Enchilada Experiment

I invited my future in-laws over for dinner last night so that I could have an excuse to make food in larger quantities than two servings.  I have been in a Mexican food mood lately, so I decided to make Chicken Enchiladas.  Now, I would like to first say that I had never made enchiladas before, so I didn’t photo document the process, just in case the entire thing was a failure.  Failure enchiladas do not get documented for all to read.  It turns out they were quite successful, so I took final product pictures.

Also, during the “planning the menu” process, I really wanted to make deviled eggs as an appetizer.   Then I thought, “Deviled eggs are not really in the same theme as Enchiladas.  How can I make them more…Mexican?”  Just as I was thinking this, I scrolled down my Google search to these.  Perfect!  Guacamole Deviled Eggs, and my oh my were they good.  I didn’t follow this recipe, but I will tell you what I did.

These recipes fed 6 people with left overs.

Guacamole Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:

10 Hard Boiled Eggs

½ Orange Bell Pepper

1 Jalapeño Pepper

1 Lime

1 Large Avocado

1 Tomato

¾ tsp Salt

¾ tsp of Spike seasoning mix

Fresh Cilantro for garnish

Here’s what you do.  Get out your handy-dandy food processor.  Trust me, it makes your life so much easier.  Actually, we just got one as a wedding gift and I used it for everything in these recipes.  I was tickled pink with it.

Slice the eggs lengthwise and put all the yokes in the food processor.  Lay the empty egg whites on a plate to be refilled with the filling you are about to make.

Next, into the food processor goes your avocado.  Pulse it until its smooth.  Add the juice of your 1 lime and mix.  Then add the bell pepper and cilantro and pulse until the pepper is barely visible in the mixture.  Do the same with the jalapeño.

NOTE:  Jalapeño peppers can be quite spicy.  If you do not want your eggs to be spicy, make sure you clean the seeds and veins out of the pepper.  If it is still an overwhelming flavor, try cooking the pepper a little to mute the flavor.  I used half of a pepper, took out the seeds but left in the veins for a bright fresh flavor with a little kick.

Taste your mixture.  If you taste too much pepper, try adding more avocado and/or lime juice. 

Next add your salt and Spike to taste.  Dice up your tomato and fold the pieces in by hand.  Your food processor will pulverize the tomato and pull out too much moisture into the filling.

Now it’s time to refill the eggs.  You can spoon the mixture back into the eggs if you so choose.  You can also make your own piping bag by taking a Ziploc Freezer back, loading your mixture into one corner, and snipping off the tip of the corner so that you can squeeze the filling out through the hole.

Fill up the eggs and top with some chopped fresh cilantro for garnish.

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Now for the Enchiladas.  I made my own Enchilada sauce using this recipe exactly, so I won’t go through it. 

Notes on ingredients:

Tortillas:  I used extra thin corn tortillas. After baking, they kind of lost their integrity and ended up being more like a casserole.  A tasty, tasty casserole.  If you use regular corn tortillas, they will stand up to the baking process more and you will be able to serve up individual enchiladas.

Cheese:  I used a light shredded Mexican blend.  Regular, whole fat cheese melts MUCH nicer and will actually bubble up and brown on the top.  Light cheese is missing the fat content that allows for this.

Ingredients:

Corn Tortillas

Enchilada Sauce

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Queso Fresco Cheese

Shredded Mexican Cheese Blend

1 Jalepeño

½ Sweet onion

2 cloves of garlic

Tomatillo Salsa

These have a chicken and cheese filling.  I used my handy dandy food processor for both.

Cheese Filling – In the food processor, put 1 package of Queso Fresco (broken in to chunks), onion (rough chopped), garlic (whole or chopped), and jalapeño.  I cleaned the jalapeño, removed all seeds and veins and cooked them in a sauté pan for a couple of minutes to get more of a roasted pepper flavor.  Make sure you cool them down before adding them to the cheese.  Blend everything together until you have one homogenous mixture.

