Food & Drink

Everybody chill: Freeze enchiladas for an easy dinner

Cook the enchiladas until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.
Cook the enchiladas until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Casey Barber

Because I work from home, I can have nachos for dinner every night if I want. But I usually save nacho-fests for nights when my husband and I are together (also in the company of some good beers and a baseball game). For weeknight meals the rest of the year, Dan gets his Tex-Mex fix with these chicken enchiladas.

This recipe is a standby in our house and exemplifies everything great about freezable big-batch cooking. It’s great for assembly line-style prep and it’s versatile and adaptable (leftover ground beef instead of rotisserie chicken? Awesome!). You don’t even have to make your own enchilada sauce. The Hatch brand is just as tasty as what I used to make from scratch, and it’s one less thing I need to worry about when my week is hectic. But use your favorite brand if you already have one.

Before assembling your enchiladas, make sure the dish you’re making them in is freezer-to-oven safe (and potentially microwave-safe, too, if that’s how you’ll reheat them). I prefer sturdy oven-to-table glassware like a Pyrex container, but there are similar brands and sizes on the market. Check the manufacturer’s instructions before heating or freezing.

Casey Barber is a writer for Email:

Chicken Chile Enchiladas

1 (15-ounce) can red enchilada sauce (preferably Hatch or your favorite brand)

1 (8-count package) taco-size soft tortillas

1 pound cooked, shredded chicken (rotisserie is fine)

1 small to medium red bell pepper, diced

1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles

2 1/2 cups (12 ounces) shredded cheese (Mexican blend, Monterey Jack, and/or cheddar)

If you’re baking your enchiladas to serve right away, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. If freezing, line two 8-by-8-inch pans or one 13-by-9-inch pan with parchment.

Ladle enough enchilada sauce into your pan or pans to cover the bottom in a thin layer, about 1/4 to 1/3 cup for smaller rectangular dishes that hold two to three tortillas, or about 1/2 to 2/3 cup for a 13-by-9-inch pan that holds six to eight tortillas.

Line up tortillas on your work surface, using the side “flaps” of each tortilla to prop them open against each other.

Scoop about 1/2 cup chicken into each tortilla. Divide the bell pepper and green chiles evenly between the tortillas, sprinkling the pieces on top of the chicken. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons shredded cheese into each tortilla, then drizzle with about 2 tablespoons enchilada sauce.

Roll the tortillas and place in the pan so the seam side is face-down in the pan and the sauce-covered “bottom” is on top.

Sprinkle the tortillas with the remaining cheese, then drizzle the remaining enchilada sauce on top. At this point, the enchiladas can be baked and served, baked and then frozen, or frozen and baked later.

Baking right away: Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Serve immediately.

To freeze baked: Bake and cool completely; then cover with a lid or foil. Freeze directly in the dish. Once solid, lift the block out of the pan and wrap tightly in foil to freeze. Remove the foil from the frozen enchiladas, transfer to a casserole dish, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 to 20 minutes longer. (If you freeze them before baking, reheat, covered, at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 15 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings.