Monday, January 10, 2011
January is usually a brutal month. It begins with all this optimism for the new year, and then it's back to work, back to putting on your boots in the morning and climbing over a dirty hump of frozen snow on the sidewalk.
That said, I'm feeling pretty warmly about 2011 so far. Who knows what the next eleven months will bring, but it's already off to a pretty bright start. Someone in our family (Dan, cough, Dan) just got a new job, a major feat in this crap economy. The past year wasn't an easy one for us, something I didn't want to write about here, but being able to turn the page and start anew feels pretty great.
Although my husband's an extremely modest guy, I wanted to do something special to celebrate this happy news, and to a lesser extent, getting through the first week of work post-vacation. We've all got to pat ourselves on the back for stepping over those snow humps. Metaphorically--or literally, if you live in Brooklyn.
And what better way to celebrate good news on a frigid night than an apartment filled with friends and a hot pan of cheesy enchiladas? Oh, and margaritas. And beers. Many beers. Sorry, new neighbors downstairs with a two-year-old!
There were no long-winded toasts at this party. Instead, people made jokes about Dan having to return back to a desk after working from home for a long time. ("What? There's no 12 p.m. break to watch Buffy?") When you know people really well, they know exactly how to tease you. But they also know how to support you through a not-so-hot year. To return that friendship--loud, and loose, and wonderfully profane as it is--with a pan of enchiladas seems like a very small thing.
Victory dinner for Daniel
Guacamole and chips
Mini frozen Key lime pies
There are many types of enchiladas, this version includes chicken, green chiles, and tomatoes in a creamy sauce. In the original recipe, via Food & Wine, Rick Bayless says, "Once the tortillas have been heated in the oven, you need to work quickly and steadily toward serving in order to preserve their beautiful texture. Once out of the oven, the finished dish softens to near mush over a period of 15 to 20 minutes." This freaked me out a little, but it wasn't a big deal because everyone inhaled these enchiladas. But, yes, be prepared to serve them right away. One note: I used canned tomatoes for this recipe because it's January and tomatoes aren't in season. If it's summertime and you're using fresh, consult the original recipe. I also upped the amount of cheese because it seemed a bit paltry in the original recipe. Rick Bayless, don't you like cheese?
(Serves 4 to 6 people)
2 28-oz. cans good-quality whole tomatoes in juice, drained
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (about 3 serranos or 2 jalapeños), stemmed (I used jalapeños)
1 1/2 Tbsp. canola oil or rich-tasting pork lard, plus a little oil for brushing or spraying the tortillas
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth, plus a little extra if needed
1/2 cup homemade crema, crème fraiche or heavy (whipping) cream (I used cream)
About 2 1/2 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken, preferably grilled, roasted or rotisserie chicken
1 cup shredded Mexican melting cheese (such as Chihuahua, quesadilla, or asadero) or Monterey Jack or mild cheddar
12 corn tortillas
A few sliced rounds of white onion, separated into rings, for garnish (optional)
Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish (optional)
In a dry skillet, roast the chiles over medium heat, turning regularly with tongs, until they are soft and splotchy-black, about 10 minutes. Place them in a blender or food processor along with the drained canned tomatoes and puree until smooth.
In a medium-size (4- or 5-quart) pot, heat the oil or lard over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until golden, about 7 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, and, when noticeably hotter, stir in the tomato-chile puree. Cook, stirring, until the mixture darkens in color and has thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the broth, partially cover and simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt to taste, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. The sauce should be slightly soupy. If it looks like spaghetti sauce add a little additional broth. Keep the sauce warm over low heat. (You can also make the sauce in advance and keep it refrigerated for a day or two.)
When you're ready to assemble the enchiladas, stir the crema into the sauce. Put the chicken in a bowl and stir 1/2 cup of the sauce into it, then toss to coat the chicken. Taste and season with additional salt if you think it needs it. Have the cheese at the ready.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Smear about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish. Lay the tortillas out on a baking sheet (or 2 sheets if you have them), and lightly brush or spray both sides of the tortillas with oil. Bake them for 3 minutes, just to warm and soften them. Stack the tortillas and cover them with a clean towel to keep warm.
Working quickly so the tortillas stay hot and pliable, roll a portion of the chicken into each tortilla, then line up the rolls in the baking dish. Spread the remaining sauce evenly over the rolled up tortillas, then top with the cheese. Bake until the enchiladas are hot through (the cheese will have begun to brown), about 15 minutes. Garnish with onion rings and cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately.