I’m looking forward to the day that we can all return to our favorite restaurants.
Our favorite local Mexican restaurant seems to be doing steady take-out business, during this time of isolation, but I’m sure that they’re not getting the same amount of business that they would if diners were allowed to come in to have a meal.
I miss our favorite waiters. I miss the comfortable, casual dining experience. I miss my litre of Dos Equis with two limes! Yes, these are hard times indeed!
I order takeout food about once a week to support our local restaurants but I have to say, the food just isn’t as appealing when it comes in squeaky, white styrofoam boxes. I recently ordered molcajete, which, when ordered in a restaurant, arrives in a large, black stone mortar vessel. Molcajete is an impressive dish! Chicken, beef, shrimp, vegetables, chiles, fruit, nopales (cactus) and all sorts of other good things flow over the edges of the great stone bowl. It is a symbol of prosperity and bounty but, when it comes in a styrofoam box, it just looks like table scraps and then there is a separate styrofom box that contains rice, beans and tortillas, wrapped in foil.
So tonight, I want to honor our local restaurateurs by making a meal to honor the struggling fine dining establishments and the little Mexican casitas, like the one I love.
In honor of this momentous occasion, I’m using the last jar of my homemade salsa that I canned back in July, 2019. I’m going to have to wait another two months for more fresh garden salsa…Aghh!
~ Enchilada Combination Platter ~ : One beef enchilada, smothered in ranchero sauce, topped with queso blanco. One cheese enchilada stuffed with roasted poblano peppers. Served with rice, refried beans, sour cream and garden salad.
6 corn tortillas, softened by simmering briefly in hot oil
4 chiles guajillo, seeded and stemmed
2 cups homemade salsa (tomato, onion, jalapeño and cilantro)
1 Tbs cumin
1 Tbs paprika
1 tsp brown sugar
¾ lb ground beef, browned
½ cup queso Chihuahua (any melting cheese can be used)
¼ cup half-and-half (or whole milk)
Cheese and Poblano enchiladas:
1 cup queso Chihuahua (Monterrey Jack cheese can be used as a substitute)
½ cup poblano chiles, seeded, stemmed, roasted and peeled.
Before we get started, here’s something to consider…
As a former line cook at a Tex-Mex restaurant and as someone who wants to replicate a restaurant style dish, I suggest preparing as much of these ingredients in advance as possible. Nothing impresses like being able to throw together a complex meal quickly. Chop the vegetables, smoke the peppers, brown the ground beef, shred the cheese…you get the idea.
Steam the dried guajillo chiles for 20 minutes.
Slice the chiles down one side. Scrap away the flesh and discard the thick skins.
Add the guajillo chile pulp to the salsa. Add the cumin, paprika and brown sugar. Mix and set aside.
Brown the ground beef, but not to the point of completely browned. The meat will finish cooking in the oven, later.
Assemble the enchiladas:
Add 1 Tbs cooking oil to an oven-proof skillet. Place the skillet on the stove top and set heat to low.
Lay 3 softened corn tortillas on a clean surface and fill them with ground beef. Roll them up and transfer them to the skillet, seam side down. Lightly brown the bottoms of the enchiladas.
Add salsa and guajillo chile mixture to the pan. Top the enchiladas with more salsa. Place in a 300° oven, uncovered for 15 minutes.
While the beef enchiladas bake…
Lay 3 softened corn tortillas on a clean surface and fill them with crumbled Mexican cheese. Top with chopped, roasted poblanos and wrap the tortillas to form the enchiladas.
Place the enchiladas in skillet, seam side down, and simmer over very low heat, covered, for about 10 minutes. Covering the skillet is important. These enchiladas need to be soft enough to cut with a side of a fork.
In another skillet, simmer the half-and-half for about a minute, until it starts to bubble. Add the crumbled queso Chihuahua and turn off the heat. Stir until the cheese melts. Keep warm.
Assemble the platters:
Nestle some chopped lettuce, tomato and carrot strips together on one edge of the platter. Adorn with cilantro and sour cream.
Add refried beans and Mexican rice to the other side of the platter, leaving the middle of the platter open for the enchiladas.
Carefully lay a beef enchilada on the platter and a cheese enchilada next to it.
Drip some white cheese sauce over the beef enchilada and the refried beans.
Top the sour cream with pickled jalapeños.
Serve it like you mean it!
Los saludo cocineros y cocineros! Mantenga sus puertas abiertas … ¡Volveré tan pronto como pueda!
(I salute you, cooks and chefs! Keep your doors open…I’ll be back as soon as I can!)
Te amo! ¡Sé fuerte!