Back in the Saddle Again

I’m still reeling after last week’s epic gumbo battle so please forgive me if I babble for a bit.  For those of you who want to cut to the chase and see today’s recipe, scroll down until you find “Chicken Enchiladas”, in large, friendly letters.  But, know that you are missing all of the fun and I pity you.

When I was young, and by young I mean elementary school age, I recall that many home cooked meals featured Hamburger Helper or Cream of Mushroom soup.  I don’t know if it was because so many working parents didn’t have time to make dinner or if it was just clever marketing agents influencing those parents, but the fact was that those products found an indelible niche in American cuisine.

Campbell’s puts out about a zillion different kinds of soup but I swear I can only remember three from my childhood.  Tomato soup, Cream of Mushroom soup and Chicken Noodle soup.  Okay, to be fair, there was Chicken & Stars, but that was really just chicken soup with star shaped pasta, and it was marketed to parents of finicky and/or sick children.   

Cream of Mushroom soup took center stage, back in the 1970’s.  It found its way in many recipes.  The ubiquitous green bean casserole is a testament to the long-lasting power of Cream of Mushroom soup.  If you don’t have green bean casserole every Thanksgiving then,…well, you’re just not a real American. 

Cream of Mushroom soup, “America’s béchamel” 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not bashing Cream of Mushroom soup.  Cream of *Whatever* soup is instant béchamel in a can, and that’s a marvelous thing.

I remember having homemade chicken enchiladas for the first time.  I was 17 years old and having fun, hanging out with a friend.  His mother made us chicken enchiladas with Cream of Mushroom soup and canned green chiles.  Canned green chiles, back then, didn’t have clever graphics printed on the label, showing a thermometer indicating the “heat” of the chiles.  Canned green chiles were just that…canned green chiles.  They were hot and spicy, and that’s all you needed to know.  I loved those enchiladas. Thank you and bless you, Ginger!

But, when I discovered that I could make my own thickener from scratch, I felt a sudden rush, indeed, I felt a sense of empowerment!  I realized that I could thicken sauces or soups and have total control of flavors and textures!  A pad or two of butter and a spoonful or two of flour was the key that opened the door to an endless array of sauces.

For this recipe I used homemade green sauce and I made a homemade sauce from a simple roux and chicken stock.  If you want to use canned green chiles and cream of mushroom soup, that’s fine with me.  Just make sure you do it with love.

Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts (mine started out frozen)

2 ½ cups chicken stock

4 or 5 garlic cloves

½ onion, chopped

10 to 12 oz green chile sauce

½ cup sour cream

8 oz Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded

2 Tbs butter

2 Tbs flour

10 corn tortillas

¼ cup cooking oil

Directions:

Boil the chicken in water until the chicken is fork tender.  Remove and allow to cool to room temperature.

While the chicken simmers, puree ½ cup chicken stock, green sauce and garlic cloves in a blender. 

Add the pureed sauce to a small skillet and simmer on low heat, to mellow the garlic, for 15 minutes.

Add the chopped onions to the skillet and simmer for another 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Add ¼ cup cooking oil to pan and set heat to low.  Soften each of the tortillas in the oil for a few seconds and remove to a plate.

Wipe the skillet clean.  Start a roux by adding the butter to the pan and set the heat to medium/low.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth.

Once the roux is smooth, add the remaining chicken stock.  Set heat to medium/high and whisk until the sauce has thickened. 

Add the green chile mixture and whisk for a minute.

Pour about one cup of the sauce into a bowl.  Leave the remaining sauce in the skillet and turn the heat off. 

Lay the cooked chicken on a clean work surface and smash with the broad side of a knife.  The chicken will break and fan out, making it easy to shred.  Shred the chicken by hand.

Add the chicken to the cheese and mix by hand.

Lay the tortillas on a work surface and add the chicken and cheese.  Roll the enchiladas and place in an oven-proof skillet, containing some of the sauce.  Once all of the enchiladas are in the skillet, pour the remaining sauce over them.

Bake in a 350° oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve warm with rice or fried potatoes and guacamole salad.

Pozole

Nothing warms the soul like a bowl of good, hot soup.  Pozole is much more than just a bowl of hot soup!  Pozole is the heart and soul of family and tradition in Mexico.  It is often served during holidays and special occasions.  It’s a cold remedy during the fall and winter months and it’s the sort of thing contains everything that is good for the body, mind and soul. 

The warmth of the broth is essential.  The heat of the chiles restores drained energy.  The depth of flavor from the vegetables and meat make it a meal by itself.

It’s a strange thing, posting recipes on a food blog.  I prepare food and then I post the recipes and pictures, sometimes right away and sometimes days and days later.  This post is the last in a series of posts from a dinner party that my wife and I hosted nearly two weeks ago.  The memory of the party is still clear in my mind.  Good friends and family gathered around to share stories and we had some laughs and we learned just how much we mean to each other.  The food that I served seems so distant now but the memories of our visit remains fresh, like homemade bread, warm from the oven. 

As with previous posts in the series, I did not capture all of the process with pictures.  The most glaring omission, in my opinion, is that I didn’t take a picture of the finished dish.  Heck, I didn’t even take a picture of the pozole after adding the hominy, which is a real tragedy, since hominy is the key ingredient in pozole.   

The pozole was sort of an afterthought as I planed the meal.  I had already decided to serve green enchiladas and red enchiladas, along with guacamole and Mexican rice.  I thought it would be nice to open with a soup.  Pozole seemed right for the occasion.

Ingredients:

2 lbs pork shoulder

¼ onion (no need to cut)

3 bay leaves

1 tsp coarse salt

1 tsp cracked black pepper

4 to 8 guajillo chiles (4 for mild  heat, 8 for caliente!)

1 tomato, diced

1 tsp dried oregano

6 garlic cloves

4 Tbs flour

4 Tbs butter

2 cups vegetable stock

1 large can of hominy (30 ounce can)

Directions:

Cut the pork into large pieces.

Sear the pork in a Dutch oven at high heat for a few minutes.   Stir to lightly brown the meat.

Add water to the Dutch oven to cover the pork by about two inches.  Add the onion, bay leaves, salt and pepper.

Set the heat to low and simmer the pork for two hours.  When the pork is tender enough to shred with a fork, remove to a platter and reserve the liquid.

Steam the guajillo chiles for 20 minutes, until softened.

Puree the chiles, tomato, oregano, garlic and 1 cup of the hominy and 1 cup of vegetable stock in a blender. 

Strain the mixture to remove the seeds and pulp.

Add the butter and flour to the Dutch oven and prepare a roux.  Add the remaining vegetable stock and about 3 cups of the broth from the cooked pork.  Whisk to incorporate the mixture.

Add the pork and pureed vegetable mixture.

Simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the hominy and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Serve in bowls.  Prepare a platter of condiments including sliced iceberg lettuce (or cabbage), cilantro, sliced onion and sliced jalapeño.  Place the platter in the center of the table so that guests may add what they like to their soup.

Enchiladas Roja

This is the quintessential enchilada.  Seasoned ground beef, wrapped in corn tortillas and smothered with red chili sauce and topped with cheddar cheese.  If I am strapped for time, I use canned enchilada sauce.  Most stores carry a variety of brands and most brands offer at least two types of sauce: mild and hot. 

On this occasion I started from scratch.  I re-hydrated some dried guajillo and ancho chilies to make the base for the enchilada sauce.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn’t take a lot of pictures during the process but this is so simple to make, I don’t believe instructional photos are really that necessary.

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground beef

2 Tbs dried onion flakes

1 Tbs dried oregano

1 Tbs cumin

Salt (to taste)

16 oz sharp cheddar cheese (1 lb)

14 corn tortillas

3 Tbs butter

3 Tbs flour

2 cups prepared enchilada sauce (see the recipe here)

2 cups vegetable broth

Directions:

Brown the ground beef in a skillet.  Strain out the grease.  Return the skillet to the stove at low heat.

Crush the seasonings in a mortar and pestle and add them to the ground beef.  Stir and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add salt to taste. Transfer the ground beef to a large mixing bowl and cool to room temperature.

While the beef cools, prepare a roux with the butter and flour.  Add the vegetable broth and enchilada sauce.  Stir and simmer until thickened.   Pour about half of the sauce into a large ceramic or glass casserole dish.  Reserve the remaining sauce.

Grate the cheese and divide in half.  Add half of the cheese to the ground beef and mix by hand.

Lay tortillas on a clean work surface and add the beef and cheese mixture.  Roll the enchiladas and place them in the casserole dish.  Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and top with the remaining cheese.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown.

Serve warm.

Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas

I served two types of enchiladas during  a recent dinner party, along with Mexican rice, refried beans and guacamole.  I found myself forgetting to take pictures along the way because I was having too much fun visiting with friends and family. 

Consider this Part I of a three-part series of posts.

Ingredients:

4 chicken tenderloins

1 Tbs chicken bullion

1 tsp cumin powder

1 bay leaf

5 oz fresh spinach (I used half of a 10 oz bag)

4 Tbs butter

4 Tbs flour

2 cups vegetable stock

14 corn tortillas

1 lb Chihuahua cheese, cut into ½” strips

½ cup salsa verde

Directions:

Trim 4 large chicken breasts and remove the tenderloins.  Add the tenderloins to a pot of water (about 4 cups) and reserve the breast meat for another dish. Add the bouillon, cumin powder and bay leaf.

Cover the pot and simmer the tenderloins on low heat for one hour.  Turn the heat off and leave the pot covered for 30 more minutes. 

Remove the chicken pieces to a cutting board.

Partially flatten the chicken by pressing with the broad side of a kitchen knife.  Pressing the chicken breaks apart the meat and makes it easier to shred. 

Gently scrape the chicken across the grain to shred the chicken.

Note:  I stored the chicken in a seal-able container, along with the chicken broth.  This can keep for a few days in the refrigerator with no worries.

Steam the spinach for a few minutes until it begins to wilt.  Drain and set aside.

Start a roux with butter and flour.  Add vegetable stock and whisk until the sauce forms and thickens.  Add the chicken and chicken broth.  Continue to stir to incorporate.  Keep the heat set at medium and stir until the sauce thickens again. 

Ladle about 1 cup of the sauce into a ceramic or glass casserole dish. 

Arrange some tortillas on a clean work surface and place equal amounts of chicken and spinach on the tortillas.  Add a strip or two of cheese.  Roll the enchiladas and place them side by side in the casserole dish.  Continue rolling and placing enchiladas until the dish is full.  Pour the remaining sauce on top of the enchiladas.

Top with more Chihuahua cheese.

Lightly cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and uncover. Serve warm.

Enchiladas de Queso Chihuahua con Chili Poblano

This recipe is inspired by tamales with poblano chilis.  Most tamales I have eaten have been filled with beef, pork or chicken and, although I have had some great tamales over the years, one type of tamale remains unique among the rest because of its simplicity, clarity and sheer perfection.  If you’ve never had a green chili tamale you’ve been missing out on a wonderful thing!

Here in the United States, poblano chilis are mostly known as the main ingredient in chili rellenos…you know, the big green chili dipped in fluffy egg whites and fried to a delicious, golden brown.  As for Chihuahua cheese, well, it’s a soft, pale cheese, similar to, but not exactly like mozzarella.  Poblano chilis and Chihuahua cheese were made for each other.

Oh, by the way, mark your calendar.  I’m making a vegetarian dish!

Ingredients:

4 chilis poblano, roasted and cut into slivers

1 lb Chihuahua cheese (cut into ¼” sticks)

3 Tbs butter

4 Tbs flour

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp garlic powder

4 cups vegetable stock

14 corn tortillas (homemade, if you’re lucky)

¼ cup green sauce (salsa verde: tomatillo/serrano sauce)

* check out the recipe for salsa verde here *

Directions:

Rinse the poblanos under cold water.  Dry them off and place them on a parchment paper covered baking sheet.  Bake at 400° for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. 

Once the chilis have blistered on all sides, remove them and place them in a plastic storage bag for about 15 minutes.  Steaming the chilis will allow you to easily peel away the outer layer of the chilis.

Once the chilis have steamed and cooled, remove them from the bag and place them on a clean work surface.  Remove the stems and peel away the outer “skin” of the chilis.  They should peel easily.  Slice the chilis lengthwise and lay them open.  Remove the seeds. 

Cut the cleaned chilis into thin ribbons and set aside.

Slice the cheese into ¼” sticks.  Set aside.

