Monday, May 5, 2014

Enchiladas Suizas with Mexican Cole Slaw

The Battle of Puebla
       Once again we're celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a tried and true favorite.  This post is the # 2 most viewed page in all of Chewing the Fat's history.   This sensational recipe for Enchiladas is hundreds of page views ahead of # 3.  The second recipe on the page, the one for Mexican Cole Slaw, is certainly reason too for its popularity.  Our records show hundreds of searches for the dish that have wound up on these pages.  So with Cinco de Mayo today, I wanted to share these two great dishes and wish you "Feliz Cinco de Mayo". And I wanted to share a little of the fiesta's history with you.  So here goes:  
      Cinco de Mayo, the celebration of all things Mexican, isn’t really celebrated in Mexico.  It is true that it commemorates the defeat by the Mexican Army of French troops in the Battle of Puebla on May 5th 1862.  However, only the state of Puebla shares the party spirit that is such a part of Cinco de Mayo in the US.   The rest of Mexico waits until September 15th to celebrate their Independence Day.  So how did Cinco de Mayo get to be an American tradition?  Apparently the holiday was created spontaneously by Mexicans and Latinos living in California during the American Civil War.  They supported the fragile cause of defending freedom and democracy by celebrating the unlikely victory by a Mexican Army over the greater fire power of France.   Who knew? 
Cinco de Mayo even has its own US Stamp
        Regardless of which side of the border you are on, Cinco de Mayo is a great opportunity to celebrate with something distinctly Mexican to eat.  And Enchiladas fill the bill although this recipe has a somewhat more international background.
The word “Enchilada” actually means ‘dipped in chili’.  Enchiladas are sold on many a street corner in Mexico.  They are truly street food.  However, they have since ascended to the menu of virtually every Mexican restaurant in the world.   One of the most well-known of all Enchilada recipes came from two Gringo’s restaurant kitchen.  And it has little in common with its street food cousins.  For one thing, it’s milder, with far less heat and it’s more luscious—a creamy cheesy sauce gives it its name “Suiza” which means Swiss.  How it came to be is an interesting story.
The original Sanborns opened in "The House of Tiles"
        At the turn of the 20th century, seeking his fortune, a young California-born pharmacist arrived in Mexico City.  His name was Walter Sanborn.  He was joined several years later by his brother Frank.  The two hermanos opened an eponymous Farmacia called Sanborns.  (Since there are no apostrophes in Spanish, they didn’t use one).  The Farmacia was a huge success in large measure because the brothers sped prescriptions by bicycle messengers to their customers.  At the time, the Mexican pharmacy system could take weeks to get prescriptions to their intended recipients.  What’s an enchilada doing in a pharmacy, you might well ask.  Sanborns first started serving food to keep their own employees on premises instead of having them rush home for lunch and a siesta.  Before long, customers were clamoring for their food.  The restaurants were soon responsible for 45 % of Sanborns revenue.
Does this look like a pharmacy to you?
 Sanborns was a must stop for American tourists, including me as a very young boy in the 70s.   I can’t say that I had their Enchiladas Suizas.  But I went to find a recipe to write about for Cinco de Mayo, I realized it has a lot going for it.  It’s incredibly easy to make.  Not to go all Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade on you, I used part of a rotisserie chicken.  That eliminated having to poach or roast chicken breasts.  Adding canned green chiles lets you decide if you want more or less spice because you can choose mild or hot chiles.  The cheese in the dish can be varied as well.  The original calls for Cheddar and Monterey Jack.  I used Cheddar and Pepper Jack. 
Finally, Enchiladas Suizas is one of those dishes that is almost better if it rests overnight and the cheese sauce is added just before it goes into the oven.  That makes it a perfect Cinco de Mayo dinner since you can make it ahead, and enjoy your Margaritas while it bakes away in the oven.  I served my Enchiladas with a wonderful recipe for Mexican Cole Slaw that I highly recommend.  It gives a new dimension to that dish.  It’s not just wildly colorful—it’s mayonnaise-free.   Which may just make up for the decadent cream sauce, the Suiza part of the enchilada.  Here’s the recipe:

Recipe for Chicken Enchiladas Suizas:

For the Filling:
½ Rotisserie chicken, meat shredded into a bowl
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
8 oz. grated cheddar cheese
1 4-oz. can diced green chiles
1 cup green chile salsa
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt and Black pepper

12 to 15 7-inch flour tortillas

For the Sauce:

10 oz. Monterey or Pepper Jack cheese, grated
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup chicken broth

For the Garnish:

Chopped avocado
Chopped tomato
Chopped fresh cilantro

In skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Cook onion and bell peppers until just soft, 5-8 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Add chicken, cheddar cheese, green chiles, salsa, cilantro, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 10x15x2-inch baking pan or 2 smaller pans. Place 1 flour tortilla on flat surface and place about 1/3 cup chicken mixture along 1 edge. Roll up from filling side, and place, seam side down, in prepared pan. Repeat process with remaining chicken mixture. Sprinkle Monterey or Pepper Jack over enchiladas.

Combine cream and chicken broth and pour over enchiladas. Cover pan with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Garnish individual servings with avocado, tomato and cilantro, if desired.
Recipe for Mexican Cole Slaw

This is truly a lazy cook's dream recipe.  You can use bagged slaw and any garlic-y vinaigrette you have on hand.  

1 16 ounce bag of Slaw
1 14 oz can of Sweet Corn Kernels
1 14 oz can of Black Beans
1 small red onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded, sliced fine
1/2 cup cilantro leaves and stems
1/2 to 3/4 cup Garlic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients then pour over vinaigrette dressing.
Toss and chill 'til serving.  Keeps well in the refrigerator for several days. 


  1. Ana Moreno FritzMay 4, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    #1, Suiza, or Verde as we Mexicanos call it, are so much more a celebratory way to prepare because we more so often use some form of red chile. I luv it because the combo of ingrediants are uniquely elevated with a squirt of lime, a lick of salt and a shot.... But the information, espiecially about the gringo brothers (LOL), was probably one of you best yet Monte! Luv the recipe, and I'll be giving you a "Salute!" when the shot is downed... Happy Cinco de Mayo pal!

  2. This recipe looks so delicious I can't wait until tomorrow. Running to the store now to buy all the ingredients. Thanks Monte!

  3. Well Feliz Cinco de Mayo to you both! Arielle, I can't wait to hear if they have rotisserie chickens in Costa Rica. Ana, what a wonderful maiden name. Now are related to Rita?

  4. These were excellent, Monte. I had never made enchiladas with flour tortillas before - easier and tastier! My family loved them.
    Beverly Pica

  5. I just posted a recipe on my blog for goat tacos, but now I think I'm ready for another Mexican feast. These enchiladas sound great. And Mexican cole slaw?? What a great idea! Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

    1. Felix Cinco de Mayo to you too! As I wrote, over 7000 people have read this page! Amazing! So glad you liked it.

  6. This is INDEED an awesome recipe. It always receives accolades at my house!
    Thanks, Monte.

    Kate in Alberta