Chicken Filling – Cook your chicken however you want.  I cooked mine in the tomatillo salsa because I think it gives it great flavor.  Cube the cooked chicken and throw it into the food processor. (Clean your food processor between uses.  I should hope that is a given.)  Pulse it until is shredded, and put it in a bowl.  That was easy.

Now make yourself a station.  I had my fillings and steamed tortillas on my left, and enchilada sauce and tray on my right.

Note on tortillas:  You really need to soften them before attempting to roll them or they will crack.  Wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave the tortillas for 30-45 seconds or until warm.

Start by ladling a bit of enchilada sauce into the bottom of the tray.  Dip on side of the tortilla in the enchilada sauce, and lay it down on your assembly plate dry side down.  Put your fillings in, wrap them up and place them in the pan.  When your tray is full, pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the top and make sure everything is coated.  Sprinkle your shredded cheese over the top.

Bake in a 400° oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubble and browning on the top.

I encourage you to let it sit for a few minutes before digging in.  It will be smoldering hot.

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We served this with sour cream and Aardvark’s Secret Sauce at the table, but you can add any condiments you want. 

Prepare yourselves for food coma, because this was really hard to stop eating!

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Baked Chicken-Stuffed Chile Rellenos

Alright people, brace yourselves. This is a long and involved process, but believe you me, it is SO worth it. Image Baked Chicken-Stuffed Chile Rellenos – with watermelon I made this for dinner tonight for Sam and myself.  Because of this, its a small batch recipe, making enough for two filled peppers.

Here’s what your going to need:

Time – about 90 minutes although some of the elements can be made ahead of time

Ingredients:

Pasilla Pepper – 2

Red Bell Pepper – 1/2

Sweet Onion – 1/2

Garlic – 3 cloves

Uncooked Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast – 5 oz

Tomatillo Salsa – 1 Cup

Tomato Sauce – 1/8 cup

Red Wine Vinegar – 1 tsp

Jasmine Rice – 1/4 cup raw

Queso Fresco – 4 oz

Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese – 1 Cup

Canola Oil – 1 tsp

Salt, Pepper, Chile Powder to taste Image

Step 1 – Peel the peppers. – In order to peel the peppers they need to either get put under the broiler until singed on all sides, grilled, or stuck over open flame on your stove like I did.  The direct heat brings the moisture from the peppers up to the skin.  You will hear it pop and sizzle and make all kinds of sounds that make you think you are doing something wrong, but don’t stop!  Wait till they looked burned on all sides, then take them off the heat and put them in a zip lock bag to steam for 5-10 minutes. Image ImageImage

Once the peppers have steamed, you can rub the charred skin off.  If your fingers get sticky, keep a bowl of water near by, or use a paper towel. Image

Now we do some pepper surgery.  We need to clean out the seeds and veins from the peppers without doing damage to the entire pepper, or else we wont be able to successfully stuff them.  So, get a sharp knife and be careful.  Make a 2 inch cut starting from about a third of an inch from the top.  Then make a 2 in cut horizontally across the top and the bottom of the vertical 2 inch cut you just made.  Open up the doors you have just created, separate the veins and seeds from the walls, and scoop them out.  This may be easier said than done.  Remember, all the heat in these peppers lie within the veins and the seeds.  If you do not want spicy food, you must be meticulous about getting all the seeds and veins out.  I like a bit of kick to my food, so I left some in.

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Now we can turn our attention to the filling.  The filling can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to two days.  There are 4 different components to the filling, one is the Queso Fresco, and the other three must be prepared separately.  These are, spanish rice, pepper/onion/garlic medley, and shredded chicken.

Lets start with the chicken.  Cook your chicken in as large of pieces as you can, or else you wont be able to shred the cooked pieces.  I took a whole chicken breast, and cut it in half to get my 5 oz.  In your pot, put the tomatillo salsa and chicken.  Bring it up to a simmer and cover the pot until the chicken easily shreds with a fork.  I cooked mine on a low heat for about 30 mins.