Start a roux with the butter and flour.  Add the cumin and garlic powder.  Simmer and whisk for a few minutes.

Add the vegetable stock.  Stir until thickened. 

Pour one half of the sauce into a large casserole dish.  Keep the rest of the sauce in a warm place.

Lay some tortillas on a clean work surface and add the fillings.  These will be some thin enchiladas!

Add 1 strip of cheese and an equal amount of poblano chili to a tortilla.

Roll the tortilla and place in the casserole dish.  Continue in this fashion until you run out of chilis, cheese or tortillas.  Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas.

Add some dots of the salsa verde along the top of the enchiladas.

Add strips of Chihuahua cheese across the top of the rolled enchiladas.

Bake in a 350° oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese on top bubbles and begins to brown.

Note: I was hungry and I forgot to take a picture of the final dish.  I trust that you can imagine what the finished dish looked like…soft, creamy enchiladas with a toasted cheesy topping.  Yes…that pretty much sums it up.  Enjoy!

Preparing Enchilada Sauce

Salsas Verde y Roja

Some good friends are coming to visit next weekend and I want to make something special for them.  One of my friends is a native Texan, currently living in Boston.  Now, I know that good Mexican restaurants can be found all over the country nowadays but you can’t always find good homemade Mexican food. 

I am nearing the zenith of peak season at my work and I have only had one day off this week.  I thought it would be wise to get some of the prep work out of the way so that I don’t have to slave away in the kitchen while my friends are here.  I want the dinner to come together quickly so that I can spend time visiting with my friends, rather than bouncing around in the kitchen like a madman.

I’m preparing enchiladas  – –  some red, some green.  I’m making the sauces today and I’ll keep them in the refrigerator until I need them.  I almost bought canned enchilada sauce today, which would be perfectly fine, but a 20 ounce can of the stuff was selling for over $3.00, and I just couldn’t bring myself to pay that much for salsa, when I can make it for less than half the cost.  Plus, what kind of food blog would this be if I just showed pictures of me opening cans of stuff and dumping them in a pot?

Red Enchilada Sauce (Salsa Roja)

Ingredients:

12 guajillo chiles

4 or 5 ancho chiles

2 to 5 chiles de arbol (these are spicy!)

1 Tbs olive oil

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 medium sized yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

Directions:

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a heavy pot. 

Cut the stems off the chili pods and remove the seeds and loose pieces of fibrous ribs from the interior.  Add the chiles to the boiling water, turn the heat off and cover the pot with a lid.  Allow the chiles to steam for at least twenty minutes.

Garlic, Salt, Cumin and Oregano

In a large skillet, add olive oil and sauté the garlic and onion for a few minutes.  Add the salt, cumin and oregano and stir.  Turn the heat off and let it rest for a few minutes.

Strain the chiles and reserve the water.  Remove the chiles de arbol and set aside.

Add the softened chiles to a blender.  Add the sautéed garlic, onion, salt, cumin and oregano.  Add about 2 cups of the chili water to the blender.  Pulse a few times and then puree the mixture.  Taste the sauce.  If you want more heat, add more chiles de arbol.  Strain the mixture and keep the pulp. 

Add the sauce to the large skillet and add the strained pulp back to the blender.  Add the remaining two cups of chili water and puree again.  Strain again and add the liquid to the skillet.  Discard the pulp.  Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes on low heat.  Allow the sauce to cool before transferring to a storage container.  The sauce will stay fresh for about a week in the refrigerator.  This should make 4 cups of sauce.

Green enchilada sauce (Salsa verde)

Ingredients:

8 tomatillos

2 or 4 fresh serrano chiles

½ small yellow onion

¼ cup cilantro, leaves and stems

3 garlic cloves, roasted

1 tsp salt

1 to 2 tsp  sugar

Directions:

Peel the husks away from the tomatillos and remove the stems from the serranos.

Slice the tomatillos in half, along their equator.  Slice the serranos, lengthwise.

Lay the tomatillos on a backing sheet.  Add the cut serranos and garlic cloves to the baking sheet and place in a 400° oven for about 15 minutes, or until the tomatillos begin to char.  Remove the chiles, tomatillos and garlic from the oven. 

Place the roasted tomatillos and garlic in a blender.  Add the salt.  Add one or two serranos to the blender…reserve the remaining serranos, for now.

