Before we make Las Enchiladas Suizas, I’d like to debunk a common myth about Mexico: Cinco de Mayo is NOT Independence Day. Mexican Independence Day, the most important national holiday in Mexico, is September 16th. Cinco de Mayo on the other hand, isn’t really celebrated in Mexico, but rather is popular in the US as a patriotic holidays for Mexican-Americans. May 5th actually commemorates the Mexican army’s victory (on May 5, 1862) over the occupying French troops in the Battle of Puebla, a surprising and inspirational victory in one battle in the war against France. Mexico lost the war and Maximiliano became the short-lived emperor, ruling from 10 April 1864 – 19 Jun 1867.
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How is this related to Enchiladas Suizas? Rolling tortillas around foods such as fish or meat can be traced to the Mayans, millennia before the Europeans arrived in Mexico. The word “enchilada,” meaning to flavor with chiles, evolved to consist of tortillas, wrapped around meat, and covered with a chile-based sauce. The suiza, or Swiss, in the name comes from the creamy sauce, covered in cheese and sour cream. Some say enchiladas suizas were first made during Maximiliano’s reign, when Mexican (traditional enchiladas) and European (au gratin) traditions were deliciously mixing. Others insist the name comes from the look of the peaks and valleys of the dish, which reminded someone of the Alps. Whatever the case may be, if you’re looking to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with authentic Mexican food, please do not use hard taco shells and orange cheddar cheese (neither typical or readily available in Mexico, except imported to American stores): enchiladas suizas is a traditional, easy, and delicious dish!
chile (jalapeño, serrano)
1 lg onion (or 2 small)
optional: heavy cream
Monterey Jack (or other melting white cheese)
Peel the tomatillos (great job for kids!) and rinse off the stickiness. Line a cookie sheet with foil and broil the tomatillos, garlic, chile pepper, and onions, turning once, until charred. I have also seen the cook boil the tomatillos instead of broiling them- but I love the smoky taste from broiling them.
While they are broiling (which only takes 5-10 min), shred the chicken. I like to put chicken breasts into my crock pot in the morning so they are ready for shredding by the afternoon. In a pinch, I will buy a rotisserie chicken and shred. My mother-in-law insists on boiling the chicken, with celery and onion, and reserves the broth to use in the salsa. Whichever way is easiest for you!:)
Remove the roasted veggies from the oven and have them slightly cooled- you don’t want to blend scalding hot liquid! Blend all of the tomatillos, garlic, onions, and chiles with water (or stock), salt, a bunch of cilantro, and if you’d like the sauce to be extra creamy add heavy cream (1 c). The famous restaurant Sanborns in Mexico- who claim to have invented the recipe of enchiladas suizas in the mid-1800’s- adds the cream in their exquisite enchiladas suizas!
First, you’ll need to heat up oil and slightly fry the tortillas on each side until they become more supple. This step is quick, and you can pile the prepared tortillas onto a plate until you are finished. Once you have the tortillas ready, roll them up with a generous amount of chicken and line them in large baking pan. Now you are ready to pour on the sauce- fill them pan to the brim because the tortillas will soak up a lot of the sauce and you don’t want the dish to be too dry. Now top with lots of sour cream and grated cheese:
Buen provecho- enjoy your meal!