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Weekend Recipe: Freezer Chicken Enchiladas

The folks at Cook's Illustrated always have your best interests in mind -- in this case, the process makes this recipe seem less labor intensive and time consuming. The enchiladas and sauce are prepared, stored in the freezer, then assembled and baked whenever you're feeling like feasting on the rolled tortillas. Another time saving tip? Use leftover cooked chicken or a store-bought rotisserie chicken for the filling.

Photo courtesy of Cook's Country

Freezer Chicken Enchiladas
Serves 4 to 6

Note that you won't need 1 1/2 cups of the cheese until you bake the enchiladas. Serve with avocado, pickled jalapeños, shredded lettuce, and/or sour cream.

1 (29-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons minced canned pickled jalapeños
10 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Cooking spray

To make ahead: Blend tomato sauce, onion, garlic, chipotle, cumin, coriander, salt, and broth in blender until smooth. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add tomato mixture, bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until mixture is reduced to 3 1/2 cups, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Toss 3/4 cup sauce with chicken, 1 cup cheese, cilantro, and jalepeños.

Place 5 tortillas on baking sheet and lightly coat both sides with cooking spray. Bake tortillas until just pliable, about 2 minutes. Working quickly, transfer one tortilla at a time to work surface, fill with 1/3 cup chicken mixture, and roll tightly. Transfer, seam side down, to large plate. Repeat warming and rolling process with remaining 5 tortillas. Place plate in freezer until enchiladas are frozen, at least 1 hour.

Place remaining sauce in freezer-safe container and press 2 layers of plastic wrap directly onto surface of sauce. Tightly wrap enchiladas in bundles of 5, first in plastic and then in foil. Freeze for up to 2 months.

When ready to serve: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Defrost enchilada sauce in microwave on defrost setting, about 12 minutes.

Coat 13 by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange frozen enchiladas in single layer in baking dish and coat tops with cooking spray. Bake until tops of tortillas are just beginning to flake, about 20 minutes. Remove dish from oven, top enchiladas with 1 1/2 cups sauce, and bake 10 minutes longer. Sprinkle enchiladas with remaining 1 1/2 cups cheese and bake until cheese melts and center of casserole is hot and bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve, passing remaining sauce and garnishes (see note above) at table.

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