Chop the onion into ¼” pieces.  Chop the cilantro, including the stems.  Cilantro entero!.

Add the onion and cilantro to the blender. 

Puree the mixture in the blender and then taste (after the blender has been turned off, thank you.)  It will probably have a bitter taste.  Add a little sugar and blend again.  Taste and add a little more sugar.  Two teaspoons of sugar should be enough to tame the sauce.  If you want a little more heat, add some more serrano.  Blend again and taste.  The sauce should have some kick but I recommend keeping it fairly mild. 

That’s it!  The salsa verde is ready.  This should make about one pint of sauce.  Store covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. 

Steak Ranchero Tacos with Fried Potatoes

Tacos de Carne Ranchero con Papas Fritas… Steak Ranchero Tacos with Fried Potatoes.

Well, here I go again with another Tex-Mex recipe.  I never knew just how often I go to Tex-Mex until I started a food blog.  Mexican cuisine is just so versatile that it’s hard to resist. 

Growing up in Texas meant that I was surrounded by Tex-Mex.  It was only natural that I gravitated to Tex-Mex when I started cooking.  Now that I live in Mississippi, I suppose I could refer to my Mexican dishes as Miss-Mex, but it just doesn’t sound as cool as Tex-Mex.

When I cook Mexican food I don’t aim to achieve “authenticity” in a recipe.  I have to laugh when I see Mexican restaurants that claim to serve “authentic Mexican food”.  I’m sure that those restaurants mean well but, if you want authentic Mexican cuisine, go to Mexico.

Consider everything that goes into a meal…the vegetables, the fruit, the meats, the spices.  They are a product of the sunlight, rain and soil of the region that they come from.  Anyone who has moved from one place to another usually recognizes a difference in the taste of the local water.  Every aspect of our natural world is unique to specific regions and even though those differences may seem subtle, they play a major part in authenticity. 

The point is, it doesn’t matter what you call it.  It just needs to be good.  Learn cooking methods from other cultures and apply them to what you want to make.  

This recipe was intended for two to four people. 

Ingredients:

1 ½ lbs top round beef roast

1 Tbs garlic powder

1 Tbs red chili powder

2 tsp cumin powder

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

½ tsp chili piquin powder (or cayenne)

3 green onions, separate white from green parts

2 garlic cloves, smashed

2 ripe tomatoes

¼ cup prepared picante sauce

1 medium yellow onion (chop half and slice the other half)

12 corn tortillas

½ cup chopped cilantro

1 cup shredded lettuce

1/2 cup cotija cheese

12 corn tortillas

2 russet potatoes (or 1 very large potato)

1 cup prepared guacamole

1 lime

Directions:

On a clean cutting board, cut the beef into ½” steaks. 

Remove the tough connective tissue.  Look at the white strips and feel them with your fingers.  If they feel tough, cut them out. 

Combine the garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and chili piquin in a small bowl. 

Sprinkle the spices over each side of the steaks.  Set aside.

Wash and scrub the potatoes.  Dice potatoes into ½” pieces. 

Heat a skillet to medium/low and add about ¼ cup of vegetable oil.  Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and crispy. 

Strain the potatoes and keep them warm until ready to serve.  I usually keep them in a bowl on top of the stove, with the oven set to 250°.

Chop the other vegetables and slice the lime into quarters.  Set aside.

Prepare the ranchero sauce:

Heat a skillet to medium and add 1 tsp cooking oil.  Add garlic and chopped white parts of the green onions and sauté for about 30 seconds.  Add about half of the chopped tomatoes, half of the chopped yellow onion and the picante sauce.  Simmer for several minutes until the vegetables are fully cooked and soft.  Remove the sauce and keep warm.

Prepare the tortillas

Heat a skillet to medium.  Add ¼ cup of cooking oil.  When oil is hot, prepare the tortillas by cooking on each side until the tortillas are firm, but not crisp. 

Store the tortillas in a warm place.  The stove top works for me.

Heat a skillet to high heat.  Add 1 Tbs cooking oil.  Once the oil is hot, add the steaks to the skillet.  Leave the steaks alone…don’t mess with them.  Once you see a char developing on the bottom of the steaks, turn them over and cook for another minute, or so.  Total cook time should be about 2 or 2 ½ minutes.  Don’t overcook them!

