This delicious dish made with corn tortillas stuffed with chicken, bathed in green sauce and au gratin with Manchego cheese is one of the most popular in all of Mexico, but why are they called Enchiladas Suizas (Swiss Enchiladas)?
There are various theories about the birth of enchiladas, one of the most popular dishes on any menu in Mexican restaurants. One of the most popular versions is that these enchiladas were first known in a restaurant called Café Imperial in the Tacuba neighborhood, whose owner had been the butler of Maximilian of Habsburg, the last emperor in the history of Mexico. Owner of great culinary secrets, the ex-butler’s wife created this dish that we know today as enchiladas suizas.
Another version of the origin of this dishes comes years later, in the famous chain of Sanborns cafeterias, whose first store is still running on Calle de Madero number 4, in the Historic Center of the Mexico City, in the famous building known as "Sanborns de los Azulejos” or “the House of Tiles.”
It is said that Walter Sanborn, one of the founders of this cafeteria, seeing this delicious dish, said that it reminded him of the snow that covered the Swiss Alps. Being captivated by the appearance and flavor of the dish, the European businessman decided to incorporate it into his menu as enchiladas suizas and it was like this that the dish was so widely popularized.
There is another variant of this story that tells us that among the guests of the very same restaurant was a Swiss man who could not tolerate spiciness of the chiles. However, his craving was bigger, and he always ordered green enchiladas until he asked the chef to make them less spicy and he added crema to the sauce, creating this wonderful combination.
Finally, the simplest version is that since the green sauce is prepared with crema and a lot of cheese, it was given the name of Swiss enchiladas, since Switzerland is famous for its cheeses and dairy products.
Regardless of the real version, what we do know is that these delicious enchiladas are an icon of traditional Mexican cuisine and today, here is a recipe to try and make this delicious dish.
2 pounds green tomatillo (mitomatle, milpero tomate, tomate verde)
1/2 a large onion
3 garlic cloves
1 bunch of cilantro
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup crema
Salt to taste
Shredded oaxaca cheese
Shredded manchego cheese (you can use monterrey jack if you cannot find manchego)
3 chicken breasts (bone in and skin gives more flavor but it’s more difficult to shred and skin adds fat, any option works just be sure to remove the bone or skin when shredding)
Small piece of onion, approximately ¼.
2 garlic cloves
A pinch of salt
12 tortillas (there might be room for more, depending on how much filling you add)
Vegetable oil to fry tortillas
Start by boiling the chicken breast with a pinch of salt, garlic cloves and small piece of onion for flavor. Reserve broth and shred chicken once cool.
Cook tomatillos, serrano peppers, and jalapeño peppers in boiling water; cook for 10 minutes, or right before they break so that tomatillos don’t turn sour.
While these ingredients boil, toast the sesame seeds in a pan over low heat until it releases its aroma and remove from heat immediately.
Next, pulverize the sesame seeds. For this you can use a blender, food processor, or a molcajete. If you did this in the blender, you could leave it there to transfer the rest of the ingredients, if not, throw in the blender.
Blend the boiled tomatillo and chiles with the cilantro, garlic, onion, sesame seeds, and a cup of chicken broth, also adding a little salt to taste (always start with little and add more if necessary).
Preheat a sauce pan or pot, add vegetable oil and pour in the sauce; cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.
Wait for the sauce to cool down a bit (to room temperature preferably) and add crema to the sauce. Turn heat back on again and gently stir for 5 minutes on low heat until the crema is fully incorporated, making sure the sauce is does not boil.
On a separate saucepan, heat some vegetable oil to fry the tortillas. Use kitchen tongs and slightly run the tortillas over the oil.
Now is time to fill your enchiladas with shredded chicken and fold them in half, like quesadillas. You can also roll them up like traditional enchiladas if you want!
In an oven-safe dish, add a very thin layer of salsa to the empty dish so that there is flavor everywhere and transfer enchiladas to an oven-safe dish, arranging them side by side, slightly on top of each other if folded. Then, pour in sauce on top of the arranged enchiladas, making sure to fully cover all of them.
Pre-heat oven at 400 degrees. Add shredded Oaxaca and manchego cheeses on top and transfer to the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes, the last 5 on broil so that the top cheese browns.
Once out of the oven, they are ready to serve! Traditionally, enchiladas suizas are plated in 3 with a slice of avocado on top and garnished with cilantro and onion. If you are looking for traditional serveware, you can find it all here.
As always, we love the fact that Mexican recipes allow all sorts of tweaks to make them your own. If you want a vegetarian option, you can use cheese instead of shredded chicken for filling. For a vegan option, you can use vegetable broth, cashew crema, and an array of shredded vegetables as fillings (we love a mixture of carrot and calabaza!). Lastly, you can also make this a healthier version skipping the frying of the tortilla. Instead, heat them in the stovetop or in a slightly moistened tortilla warmer on the microwave for 1 minute and they'll be easy to fold.
If you would like to make your tortillas from scratch, don’t forget to check out our tortilla recipe here!
We love this recipe as it brings us back memories from Mexico, especially sitting down at the Sanborns café; whenever we see this dish available at a restaurant, we make sure to order it! So, what do you think? Is this a recipe you will be trying soon? Is there any other recipe you would like for us to share with you all? Let us know in the comments below, we would love to hear from you!
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