November 18, 2011

An Enchilada Tale

And now for my next trick, I give you a rather involved and lengthy recipe for enchiladas.

I'm pretty hardcore loyal to quite a few recipes.  My way or the highway kind of loyal.  I only have eyes (and tastebuds) for the way I've come to love a dish, loyal.  Enchiladas are such a dish.

If we're talking chicken enchiladas, my one and only is Rick Bayless's Enchiladas Suizas.  A creamy, tomatoey and spicy affair that, aside from making the sauce, is simple and straight forward.  Good fresh corn tortillas are key.  Most likely they will try and fall apart as you take them out of the pan.  They may not look pretty and perfect on a plate.  In fact they tend to resemble a messy heap rather than an enchilada.  None of this bothers me because I love them so.  What they may lack in looks they sure have in flavor.

If we're going the less traditional and vegetarian route, D's Dad makes these killer tofu, mushroom and green onion enchiladas that the family calls "pincheladas".  I don't know the whole story but what I gather is that the name is in reference to the spiciness of the  enchilada sauce, "pinche" being a not-so-nice Mexican slang word.  They're earthy and bright at the same time and I especially love the unexpected addition of rosemary.  Again, good corn tortillas are key (they always are).

That's it.  That's all I need.  Just those two recipes for enchiladas and I'm set.  But then I ran across this recipe and it somehow lodged itself it my brain and the only way to stop thinking about it was to make it.  Boy am I glad I did.  They're the opposite of what I like most about the above two enchilada recipes.  There's quite a few steps, the sauce is thick and creamy and they're made with flour tortillas.

The result is larger-than-usual enchiladas, stuffed with chicken, black beans, sauteed zucchini and just the right amount of cheese to hold it all together.  Here you don't need to seek out the best tortillas, just whatever your local grocery store happens to have.  The homemade goodness of fresh flour tortillas would be too rich, giving them too much weight and likely making the whole thing a bit doughy.  As it is the tortillas soak up a good amount of sauce ensuring that every bite has just enough heat from the jalapeno (use one with a good kick to it) and just enough heft from sour cream to keep you satisfied.  A pop of color from sliced green onions and fresh cilantro leaves and I just may keep this recipe in my arsenal for future use.

Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas
Adapted from In the Small Kitchen

The original printed recipe made double this amount and split it into 2 distinct batches.  One with the black bean and zucchini filling, the other with chicken.  However in the headnotes it offers the suggestion for combining the two and since I don't really need TWO 13x9 pans of enchiladas I first halved the recipe, then incorporated the filling recipes together.  For all the work you do though, if you want to make it worth more of your time, wait until you have a crowd to feed and double this one up.

makes 8 largish enchiladas

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, poached (about 3/4 lb)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 pound zucchini, cut into 1/4 in dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 - 3/4 cup black beans
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

1 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup sour cream
4 oz can fire-roasted mild green chiles
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Eight 8-inch flour tortillas
1⁄2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded and divided
cilantro leaves
Thinly sliced scallions

Make the filling:
Allow the poached chicken to cool slightly, then shred the breasts using two forks or your fingers. Set the meat aside and toss with 1 tablespoon dijon mustard.

Add just enough olive oil to a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet to coat the surface and place it over medium heat. Sauté the onion until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the zucchini and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is tender and browned, another 6 minutes or so. Add the garlic, beans, chili powder, cumin, and salt, and cook until the beans are tender and the garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Let cool for a bit then mix in the shredded chicken and chopped cilantro.

Make the sauce:
Melt the butter in a small to medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and jalapeños and cook until they are softened but not yet beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Still stirring, slowly add the stock in a steady stream. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced and the sauce has become opaque, about 5 minutes. Let it cool slightly.  Transfer the thickened stock to a blender, add the sour cream, chiles, cumin, chili powder, salt, and cayenne, and puree until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350F.

To assemble:
Reserve about 1 cup of the shredded cheese to top the assembled enchiladas.

Coat the bottoms of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with some of the sauce.  Fill each enchilada with about a 1/2 cup of the chicken/bean/zucchini mixture, along the center of each tortilla. Top the filling with a generous tablespoon of shredded cheese. Roll the sides of the tortillas over the filling and place them, seam side down, in the baking dishes.

Pour the remaining green chile sauce evenly over the enchiladas and sprinkle with the reserved cheese. Bake the enchiladas in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is beginning to brown. Garnish with more cilantro leaves and scallions and serve.

November 16, 2011


Can I share with you a little secret?  We've been in our apartment for almost 3 months now and we still don't have a kitchen/dining table.  This is not something I'm proud of.  It certainly bothers D.  But the thing is, a table is a tricky situation for our little kitchen.  It needs to be small, tiny even.  This apartment is full of awkward spaces (for example - there's no mirror above the bathroom sink) and what little room is left in the kitchen certainly falls into that category.  If the table isn't just right it'll block the back door, or else limit how far we can open the refrigerator door.

So for now we have a makeshift situation. Leaning slightly hunched over from the couch, we eat off a sort of coffee table. A table which is actually more of a side table and magazine rack.  Sometimes we move the  plates to our laps, balanced precariously, while simultaneously fending off the cat's endless attempts at food theft.  Sometimes the TV is on.  Sometimes situations just aren't ideal.

Especially when the cat manages to swipe a mouthful of food off your plate.

But these noodles are street-style food.  Whipped up real quick in a hot wok and meant to be eaten just as quickly without any fuss.  Seriously, heap it onto your plate, squeeze fresh lemon juice over the whole thing and get to eating.  The pleasant chew of the noodles, the earthy/tangy/just-this-side-of-spicy sauce coating every bite, silky pieces of bok choy and tofu mingling with al dente green beans.  Magic I tell you.

Mee Goreng (Malaysian Fried Noodles)
Adapted from Ottolenghi's "Plenty"

Slight changes I made to better suit my pantry supplies: I used dried noodles instead of fresh.  I also believe they were udon noodles.  They worked, but I think I would have preferred the thinner egg noodles.  I didn't have thick soy sauce, so I just subbed in half regular soy sauce and half honey.  D and I both agreed that this was best eaten right away; the leftovers were fine, but the flavors were much more magical right out of the wok.

2 servings (maybe 3)

2 tablespoons peanut oil
½ onion, peeled and diced
8 oz. firm tofu, cut into 1/4" thick strips
4 oz green beans, trimmed and cut in half on a deep angle
6 oz bok choy, leaves and stems, cut into large chunks
12 oz fresh egg noodles (or 6 oz dry noodles, cooked as on package, drained and cooled)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons sambal olek, plus extra to serve
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon cold water
1 handful of bean sprouts
1 - 2 tablespoon french fried onions
Lemon wedges, to serve

Put a wok (or large pan) over high heat. Once hot, add the oil, then the onion and cook to soften it for a minute. Add the tofu and green beans, and cook to give the tofu a bit of color - two to three minutes. Stir gently as you cook, so as not to break the tofu.

Add the bok choy and, when it wilts, the noodles. Spread them in the wok using tongs or chopsticks - you want them to get a lot of heat, almost to fry. Mix gently, cooking the noodles for about two minutes. Now add the spices, sambal olek, soy sauce, bean sprouts and a tablespoon of cold water, and toss carefully. Cook for about a minute, or until the noodles are semi-soft.

When ready to serve, transfer the noodles into bowls and top with the french fried onions. On the side, serve lemon wedges and a small bowl of extra sambal.