Remove the steaks to a clean cutting board. 

Slice into ½” strips. 

Heat a skillet to low/medium heat and add the steak and ranchero sauce.  Cook for a minute, just to warm everything. 

Prepare the tacos

I like to use two tortillas per taco. 

Add strips of steak to each taco.

Add chopped lettuce, cilantro, diced tomato, sliced yellow onion and chopped green onion.  Squirt some lime juice onto the tacos.

Top with guacamole and cotija cheese.

Serve with fried potatoes.

Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas

Most of my entrée recipes contain meat, in some way or another.  Some recipes seem like meat, meat and more meat.  Other recipes lean toward vegetarian dishes…until I throw in some chicken stock.  This is a bona fide vegetarian dish. 

Until I started this blog I didn’t give much thought to other people’s recipes.  I have spent the last twenty-plus years relying on my own instincts and re-imagining dishes that I have had in the past.  But now I find myself perusing other cooking blogs and WOW, there sure are a lot of vegetarians and vegans out there!

I have gained an appreciation for what those cooks are doing.  It’s easy for an omnivore, such as me, to look at vegan recipes and think, “oh, those poor people…they have given up meat and they must be miserable.”  But, on closer inspection, I have found that vegetarians and vegans are bravely redefining what it means to be conscientious cooks.  Nutrition and taste can be achieved without meat.  There, I said it.

As I plod along searching for delicious and nutritious ways to satisfy my soul, I consider every lifestyle diet equally important.

This is one of those rare meals that came out just as I imagined it would.  The creaminess of the tomato based sauce and the three types of cheese made this a very gratifying dish.  It lacked a significant amount protein, which concerned me a bit but I grabbed a few handfuls of peanuts while I made this and life was good.

Ingredients:

7 green onions

2 garlic cloves, smashed

4 cups fresh spinach (8 oz)

16 oz fresh mushrooms

3 Tbs olive oil

2 Tbs butter

4 Tbs flour

2 tsp cumin powder

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

32 oz vegetable stock

6 oz tomato paste

½ cup half-and-half

8 oz Colby-Jack Cheese

4 oz sharp cheddar cheese

4 oz Mozzarella cheese

12 white corn tortillas

Directions:

Prepare the vegetables:

Chop the green onions.  Think of the green onion as three parts.  There is the white root section, the light green middle section and the dark green tips.  Cut and separate the green onions accordingly.

My recipe calls for 4 cups of spinach but I used more.  This might be considered a “heaping” four cups.  The beauty of fresh spinach is that it quickly wilts down to a much smaller amount when it is cooked. 

Chop the mushrooms.  I used baby portabella mushrooms because the price was right…any type mushroom will do.

In an oven proof skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil at medium heat.  Add the chopped white ends of the green onions and garlic.  Simmer for one minute.  Add the spinach and stir.  After a minute, the spinach will begin to soften and wilt.  Add the chopped mushrooms and stir for another two minutes.  Remove to a bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter.  Add the flour and whisk to make a roux.  Add cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper and stir to incorporate.  Add one half of the vegetable stock, (16 ounces) and tomato paste and whisk to thicken.  Add the half-and-half and whisk to mix.  Simmer on low heat to allow the sauce thicken. Thin the sauce with the remaining 16 ounces of vegetable stock. Simmer on low while the enchiladas are assembled.

Add the half-and-half.
Sauce will become very thick after adding half-and-half.
Add remaining vegetable stock to thin the sauce.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the mozzarella and cheddar cheese and 4 ounces of the Colby-Jack cheese.  Add the chopped middle sections of the green onions.  Add the cooked spinach and mushrooms.  Mix thoroughly. 

Soften the tortillas in a microwave or wrap in foil and warm them in a conventional oven.

Adding sauce to the pan keeps the enchiladas from burning

Add ½ cup of the enchilada sauce to the bottom of a large casserole dish.  Spread the sauce to cover the bottom of the dish.

Assemble the enchiladas:

Lay a tortilla on a clean work surface.  Add about 1/3 cup of the filling to each tortilla.  Roll and place in baking dish. 

Once all of the enchiladas are in the casserole dish, pour the sauce over the enchiladas and scatter 4 ounces of shredded Colby-Jack cheese on top.  Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Top with chopped green onion tips and cilantro

Tres Tacos (Three Tacos)

In my never-ending attempt to rid my refrigerator of leftovers I found myself falling back on a familiar theme: Tex-Mex.  Mexican cuisine can be made with all sorts of things and that’s what makes it so easy to rely on, when having to decide what to scrape together for dinner.

For this meal, corn tortillas tied everything together.  I made three different types of tacos, two with beef and one with turkey.  All of them shared some of the typical taco toppings like lettuce, tomato, onion, cilantro and sour cream.  Each one had at least one signature ingredient and each had a different kind of cheese.

Each taco had its own, unique quality.  Everyone that ate them had their own favorite.

This was fun to make but, I have to admit, it didn’t come together as quickly as I wanted.

I had some tomatoes from the garden that needed to be used so I cooked them down to a sauce and added jalapeños, onion and garlic.  I pureed the sauce after it cooked for about 40 minutes.  Normally, I would use picante sauce from a jar but I just can’t resist fresh sauce, when I have the ingredients in my garden.

One more comment before we jump into the recipe.  I sometimes use two corn tortillas per taco, instead of just one.  These tacos are prepared like “street tacos”, which is to say they resemble authentic Mexican tacos.  They are not the crispy corn tortillas that you might find at a grocery store, or ones that you might get at a fast food restaurant. 

The tortillas are heated just to a point where they are still soft and pliable.  Doubling up on the tortillas means that the tacos are more durable.  I hate tacos that fall apart in my hands!

Ingredients:

½ cup beef barbacoa

½ cup cooked ground beef

½ cup cooked ground turkey

1 cup prepared spicy tomato sauce

1 Tbs chipotle in adobo sauce (diced)

¼ cup sautéed sliced mushrooms

½  cup borracho beans, drained

¼ cup spicy mayo/sour cream sauce

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

½ cup cotija cheese

½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

¼ cup diced tomatoes

½ cup shredded lettuce

¼ cup diced onion

½ cup cilantro

6 pitted black olives, chopped

¼ cup sour cream

18 corn tortillas

lime wedges

Directions for the salsa:

If you don’t want to make fresh salsa, use a store bought salsa of your choice…otherwise, this is what I did to make the salsa for this dish.

Dice 6 to 8 small to medium sized tomatoes.  Add to a large pot and simmer at low heat.  Dice ½ onion and smash 3 garlic cloves and add those to the pot.  Add 1 tsp dry oregano and 1 Tbs cumin powder.  Simmer at low/medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pot.  Puree the contents.  Now you have fresh sauce!  Set this aside.

finished salsa

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients for the tacos.  You will be chopping, peeling and slicing vegetables so keep a bowl handy for the refuse. 

carrot, mushroom, lime and olives
onion, tomato and cilantro

Peel, chop and dice all of the vegetables.  Set aside.  Grate the cheese and set aside.

Break apart and crumble the meat.  Lay the meat in separate piles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and warm in the oven at 250° for about 15 minutes.

Heat a pan, or a comal, on the stove to low/medium heat.  Add a little oil and cook the tortillas on each side.  Add a little more oil after two or three tortillas are cooked.  The tortillas should cook for about 20 seconds on each side.  Remove to a plate and keep warm.

I kept forgetting what I was going to put on each taco so I decided to write it down on a 3×5 index card.  Not a bad idea, especially for someone with the attention span of a gnat, like me.

Even after writing this down, I still switched the cheese on two of the tacos…go figure!

Directions for assembling the tacos:

I recently got some taco holders as a gift and, although I don’t use them often, they made it easy to assemble tacos and they made a nice presentation.

I worked on all three tacos simultaneously.

For the barbacoa taco:

Start by adding some barbacoa.  Add borracho beans, followed by salsa and cheddar cheese.

For the ground beef taco:

Start with ground beef.  Add minced chipotle sauce, salsa and cotija cheese.

For the turkey taco:

Add ground turkey, followed by mushrooms, followed by the mayo/sour cream sauce, Monterey Jack cheese and black olives.

Top all three tacos with lettuce, tomato, onion, carrot, cilantro and finally, a small dollop of sour cream. Serve with lime wedges.