a marker of this time of tremendous change. These enchiladas were one of the first recipes I developed when I started investing time into cooking. I lived in an on-campus apartment with four women during my undergraduate years at the University of Washington, somewhere around my early twenties. Nathan lived two floors below. In that apartment, I started cooking regularly, and, gradually, I started becoming confident in my abilities. Retrospectively, this was a small miracle, given the old and dismal state-university kitchen with it’s fluorescent overhead lights, plastic laminate counter-tops, and makeshift appliances. While I shared the apartment, and consequently the kitchen, I found intervals of time where I could work alone, preparing meals for myself and Nathan who joined me regularly for dinner.
I hadn’t made these enchiladas since my early twenties. But this week, waxing philosophic about thirty, I felt an itch to whip up a batch. The memories came flooding back. And I realized again all the reasons why this was the most important dish of my twenty-something years. Moreover, they are at once easy to prepare, exceptionally delicious, and satisfying for a crowd. While these are loosely based off a few recipes here and there, I recognize now this Chicken and Cumin Enchilada recipe was the first recipe I could feel like I truly owned. Easily modified to be gluten- and dairy-free.
Chicken & Cumin Enchiladas with Green Chili Sauce
Serves 4-5 (and easily doubled)
8-10 medium flour tortillas (I prefer Mission Gluten-Free Tortillas for a gluten-free option)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole organic chicken, cooked and shredded (*see note below)
1-28 ounce can green chili sauce
1-2 tablespoons ground cumin
1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup all purpose flour (or gluten-free all purpose, i.e., Namaste Perfect Flour Blend)
salt and pepper to taste
1-8 ounce package (about 2 cups) shredded mozzarella (use Daiya Mozzarella for a dairy-free option)
fresh cilantro, chopped
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a large frying pan, heat olive oil on medium. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Next, turn to low and add the prepared shredded chicken and cumin, and gently toss to combine. Then, add the broth and flour, and stir to combine until flour is incorporated in and the liquid has thickened slightly. Sprinkle in a handful of cheese at this point and remove the mixture from the stove.
Pour 1/4 cup of green enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9×14 baking dish and swirl the dish around to coat the bottom of the dish. Next, fill the tortillas with the chicken and cumin mixture. Add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of filling to each tortilla and evenly distribute within the middle. Wrap the tortilla to secure the filling inside and set in the baking dish with the crease on the bottom. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
Next, cover the enchiladas with the green chili sauce, making sure to coat each tortilla to prevent any edges from drying out and burning in the oven. I usually prefer my enchiladas extremely saucy but feel free to reduce the amount of sauce, as preferred. Afterward, sprinkle the enchiladas with a couple handfuls of the mozzarella and bake for approximately 25 minutes, until the sauce bubbles and the enchiladas are slightly golden in color. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro on top.
*Note: I buy a whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds) and cook it the day before in a slow-cooker, which is easy and produces juicy, succulent chicken that really sets these enchiladas apart. If you are in a pinch, grab a plain rotisserie chicken or a package of chicken thighs to boil on the stove and shred. If you are going the slower-cooker route (which I highly recommend), rinse the chicken and put in slow-cooker with the gizzards. Cover with water and set on high for 3 1/2 hours. Once cooked, remove chicken from slow-cooker and let cool in a large dish or bowl. Then, shred the chicken and set aside. (Get ready for some of the best and juiciest chicken you’ve tasted). Put the skin and bones back into the slow-cooker with the remaining liquid. Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and put on high for 12-15 hours to create a rich bone broth for future use (risotto, chicken noodle soup!) or to use in place of store-bought chicken broth in this recipe. Filter broth using a cheesecloth and compost bones and skin.