Archive for March, 2010

Authentic Red Chile Enchiladas

Enchiladas. One of my favorite foods in the world has to be these spicy, rich chile-infused little wonders. Not an enchilada fan? I can’t say I’m surprised. Unless you’ve sampled an enchilada dish from an authentic Mexican restaurant, then you likely either ended up with a canned sauce covering the warmed tortillas or worse someone passed along their grandmother’s recipe for baked enchiladas that have been coated in cream of chicken soup. Yikes! Now, there’s nothing wrong with cream of chicken soup but it has no business in an enchilada. You can go ahead and call that a glorified tortilla casserole, but don’t confuse it with true Mexican enchiladas.

Real enchiladas take time and some unfamiliar ingredients to make at home, but they’re not hard—we’re not talking soufflés or anything here!

Here’s the lowdown on making a good enchilada sauce—it’s all about the chiles. I should take a step back here and point out there’s several different kinds of enchilada sauces, from the dark, complex mole to the green tomatillo based varieties. But today, I’m giving you the lowdown on the red chile sauce. The base for the sauce is dried chiles. You can find these in bags at a Mexican grocer or sometimes in the Mexican section of your local store. I know it may be a pain tracking down the chiles—but it’s worth it! The chiles then require some prep work. You need to roast, boil then blend the chile skins to make the spicy enchilada sauce. I often do large batches of sauce and freeze the extras in Ziploc baggies so they’re easy to pop out and use when I get a hankering for something spicy.

After you’ve perfected your sauce (and I promise, I’ll do other versions in the future), you’re ready to assemble your enchiladas. Most recipes call for baking the enchiladas in the oven. There’s no need. In Mexico, the corn tortillas are flash fried and then dipped into the sauce then reheated on the plate. You can do the same at home. If you’re not keen on frying, you can toast the corn tortillas, but they’ll be soggier (the oil keeps the tortillas from becoming saturated in sauce).

If you review the recipe and it sounds a little overwhelming, here are a couple suggestions: Go ahead and buy canned enchilada sauce at the grocery store. El Pato is the best alternative to homemade. Or, head to a decent Mexican restaurant and order a dish of red chile enchiladas. Maybe after downing a plate of savory, spicy enchiladas, you’ll want to make your own at home.

Ready for some spice?

Enchiladas

As with most sauce recipes, this one is pretty forgiving. If you want to toss in a little bit more of one ingredient—go ahead. And if you run out of something, no worries (well, except the chiles). I’ve noted the optional ingredients throughout.

Red Chili Sauce Ingredients:

10 dried ancho chiles (or you can use a combination of chiles)

2 garlic cloves, minced (or ¼ to ½ tablespoon garlic powder)

1 1/2 cup chicken broth (or water)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cumin

3 tomatoes (or one 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained)

¼ cup chopped onion

Optional: one fresh Serrano chili (seeded and diced—add 1 or 2 if you want the sauce HOT); ¼ cup minced cilantro

Other ingredients:

18 corn tortillas

1 rotisserie chicken, shredded

2 cups mozzarella or Monterrey Jack cheese

sour cream

Oil for frying

Directions:

(1)Prep the dried chiles. On a medium-high heat skillet, toast the chiles until the skins start to look softer and slightly cooked (around 4 minutes, rotating the chile as it heats). Immediately place the chiles into a large bowl of hot water. Prepare the other sauce ingredients while the chiles soften.

(2)In a blender, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, chicken broth, cumin, and optional ingredients.

(3)Remove the chiles from the water. Carefully cut around the tops of the chiles and remove as much of the seeds as possible. Add the chile skins to the other blended ingredients. Blend again. (The sauce should be slightly thick and smooth, not chunky. You may need to add more water or chicken broth.)

(4)At this point, you can either cook the enchilada sauce in a crockpot or you can cook it on the stovetop. I often triple this recipe and then put it in the crockpot to cook the sauce then once it’s cooled I store small Ziploc baggies of the sauce in the freezer for months of use.

