Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Perfect Time for Chicken Enchiladas

Latin cuisine has always delighted me, starting in my childhood when my mother made chile con carne.  As a member of my High School Spanish club, I joined in cooking arroz con pollo.  Yellow rice was a revelation!  The lady-in-charge took us to Joe Baum's original La Fonda del Sol, a pan-Latin restaurant in New York City where I had fantastic tamales wrapped in corn husks. Then I moved to the upper West Side of Manhattan and was regaled with Chinese Cuban cuisine. I especially loved the ropa vieja--slow-cooked, shredded beef smothered in a spicy tomato sauce. There were fried plantains cooked to perfection by friends of Puerto Rican ancestry and sizzling fajitas when we lived in California and Oregon.

Long, skinny, mild, green chili peppers: piments doux des Landes

Sadly a dearth of that kind of delicious food became a reality for many a year after moving to UK and then France. So when The Calm One wistfully brought home a packet of flour tortillas, I immediately thought of the pile of mild, green chili peppers Madame M recently gave us, cooked chicken and stock in the freezer, crème fraîche in the fridge, tomato paste and chili powder in the cupboard, and tomatoes, garlic, onions, scallions & flat-leaf parsley from the potager. Ah, it's time to make chicken enchiladas!

First the enchilada sauce is made.  You will need 3 T of olive oil, 1 T of flour, 4 T of chili powder (sauce is mild, add more if you want more heat), 16 fluid ounces of chicken stock, 8 dry ounces of tomato paste, and salt if needed.

In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium low heat for about thirty seconds and stir in the flour till smooth which should not take more than a minute. Add the chili powder and cook for one minute, continuing stirring.

My brand has bell pepper, onion & tomato flakes in addition to spices--it's really good!

Slowly pour in the chicken stock while stirring.  If not smooth, then give it a good whisk. Add the tomato paste and mix well. Simmer over low heat for about fifteen minutes until nicely thick, stirring occasionally. Salt to taste and reserve.

(makes five large enchiladas)

  • Enchilada sauce, 16 fluid ounces (see above for recipe)
  • Tortillas, about 10 inches in diameter, corn or flour, 5
  • Chicken, cooked and shredded, 16 fluid ounces (I used simmered chicken but broiled, sauteed, roasted, grilled could be substituted, just remove all bones and skin)
  • Chile peppers, mild, green, fresh, 5
  • Tomatoes, chopped, fresh (canned can be substituted but drain them well), 16 fluid ounces
  • Onion, medium, 1
  • Garlic, 2-3 fat cloves, peeled and minced
  • Cheese, grated (I used Edam, but Cheddar and Monterry Jack would be good or a mix of mild, firm cheeses), six fluid ounces
  • Flour, a tablespoon or two
  • Chopped scallions, tomatoes, crème fraîche/sour cream  & flat leaf parsley for garnishing

Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. To make the filling, peel the tomatoes (if using fresh) by dunking them in boiling water for a minute or so and then placing them in cold water.  The skins will easily come off with a help of a sharp knife.

Chop them coarsely. Wash and carefully seed, de-membrane, and slice the peppers. Mince the garlic and thinly slice the onion.

Pull the chicken apart with your fingers and dust the shreds with a bit of the chili powder.

Grate the cheese.

Put a tablespoon of olive oil (or drippings if you broiled, grilled, roasted or sauteed the chicken) in a skillet and heat over medium flame briefly. Add the garlic and onions and saute for a minute or two. Toss in the peppers and cook for a minute or so.

Add the tomatoes and cook for about five minutes.

Stir in the chicken and the flour. Salt to taste. 

Pour the sauce in a shallow dish. Put a tortilla (if not pliable, briefly warm in a lightly oiled skillet) in the sauce and quickly flip it over. Don't soak or it will disintegrate. Place one fifth of the filling close to one edge of the tortilla and then roll up neatly. Spread a couple of tablespoons of sauce in a baking dish and place the enchilada seam down.

Repeat with the remaining four tortillas. Cover with the rest of the sauce and top with the grated cheese.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until cheese is well browned and sauce is bubbling. Serve with the scallions, tomatoes, flat-leaf parsley, and  crème fraîche on the side.

Since we were hankering for spicy Latin food for a while, these plump, moist, and yummy chicken enchiladas were happy food indeed.  They freeze well and taste even better when thawed and re-heated.

In the potager, the plentiful figs are maturing nicely.

In the flower garden, the pinks I sowed in the spring are now robust plants.

And the David Austin Falstaff super-fragrant climbing rose is still going strong.

Monsieur and Madame M gifted us with a regional sweet to thank us for watering their garden while they were on a short trip to Pays Basque.

The lovely tin will be a pleasure to re-use again and again.

I am having one of these buttery gâteau a la myrtille (blueberry) daily--OK, a couple of them, hmmm, several to be honest--with coffee, and they are GOOD!

This little 'cake' is like a Linzer cookie on steroids

À la prochaine! 

How to skin tomatoes
How to make Piperade (a Basque dish with peppers & tomatoes)

Dorie Greenspan's recipe for Basque Cake
Basque Cuisine