Now for the rice.  Soak your rice in cold water for about 8 minutes.  You probably know that rice cooks at a two to one liquid to rice ratio.  We are using 1/4 cup of uncooked rice, so we will need 1/2 cup of liquid.  In a measuring cup, at your tomato sauce, red wine vinegar and canola oil.  Then, fill the cup the rest of the way  up to the 1/2 cup line with water, so that you have a total of 1/2 cup of liquid.  Add your liquid, one clove of minced garlic and soaked rice to a pot.  Add your salt, pepper and chili powder and give it a good stir.   Bring it up to a boil, then turn it down to a low simmer and cover for about 10 -12 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid is gone.

Lastly, the pepper/onion/garlic medley.  Chop your onion and pepper in the same size pieces so they cook at an even rate.  Mince the remaining two cloves of garlic and place all three ingredients in a non-stick pan that has been sprayed with oil.  Saute them on medium low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the peppers and onion start to brown.  Turn them off immediately because if the garlic browns it will be bitter.

Now we can put together our filling!  In a mixing bowl, add your shredded chicken, cooked rice, pepper medley, and cubed queso fresco.

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Split the filling in half and stuff those magnificently prepared peppers, each with half of the filling, or as much as your peppers can hold.

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Line a baking tray with foil and slide your stuffed peppers onto it.  Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the peppers.  Then, pour the left over salsa the chicken cooked in, into the peppers.  Its ok if it spills over, we just want to add some moisture to the filling so it doesn’t dry out when it bakes.

Place the tray in a 375 F oven and bake for 25 minutes.  Let them sit for a minute so the juices settle before serving.  Also, we let them sit so that people don’t bite into a pepper with scalding hot insides.

I served mine with watermelon to help even out the heat of the pepper a little bit.  It is an unusual combination, but it was great! This is a great dish to make for a dinner party, as you can peel and stuff the peppers ahead of time and bake them just before serving.  Let me know how you like them!

Also, I wanted to add one more thing.  Chile Rellenos are normally only stuffed with the queso fresco cheese, then battered and fried.  This recipe, although stuffed with chicken and rice, is fewer calories because its baked, and the recipe uses little cooking oil or fat. For those on Weight Watchers, this recipe makes two servings of 12 points plus each. I am a member of Weight Watchers, so most of my recipes will be WW friendly.  I will try to remember to post the Points Plus values with my recipes.

My Local Favorite

In Portland, there are a lot of places to eat and drink.  There are even a lot of places that have both good food and well made drinks.  There are not, however a lot of places that have that perfect combination of ambiance, menu, liquor selection, and service.

The other night I was so excited to be going to a restaurant called OX, an establishment that opened in the last year and has since had a lot of really positive publicity.  I did my research.  I looked to see if I could make reservations and peeked at their menu.  Since it was just me and Sam, we couldn’t make reservations.  They only accept reservations for parties of 6 or more.  I took this to mean that there may be a wait but not long enough to require reservations.

Boy was I wrong.  We walked in the door and the hostess tells us that it’s a 90 minute to 2 hour wait and they will text us when our table is going to be ready…..

Are you kidding me? Now, this post is not about OX, and trust me I could write pages on how illogical it is from a business stand point to not allow reservations when their wait time gets to be up to 2 hours.  This post is about where we went after I finished throwing a hissy-fit about waiting 2 hours for dinner.

There is a place on Mississippi Ave. called Interurban Publican’s Table, and I find myself seated at Interurban every time I want to go out, but cant decide on any place new to go, or any specific kind of food I am in the mood for.  It has become my fallback, and I gotta tell you, I am never disappointed.

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Lets start with the ambiance.  Everything is wood.  You walk in the door to a rustically lit and fully stocked bar.  You have seating choices of bar, upstairs, or the great out door covered/heated patio.  The servers are friendly, attentive, and do really well to deliver food and drinks in a timely manner, even when they are super busy.

