Thursday, December 3, 2009

Enchiladas Suizas

If my time in Mexico City brings back memories of Olga Breeskin first, following closely after that are the sublime Enchiladas Suizas served at the popular chain Sanborns.
Owned by Walgreens, these classic drugstores had everything we needed -- reassuringly familiar brands plus introductions to all sorts of new things, bright shiny objects, treasures and oddities never imagined. Everything clean and bright and well-lit, giving off an aura of antiseptic efficiency. Sanborns was the source of my passion for Anfora Painted Bird dinnerware.  Seemingly ubiquitous in Mexico, I hardly ever see it up here other than some random pieces on eBay.  Hmmm, might that brilliant blue have been the result of a dash or two of lead in the glaze? I'm not using those plates anymore and all these years later I seem to have come away unscathed, so no matter. [THIS JUST IN -- SEE THE COMMENTS BELOW FROM HANS KRITZLER AT SANBORNS. The plates have been lead free since '88.... though I bought mine in '82 I'm not going to dwell on that.]

There was a Sanborns right across the grand Avenida de los Insurgentes so we went often.   Luckily, early on we discovered their Enchiladas Suizas and never ordered anything else but them again.  I'm sure a big part of the appeal was encountering the tangy taste of tomatillos in the salsa verde for the first time, combined with the richness of the cheese and sour cream.

In this recipe I use gallinas, a larger, gamier cousin of the common chicken for the filling.  They are staples at my IGA and I thought the chickens had more flavor in Mexico than what I'd grown up with. If you can't get your hands on a gallina, a regular chicken works fine.

1 4-5 lb. gallina or whole chicken, cut into quarters
basics for stock: some carrots, celery, onion, bay leaf, peppercorns, a bouillon cube
4 oz. grated parmesan cheese
1 bunch finely chopped scallions, both white and green parts
4 oz. shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
10 - 12 corn tortillas
1 c. sour cream
radishes sliced thin and shredded romaine lettuce for garnish

1 lb. tomatillos, about 10-12 depending on size
2 long hot green chiles
2 jalapeno chiles
1 large white onion, chopped
2 T. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bunch cilantro
2 T. toasted pepitas
2 T. toasted sesame seeds
1/2 c. cream

Gently poach the gallina or chicken with the stock vegetables in water to cover, 45 minutes to an hour, and let cool in the broth.  When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and shred the meat.  Mix the shredded meat with the chopped scallion and the parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.   Strain out the vegetables from the broth, skim off the fat and reserve.

Make the salsa verde:  peel off the husks of the tomatillos and place them on a baking sheet along with the chiles.  Put them under a hot broiler for 6-7 minutes until one side is well-charred, then turn everything over and char the other side too.  Remove from heat, let cool.  Rub the charred skin off the chiles, remove the stems and what seeds you can. Don't try to take the skin off the tomatillos -- just place them as they are with the chiles into a food processor and blend well.

In a skillet over medium heat brown the chopped onion in 2 T. of olive oil, this should take 10 minutes or so.  After 5 minutes toss in the smashed garlic cloves.  Salt and pepper the onions well, and when they're translucent and browned at the edges add to the tomatillo mixture in the processor.  Add the cilantro and the toasted pepitas and sesame seeds and process it all for a minute or two until everything is as smooth as it can be.  Now blend in 2 cups of the reserved stock.

Heat up a little oil in a skillet or a pan large enough to hold all the salsa, and when it's nice and hot pour in the salsa.  It will sizzle and scald, that's what you want.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes to blend all the flavors.   Remove from heat and stir in the 1/2 cup of cream.

Wrap the stack of corn tortillas in a dish towel and place on a rack over steaming water (not touching). Steam, covered, for one minute, then remove the pot from heat and let it sit for 15 minutes with the lid still on.

Spoon  a bit of the salsa over the bottom of the baking dish you'll be serving the enchiladas in.  Unwrap the tortillas -- the ones on the top and bottom will probably be too mushy to use so discard them if need be.  The interior ones will be soft and pliable.  Roll up each tortilla with a generous amount of the filling, and place seam side down in the dish.  Whether you make 8 or 10 kind of depends on the size of the dish, you'll figure it out.  Make them even.

Pour the remaining salsa verde over the enchiladas. (Save any salsa that might not fit in the pan, it's too delicious to waste.)  Bake for 30 minutes in hot 350 degree oven.  Take out of the oven, lay the shredded cheddar cheese in a stripe across the middle of each row of enchiladas, and return to the oven for 30 minutes more. After an hour the cheese will be melted and lightly browned, and any edges of tortilla poking up from the sauce will be browned and crisp too.

Dress the enchilladas with a stripe of sour cream over the melted cheese, garnish with a row of radish slices and shredded lettuce.  Bring to the table and serve on your most festive lead free plates. 


  1. Dear Sean, I'm glad that you like our Anfora dinnerware. I manage the Anfora factory in Pachuca, Mexico.

    Founded in 1920, we not only sell to most major restaurant chains in Mexico, but also have large customers in the US like Panera Bread, which uses handpainted dinnerware in washed out colors. Another good customer for Anfora is Starbucks.

    All of our products are 100% lead free since 1988 and pass the FDA regulations and tests for import into the US, as well as the most strict rule, the Prop. 65 which also insures that they are cadmium free. You can easily check your plates with the two-digit number on the backstamp, anything made after "88" is completely safe.

    Our most beloved pattern is the Blue and White Puebla, or the Bird pattern. The deep blue color comes from cobalt, not lead. It´s handpainted by our artisans and can be found at Pottery Barn ( with a larger selection of pieces at You can find the full catalog and purchase directly from us at

    Finally has more pieces every day.
    Sanborns is a 200 restaurant chain ( owned by Carlos Slim, number 3 in the Forbes list. Walgreens is not involved in the ownership. Our lead free dinnerware is used in all of their restaurants and is very commonly seen in their ads. The pattern used is the millenary Chinese love story, Blue Willow.

    Thanks for your time and best regards!
    Hans Kritzler

  2. Hello Hans, Thank you very much for this info. I'm sorry if I maligned your lovely plates -- it was in jest -- and I'm going to go back and edit in a correction. The time period I'm talking about is way back in 1982, and I do believe that Walgreens was involved then, but I could be wrong. Anyway my memories of Sanborns are postive and I'll always be grateful for their Enchiladas Suizas. Sean K. Sullivanb

  3. Hi Sean! No problems, I love to hear about our plates and am glad to clear up any doubts about them.

    BTW we also made the handpainted dinnerware for Rick Bayless at the Chicago restaurant, Topolobampo, but unfortunately he has since moved on. In NYC you can find our products at Fishs Eddy, basically their NY Skyline 212 pattern, as well as some of the oversize platters at Carmines. Before they moved to China, we used to do the ceramic crock pots for Rival, which make for great comfort food but also for new and interesting recipeslike the ones found in the book The Gourmet Slow Cooker.

    Keep up the good work and keep the recipes flowing! Hans K.


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