A Marriage of Convenience (& Authenticity): Enchiladas Especiales Tacuba Style

23 May

The gorgeous weather beckoned this weekend

What’s more important to you? Authenticity or convenience?

It’s an issue I struggle with because I love bargains. Gilt Groupe, Open Table, the Barney’s Warehouse blowout, Club Monaco’s sales racks = sex cream. My husband cuts my hair, my neighbor gives me butter coupons and my good friend Lisa knows that she can call me from any corner in the five boroughs at any time of the day or night secure in the knowledge that I will be able to put her within spitting distance of a happy hour.

Why pay retail?

But given the choice between a knockoff Chanel that could pass a Conde Nastie sniff test and a subpar cloth carryall for three times the price that even Stephen (whose favorite t-shirt features a cartoon anchor and includes the phrase “keelhaul em all”), I’ll choose the obviously, blatantly bad bag every time.

At least it’s not putting on airs. Same thing with food.

My heart goes out to Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray (their Sisyphean battles with fate as poverty stricken children, their messy love lives, strewn with oddball sex antics and small public humiliations) as people. But as chefs and lifestyle gurus? I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less than sit at one of Sandra’s Tablescapes and consume some of Rachael’s Yum-mo. They may all be semi-homemade, fast, easy and technically qualify as food, but Chicago Dog Salad (chopped Romaine and cabbage topped with chunks of hot dogs), et al, still isn’t anything I particularly want to put in my mouth.

Even Rachael Ray admits that she’d rather eat Martha Stewart’s food than her own.

Who wouldn’t want to sup on a terrine of rabbit, freshly ground up venison sausage, pickled heirloom cauliflower, ramp and dandelion green salad and chocolate souffles every night? But who has the time — or the budget — to dine like Martha, except for, well, Martha?

Being a foodie elitist is hard work! But it’s manageable to maintain one’s sustainable / locavore / organic / authentic / haute culinary chops on a budget … as long as you plan your recipes carefully. That’s where chefs like Rick Bayless come in; many of his recipes for fantastically complex, sophisticated Mexican dishes fit all of the above criteria and can be cranked out in large quantities and hold well.

I whipped up a monster batch of his Enchiladas Especial Tacuba style (with a few twists and tweaks, of course) this weekend. I made the chicken and the enchilada sauce in the morning and stuck them in the fridge; then I pulled the rest of it together last night in just 20 minutes before popping it in the oven — leaving us plenty of time for walks in the woods. Read on for the recipe.

Enchiladas Especiales Tacuba Style

Adapted from Rick Bayless

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 fresh poblano chiles
  • 1/2 cup frozen spinach, defrosted in colander and squeezed dry with hands
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 5 1/2 TBSP butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/3 lb. chicken breasts (skinless)
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp Adobo seasoning
  • 1 tsp cumin, freshly ground if possible
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • 4 oz. queso blanco, grated
  • Vegetable spray
  • sour cream, salsa, cilantro, spritz lime for garnish, if desired

Method:

  • For the sauce: Roast the poblanos under the broiler for about five to 10 minutes, until the skin blisters and blackens. Remove from oven and cover with towel until room temperature. The black skin will just peel right off; remove all of it, pull out the stem and seeds and rinse under cold water to remove the rest of the seeds and any leftover skin. Throw in a blender with the spinach and set aside. Heat the milk and broth in a saucepan. In a large saucepan, melt butter and add garlic. Cook garlic for about 10 seconds and then whisk in the flour over low-medium heat, stir until it resembles soft, beige sand. Add the warmed up milk-broth, whisking. Raise heat to medium-high until it boils, whisking the whole time to remove clumps. Season with salt and pepper. Once it boils, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes until it’s thick and smooth. Remove the roux from heat. Add half of the roux to the blender, puree the mix, recombine with the milk-broth, stir and set the sauce aside.
  • For the chicken: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat vegetable oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt, pepper and other spices; when oil shimmers, add chicken to skillet. Cook until golden brown and flip. Cook until both sides are golden (this should take about 5 minutes a side). Finish cooking the breasts in the oven — just pop the whole skillet in. The breasts will finish cooking in another 10 minutes or so, depending on their thickness. When there’s no pinkness and juices run clear, they’re done. Remove; when they are room temperature, shred them into bite-size pieces with two forks.

Stick a fork in it

  • To finish the dish: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9 x 13″ glass casserole dishes with vegetable spray. Add a thin layer of sauce to the bottom of each. Add about a cup of sauce to the shredded chicken, tossing it to coat. Stack the corn tortillas on a plate and microwave them for 30 seconds to make them warm and pliable. Cover with a damp paper towel to lock in moisture as you work. Using an assembly line method, line up four tortillas on a plate.

Enough chicken for substance, but these are still thin enough to roll

  • Place a thin line of chicken pieces down the middle (about 3 tablespoons worth), roll up like a cigar and place seam down in casserole dish. Continue until each casserole has eight enchiladas, lined up. Cover with sauce and grated cheese, pop in the oven for 20 minutes, or until warmed through. Some of the cheese will begin to brown a bit. Add garnishes, if desired, and serve.

Eat me

Nutritional breakdown for Enchiladas Especiales Tacuba Style: About 650 calories and 14 grams of fat per serving. Brimming with protein, iron. Good ratio of protein/good fat/carbs. Practically sugar free.

Cost breakdown for Enchiladas Especiales Tacuba Style: If you go the organic route, about $2.25 a serving, much less if you don’t.

Verdict / In the Future: I would sub in almost any protein for the chicken — chorizo, flank steak, tofu, black beans would all be great; a bit of quinoa or barley might be an interesting addition too.

Eat. Me.

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