Their menus contain both food and drinks.  They have a great cocktail menu that changes seasonally.  They have local micro-brews on tap, and an excellent selection of imported beers both in bottles and on tap. Continue to turn the pages and you will find an impressive whiskey selection, half of which is bourbon (I am a bourbon girl, so I love this).

The drinks are good, service good, ambiance good, but the reason we keep going back there is for the food.

They have daily specials that usually includes a special Hot Dog of the day, local oysters on the half-shell, and baked sandwich.  Sometimes I try the specials, but no matter what we order, we almost always get their Buffalo Chicken Wings.

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These are not just any chicken wings.  They are breaded in something akin to corn flakes, so the skin gets extra crunchy.  The sauce is a buffalo style sauce but they have added slices of garlic and green onions.  Its tangy and definitely has a kick, but is not overwhelmingly spicy.  They are served with celery and carrot sticks and a vat of chunky blue cheese dressing.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Other items we ordered this time around were Mexicali Grilled Cauliflower and Bacon Wrapped Shrimp Cocktail.

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Mexicali Grilled Cauliflower.  This was really good!  They are par cooked, seasoned with something that tastes like blackening rub, grilled, and then tossed in a “mexicali” aoli.  They served it with shaved Parmesan cheese and a big ole steak knife to cut into it.

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Bacon Wrapped Shrimp Cocktail.  We ate most of it before Sam reminded me to take pictures.  These were jumbo prawns wrapped in bacon and baked.  They served three prawns with a lemon and a nice and horseradishy cocktail sauce.  I could have eaten ten of these.

In the past I have ordered they foot long corn dog, Head Cheese Terrine, Hot Dog of the day, Oysters on the half shell, Onion Frites, Rotisserie Pork, and the artisan cheese board.  I am sure I have ordered other things, but that what I can recall off the top of my head.  Like I said, I have never been disappointed.

Interurban is part of the Tasty N’ Sons, Toro Bravo, and Prost! family.  I have eaten at all of these.  If you find yourself in Portland, OR, I would suggest checking these places out.

Newbie Mistake

Ok well, I am new to this blogging thing.  Having my camera at the ready, photo journaling every thing I eat or make, and consistently having something witty and inspiring to write about, is not really second nature to me yet.

With that said, I made some really delicious carnitas tacos this evening.  Since the pork took 10 hours to cook, we were starving by the time food was ready, and scarfed the finished product down in record time.  So now, instead of slipping peacefully into a pork coma, I will fill you in on what I did and how I did it.

It all started last night when I took the 2.5 Lb pork butt out of the freezer to thaw.  8 hours later the pork butt got a nice 2 minute massage with some Carne Asada spice rub.  I would love to tell you what is in the spice rub, but it came out of a bottle that I found in the pantry of the last house I lived in, and the label is faded and in Spanish.  Something like this will suffice.

Carne Asada Seasoning:

Salt and pepper (black, white, or a combination of the two) form the base of many spice mixtures, including carne asada seasoning. Some recipes recommend Kosher salt, which does not contain additives like iodine, and pepper that has been freshly ground from whole peppercorns. Other common dry ingredients include ground cumin, chili powder or finely ground cayenne pepper, and dried oregano.

Anyway, massage the seasoning into the pork for a couple minutes.

I then pulled out my crock pot, poured in a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies, added the pork, put the lid on, turned in on LOW, and forgot about it for 8 – 10 hours, or until I could shred it with a fork. If you dont want to wait 10 hours, you can put your crock pot on high for about 4 hours, but you must check on it to make sure it doesnt overcook.

The rest was even easier.  I shredded some lettuce, took out the bag of shredded cheese,  heated up some re-fried beans (with a little of the pork cooking liquid), steamed some corn tortillas and put together my tacos. 

They were spicy, porky, crunchy, fatty, cheesy, and delightful.

When accompanied by some beverages and a new episode of Game of Thrones, these tacos made my night.

Fuel Cafe

“You know, a line out the door does not necessarily mean they have good food.  Hipsters cant discern good food from bad…,” said Henry as we passed the Tin Shed where we had originally planned on having breakfast, to walk in search of an establishment with no line.