(5)To prepare the sauce for immediate use, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the bottom of a heavy saucepan. Bring the oil to medium-high heat and then add the sauce. WARNING: The sauce may splatter and it stains—so wear your apron!

(6)Simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes before preparing the rest of the meal.

(7)Enchilada assembly! In a small saucepan, bring about 1 cup vegetable oil to medium high heat (a piece of bread should immediately begin to sizzle and rise to the top when you place it in the oil). As an alternative to frying, you can toast the tortillas on a hot cooking surface and then keep them warm by covering them with a kitchen towel.

(8)Assemble your enchilada making station: Have 2 bowls ready—1 with shredded chicken and the other with shredded cheese. Have 1 “messy plate” where you’ll assemble the enchiladas and then drag them onto the serving plates.

(9)Get your long-handled tongs ready! Place 1 tortilla into the hot oil. Let the tortilla cook just until it starts to barely harden. Immediately submerge the hot tortilla into the red sauce then back onto your messy plate. Put about 1 ½ tablespoons chicken and 1 tablespoon cheese into each tortilla. I prepare one person’s serving of enchiladas at a time. In other words, I’ll prepare 1, 2, then 3 tortillas together on my messy plate, then gently push them onto a serving plate. Three enchiladas make for 1 adult serving; kids usually eat 2.

(10)Once all the serving plates are assembled. Reheat each individual dish for about 45 seconds in the microwave. Top with an extra scoop of sauce, cheese and then sour cream. The make the enchiladas look extra special, I scoop the sour cream into a Ziploc bag, then cut a small hole in one corner. Then I top the enchiladas with swirls of sour cream. Yummy!

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Green Eggs & Ham Sandwiches

Clover-shaped sugar cookies might be the expected St. Patrick’s Day treat, but this year I’m trying something different. I must admit I drew my inspiration not from notions of leprechauns, but instead from one of my youngest daughter’s favorite books, Green Eggs and Ham.

Earlier this month my youngest had a read-in day at school—all centered around Dr. Seuss. Turns out March 2nd was his birthday so in class they brought as many Dr. Seuss books as they could and read them for the better part of the day. For a week or two, when she wasn’t reading a Dr. Seuss book, she was spitting out lines like, “I do not like them Sam I am,” and “One fish, Two fish, Red fish, blue fish.” Despite having to hear these lines over and over…and over…again, I was thrilled that my daughter was reading. Usually she begs me to do the reading and she’s content to listen, but with Dr. Seuss I didn’t “read it right, mom” so she had to do it.

So this St. Patrick’s Day, we’re adding a little green not to our dessert, but to our main meal. We’re having Green Eggs & Ham sandwiches. I was surprised how easy it was to color scrambled eggs—a few drops of green food coloring and they turned a bright shade of shamrock. I wasn’t sure if the color would hold after cooking—it did and even got a bit brighter. To assemble the sandwiches I used sesame seed bagels (thank you, Costco) and placed a heaping scoop of green scrambled eggs followed by a slice of American cheese on the bottom half of the bagel. I heated this for a few seconds in the microwave then topped it with a couple slices of smoked ham. One tip to keep in mind—with bagels, I pull out some of the dough on the inside so that the sandwich is easier to squeeze together, and then eat. You can use any type of bread; English muffins are also a yummy choice.

If you’re looking for something quick, easy—and literary—for a fun St. Patrick’s Day meal, try these bright, tasty sandwiches. And if you don’t get a chance to make them in March, try them out on April Fool’s Day instead.

Green Eggs & Ham Sandwich

Green eggs might look strange, but they're tasty!

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Brinner, anyone? Yeasted Waffles for Dinner

Brinner, maybe dinfast? I’m not really sure what to call our family’s breakfast for dinner habit. But having some hearty scrambled eggs and crisp waffles for dinner is not only easy—it’s very satisfying.

Crisp, Yeasted Waffles

Crisp, Yeasted Waffles

So the next time your scrambling (forgive the pun) to come up with a dinner idea, grab some eggs and flour and make this tasty meal.

