Friday, July 11, 2008

Beyond the Taco

I'm still swooning over Rick Bayless's Tomatillo-Sauced Enchiladas. The soft, sauce-soaked tortillas. The sauce itself, bright from so many tomatillos and kicked up with cilantro and jalapeno. The stuffing: hearty yet not heavy, made of spinach, mushrooms and chicken. And crumbled cheese on top, a finishing touch adding sparkle and tang. "This tastes like something you'd get at Dos Caminos," I proudly remarked as Fork and I ate. "You'd be lucky to get this at Dos Caminos!" Fork scoffed. (Isn't he the greatest?!)

I'm also still congratulating myself on making tomatillo sauce. I'm pretty swift when it comes to tacos, quesadillas and guacamole, but I've never ventured beyond those Mexican-American staples. I actually wasn't even sure what a tomatillo was (turns out it's like a sweet, tart tomato) or where to find one (I struck gold on Avenue C at Fine Fare, a supermarket that brought me right back to the one we used to shop in on our annual visits to Puerto Rico). After preparing this fabulous sauce, I think I will be buying tomatillos more often. Rick instructs you to puree them in a food processor with garlic, jalapeno pepper and cilantro, and then to cook the sauce down until it's the consistency of thick tomato sauce. You add chicken stock, simmer some more, and then stir in heavy cream. (I've really got you now, haven't I?)

To serve the enchiladas, you dip a warmed corn tortilla in the sauce, place some filling (shredded chicken, sauteed mushrooms and red onion, and steamed spinach) in the middle, roll it up and place it seam-side down on the plate. Once you've got three enchiladas on the plate, you top them with the tomatillo sauce, a few slices of red onion, a couple of sprigs of cilantro, and some crumbled cheese. Rick recommends Mexican queso fresco, but I forgot to look for that at Fine Fare, so I used feta, which I was a little skeptical about (Greek cheese on a Mexican dish?) but it worked nicely.

The best part about this dish was the flavors. There are a lot of distinct notes--cilantro, tomatillo, jalapeno, feta--and everything meshed together just perfectly. I'm thinking the sauce could've been a little thicker, but it's still really tasty, and we have plenty leftover, which I'm sure we'll eat with tortilla chips.

Here's to branching out.--S

Tomatillo-Sauced Enchiladas with Spinach and Mushrooms
Serves 4

3 garlic cloves, peeled
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (I used 1 jalapeño), stemmed and quartered
1 1/2 lb (10 to 12 medium) tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and cut into quarters
1 c (loosely packed) roughly chopped cilantro, plus a few extra sprigs for garnish
3 T vegetable oil or olive oil, plus some for the tortillas
2 c chicken broth
8 oz mushrooms (I used button), stemmed and sliced
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
10 oz (about 10 cups) spinach, stems removed
1 c (about 4 oz) shredded cooked chicken (optional)
12 corn tortillas, preferably store-bought
3 T Mexican crema, sour cream, heavy cream, or crème fraiche
1/2 t sugar (optional)
1 c (4 oz) crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese

1. Turn on the oven to 350°F. With a food processor or blender running, drop in the garlic and chiles one piece at a time and finely chop before adding the next piece. Add the tomatillos and cilantro; process until smooth.
2. Heat 1 1/2 T of the oil in a medium (3-quart) saucepan over medium-high. Add the puree and cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the mixture is the consistency of thick tomato sauce, about 7 minutes. (The more you cook down this base, the richer and sweeter the sauce will be.) Add the chicken broth and simmer over medium heat to blend the flavors, about 10 minutes.
3. While the sauce is simmering, heat 1 1/2 T oil in a very large (12-in.) skillet over medium-high. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring nearly constantly, for a couple of minutes, until they begin to brown. Add about three-quarters of the onion (reserve the rest for garnish) and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for another minute or two, until the onion looks translucent. Add the spinach and optional chicken and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or so, until the spinach is wilted. Season with salt, usually a scant teaspoon. Cover to keep warm.
4. Lay out the tortillas on a baking sheet and spray or brush lightly on both sides with oil, then stack them in twos. Slide the tortillas into the oven and bake just long enough to make them soft and pliable, about 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and stack them in a single pile; cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm.
5. Stir the crema (or its stand-in) into the sauce. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon (add the sugar if the sauce seems quite tart to you). Holding a tortilla by one edge, dip most of it into the sauce, then lay it on a plate. Spoon a heaping 2 T filling down the center, roll up and lay seam-side down on a dinner plate. Repeat with 2 more tortillas, arranging them on the same plate. Douse the enchiladas with about G cup of the warm sauce, sprinkle with a quarter of the crumbled cheese and garnish with some of the reserved onion and cilantro sprigs. Assemble the rest of the servings, and carry right to the table.

Recipe courtesy of Mexican Everyday

1 comment:

SarahHutch said...

Okay, both this post and the Ladies that Lunch dinner have my mouth-a-waterin'. Can't wait to make it to your house babe!!