“Since breakfast is the meal that I dine out least for, I don’t really understand waiting in long lines for it.” He said.

Ok, I get it.  I was hungry too, and really not thrilled about the party of 8 waiting outside of the Tin Shed either.  I agreed to walk down another block and see what we came upon.  Sure enough, just on the other side of the street was a small place called Fuel Café.  I looked in the window to see 4 or 5 tables filled, then peeked at the menu in the window to see if they had a decent breakfast menu.  All seemed to check out so we went in.

Upon entering we were greeted warmly, and I mean that in multiple senses of the word.  The staff was very nice, but it had to have been about 80°F in there, hence our decision to sit by the window.  After taking a closer look at the menu, I was first struck by their lack of breakfast meat selections.  They have… bacon.  Great, who doesn’t love bacon?  The other options were soyrizo, tempeh, or tofu.  Since my love for bacon is rooted deep, I decided that these selections were acceptable, and moved on to reading the actual entrée choices.  Two kinds of bene’s (eggs benedict), some scrambles, waffles and pancakes, and a breakfast burrito.  Bingo!  I love breakfast burritos, and since they are not hard to make, I am super critical of them when I order them in restaurants.

We ordered our mimosas and food and sat discussing how wealthy we would need to be before we thought it was acceptable to spend $200 on a piece of at hanging in a coffee shop. (Henry said he would have to be indoor pool in your home wealthy.  I thought that was a bit extreme.)

Our mimosas arrived just as I was peeling off my second layer of clothing due to the overly warm temperature in the café.  They were nicely balance, not too much orange juice, and garnished with orange and strawberry slices.  Very nice.  Then our food arrived.

My first reaction was that they actually serve you a human size portion, not the over-stuffed breakfast plates you get at a lot of places around town. (The little Jewish grandmother in my head was yelling, I’m paying $9 for this?  Where’s the rest of it?)  I was also thinking, gee I really hope there is enough bacon in this.  Maybe I should have ordered a side of bacon too.

The burrito was made with whole wheat tortilla and served with sour cream, salsa and avocado on the side.  Inside the burrito were scrambled eggs, Tillamook Cheddar and bacon.

I cut into the burrito to see if cheese starts oozing out (oozing cheese is sexy), no go.  There is however enough cheese to taste it, and it balanced nicely with the quantity of eggs.  Yes, I could have used more bacon.  I pile a bit on my fork, top some sour cream and salsa on it, then go to cut a piece of avocado to stick on the fork as well.  The avocado left much to be desired.  I mean, I understand that sometimes it’s hard to find ripe avocados, but this one was both unripe and old.  There were streaks of brown running through the fruit, and my knife clanked down on the plate whenever I tried to cut through it instead of gliding effortlessly through.

Don’t serve people old produce…. It’s gross.

I ate about half of it before I decided it probably was not worth the calories, since I was going out for dinner that evening anyway.

Well, it turns out that perhaps there was a good reason there were not people waiting in line to eat here.  I probably won’t be rushing back any time soon, mainly because it was too darned hot in there!

Bacchi’s Italian Delicatessen

My friend and fellow blogger Baby, don’t you cry, offered to show me the ropes on WordPress, since this is my first blog, so in return I took her out to lunch to this little gem that just opened up in Portland about a month ago.

Bacchi’s is located in an unassuming building, on an unassuming street, in an unassuming neighborhood known for nothing but Vietnamese and Thai food and random oriental markets.  Upon entering the tiny space you are immediately hit with the smell of cured pork and sweet gelato. The front case is filled with charcuterie, cheeses and pasta salads available by the pound.   Look up and you will see an adorable menu of both hot and cold sandwiches and salads, along with a soup of the day (I just typed fruit… who has a fruit of the day, silly brain)

Anyway, I was torn on what Sandwich to get, but my friend chose wisely and got a half of their veggie sandwich and a cup of soup, which was clam chowder today.