First, a word on waffles. Waffles can be flat and tasteless if you use a mix or throw together a quick batch. I’m not saying quick waffles can’t be good. In fact, I have a great recipe here for making a fast batch. If you plan just a little bit ahead—in the morning—you can make these super-crisp, oohs and ahhs-inspiring variety. The secret is yeast. By adding a little yeast to the batter and letting it sit out for a few hours, the waffles have a more complex flavor—and a flakier texture. The first time I made these I thought their closest comparison was the funnel cakes you get at the carnival—they’re that good (but not as sweet or greasy). You can definitely play around with the flavor of the waffles. Add a little whole wheat flour to the batter, orange zest or even almond extract. And of course, you shouldn’t forget to top off your waffles with some good, high-quality Michigan-made maple syrup. One additional tip: keep the cooked waffles warm by heating the oven to about 200 degrees and storing finished waffles on a baking sheet until all the waffles are ready.

While your waffles are cooking, whip up some scrambled eggs to complete your meal. Bag the whisk and use a hand mixer for fluffier eggs. Thoroughly blend the eggs first and then add some fixins’. I make my eggs more filling by adding grated sharp cheddar cheese and smoked ham during the last moments of blending. If I’ve got some handy, I also add just a little bit of minced onion (no more than a tablespoon). The kids never notice the onion but it gives the eggs a little bit of zing. The other key for really good scrambled eggs is to make sure that you add at least a tablespoon of butter or margarine to your skillet and bring it up to a medium-high heat before you add your egg batter. After you’ve added the eggs, go ahead and let them cook for a couple minutes before you start stirring them. Cook only until just barely cooked then turn off the heat and let the eggs finish cooking off heat. By using a few tweaks and tips, your eggs will be extra fluffy—and tasty.

Ready for some dinner-breakfast? Me too!

Quick, Hearty Waffles
This recipe is my version of a favorite from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. The original recipe calls for buttermilk, which I never seem to have on hand. As a substitute, I add a tablespoon of white, distilled vinegar to regular milk and let it sit for at least ten minutes or until it starts to look slightly chunky. If I have a lemon on hand, I’ll use a tablespoon of fresh squeezed juice to sour the milk instead of vinegar. Either way, the soured milk makes for a tangier waffle.

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour (I usually use 1 ½ flour, ½ whole wheat flour)
2 tablespoons cornmeal (fine ground or masa if you have it)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, separated
4 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
1 ¾ cups soured milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:
You’ll need three bowls to make these waffles—but don’t worry, they’re easy to clean up afterwards. In one small bowl, mix all of your dry ingredients. In the large bowl crack your eggs, being careful to separate the yolks from the whites. The yolks go into the larger bowl, while the whites should go into a smaller bowl. Using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until they become just barely stiff. You can add a pinch of cream of tartar to help this process along, but I’m usually just fine without it.

Add the wet ingredients to your yolk bowl. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix the dry ingredients into the yolk batter. Warm the waffle iron. Finally, gently fold the egg whites into the waffle batter. Cook the waffles.

Crisp, Yeasted Waffles

This recipe comes from one of my all-time favorite recipe books, How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. If you don’t have a copy, I highly recommend it. I’ve even been known to give a copy—along with a baking dish—as wedding gifts. This recipe requires you to plan ahead, but just a little. And the results are well worth it!

Ingredients:
½ teaspoon instant yeast
2 cups flour (I often use 1 ½ cups all-purpose, ½ cup whole wheat)
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
8 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla (optional)
2 eggs, separated

Directions:
In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients then add in the milk, along with the butter and vanilla, if you’re using it. Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for at least six hours. You could mix this before you head to work or at the same time as you’re putting together your kids’ school lunches.

When you’re ready for dinner, heat the waffle iron. Separate the eggs and stir the yolks into the batter. In another bowl, using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until soft, stiff peaks form. Gently stir the whipped egg whites into the yolk/milk batter. Bake the waffles and serve warm.

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