When I left sunny Southern California for college in the Pacific Northwest, the food I missed the most were my mom’s chicken enchiladas. They were one of her Sunday specialties because making them on the weekend gave her the time she needed to thoughtfully prepare the dish.
First, she cooked chicken breasts in spicy tomato sauce until the meat was falling off the bone. She shredded the meat, then fried the tortillas, shuttling each corn tortilla into a pan of hot oil, and then into a pan of enchilada sauce. After each tortilla was coated in spicy red sauce, she transferred them to a baking dish and piled on the shredded chicken, chopped raw onions and cheese. Finally, they’d go into the oven to bake until the cheese bubbled. It was home-cooked comfort food at its finest.
I still want to eat chicken enchiladas. But, I’ve found a way to speed up the process so I don’t have to wait until the weekend to make them. And…I’ve also tweaked the recipe to make it a bit healthier so I can enjoy it more often!
In this revamped recipe, I add sautéed vegetables, ground chicken, beans, corn, fire-roasted tomatoes, enchilada sauce, and Mexican spices to a slow cooker. And then I simply turn it on and walk away! Three hours later, dinner is ready and all I have to do is spoon into bowls, top with cheese, green onions, and cilantro, and serve.
Now, before you rush straight to the comments section to tell me that this slow cooked chicken and farro recipe doesn’t really make enchiladas, hear me out. The word enchilada means seasoned with chile (which this recipe is) and when the farro slow-cooks with fire-roasted tomatoes in enchilada sauce, it absorbs all of the flavors and tastes just like corn tortillas that have been dipped in sauce and baked. The finished dish tastes just like cheesy chicken enchiladas.
You’ll be glad that this recipe makes 10 hearty servings! It’s so good, you might want to eat the leftovers for breakfast. It tastes amazing topped with a sunny side-up egg.
Total Time: 3 hrs. 28 min.
Prep Time: 15 min.
Cooking Time: 3 hrs. 13 min.
Yield: 10 servings, about 1 cup each
1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium jalapenos, seeded and deveined, finely chopped
1 lb. raw ground chicken breast
1½ cups dry farro, rinsed
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, rinsed, drained
1 cup frozen corn
1 (15-oz.) can diced fire roasted tomatoes (or diced tomatoes), no salt added
1 cup water
1 (10-oz.) can red enchilada sauce
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
Sea salt (or Himalayan salt) and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)
1 cup shredded jack (or cheddar or Mexican blend) cheese
3 medium green onions, chopped
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1. Heat oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until onion is soft.
3. Add garlic and jalapenos; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until jalapenos are soft.
4. Add chicken; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
5. Place chicken mixture, farro, beans, corn, tomatoes, water, enchilada sauce, chili powder, cumin, and coriander in a 3-quart slow cooker; mix well and cover. Cook on high for 3 hours, or until liquid has been absorbed, and farro is tender.
6. Remove lid and stir mixture. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Add cheese; mix well. Cover until cheese has melted.
7. Top with green onions and cilantro; serve.
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Photos by Kirsten Morningstar