I couldn’t resist when I saw the Gabbagool on the menu, because the only thing I could think of after I read it was… that’s Tony Soprano’s sandwich of choice.  He’s a mob boss… he can’t be wrong.  So yes, that’s what I got.

Neither of us were disappointed by our selections.  The Gabbagool was an excellent combination of Prociutto, Hot Cappicola, Salami, Sharp Provelone, and pickled hot cherry peppers.

Honestly, I was so wrapped up in my sandwich that I forgot to even look what was in the half of veggie sandwich my bestie got.

This place has only been open for a month.  I really hope they make it!  Support your local businesses Portlanders, and go out of your way a little bit to visit this place.  You won’t regret it.

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Parla Come Mangi!

“Parla Come Mangi!”  – Speak the language of your food.

Before I get started, I want to first point out that I find it humorous that I have just put an Italian phrase in Italics.

Talk to any world traveler and they will tell you, if you want to know the culture of any people, share a meal with them, talk to them about their cuisine, and observe the customs and traditions they hold around food.  Here in the states we don’t have much to call “American Cuisine” besides perhaps BBQ, which again, changes depending on the region of the country you are in which have all been influenced by the out of towners who settled there years ago.  In Texas its all about the beef.  In St. Louis they dry rub, smoke, then grill.  In Louisiana, its whole hog, low and slow, with some sort of secret vinegar and pepper brine that gets mopped over the tasty sow to drip down into the burning hot coals and effervesce back up into the meat through the smoke.

I love BBQ, but if you were to ask me what my favorite cuisine is, it wouldn’t be American, or Chinese, or Japanese, it would be Italian all the way.

Why you ask?  The country of Italy is like an entire world contained in one boot shaped land mass.  Here in the states, Penne ala vodka will taste about the same in any restaurant you go to.  In Italy you can order the same dish in any village eatery and no two will taste the same.  The geography of Italy is so diverse that from one neighboring village to the next, the fields grow different weeds and shrubs.  The elevation and humidity differs and so do the molds and fungi that thrive in it.  The livestock eat the different weeds, shrubs, berries, and nuts and so they too in return taste different.  The cheese which ages in cellars, minding its own business, ages at different rates and with different climates taste distinctly different everywhere you go., The Adriatic coastal towns fish different tasting seafood than those on the Mediterranean, and don’t even get me started about the islands.   Because of this, the locals in each town/village/city will fiercely commit to you that their food is what Italian food should be.

Another fantastic result of the geographic variation of the country is the specialty dishes of each region.  These dishes have also been shaped by the different histories of the land and its occupants.

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In the Fruili Venezia Guilia region up in the right hand corner, the food has influences of its neighbors, Slovenia and Austria.  What does this mean?  Well you can expect to find a lot of pickled root vegetables such as turnips, as well as courses containing sauerkraut.   Their specialty dishes almost all involve fish, mostly river fish, and mostly fish that a lot of people consider inedible.  The ancestry in this region is that refugees who found this area to be a safe haven from bandits and thieves that paroled the main roads and water ways. When they arrived in the area, they found perch, angler fish, and monk-fish (a particularly frightening looking creature), and found that when cooked or cured with the regional olive oil, some garlic and vinegar, they were quite edible, and so the meals stuck around.  Goulash is another specialty of this region, a stew like dish make with lots of paprika and pork (how could you go wrong?).  The cheeses of note, Montasio and Tabor.  Oh yeah, and don’t forget about the Grappa.  A word of caution for those of you who have not had Grappa before and are considering trying it.  Its like drinking pure grape alcohol, and I dont mean grape flavor.  I mean it is strong stuff made from grapes and is not for the feint of heart.

I have this really fantastic book from the library right now, entitled Why Italians Love To Talk About Food  by Elena Kostioukovitch. (I was skeptical of a book on Italian food written by a Russian, but it turns out she spent many years there, and spoke fluent Italian.)  Anyway, I will be posting more about regional food of Italy in the future, but I think this post is long enough already.

Food is fun.  🙂