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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Enchiladas de Chile y Ajo (Enchiladas in Chile-Garlic Sauce)

Enchiladas de Chile y Ajo
What does Sunday Supper mean to you?  That was question we were to ponder when writing our posts for this week.  For me, it means many things.  Coming together as a family.  Sitting down at the table without the distraction of the television, the computer, or the friends banging at the door asking "are you done yet!?".  It means laughter and communication, sharing and catching up.  And while, yes, it's mainly about the people who occupy the chairs and the table around you, it's also about the food itself.  Maybe it's an extensive holiday feast...perhaps an everyday family could be paper plates surrounding a communal pizza...and sometimes it's a dish that conjures up memories of distant childhoods for some while simultaneously making childhood memories for others.

To me, it's also about the process.  From a simple "this is what I want for dinner tonight" to someone taking the time to plan out a thoughtful menu.  Often times in our house, we'll draw on a memory of a dish the hubs or I loved as a kid.  I love it when the mere mention of a ingredient...or the name of a dish sparks a story out of him.  If you know me, you'll know that that doesn't take much.  He's full of animated stories that I love to take notes on (be it mentally or literally) and then turn them into a dish that takes him straight back to Mexico.
Enchiladas de Chile y Ajo
Often times, one of the kids or the hubs (or even I) will see a dish in a cookbook or on the front of a magazine that they need.  NEED!  And soon.  And that is exactly what happened when somebody emptied the mailbox and threw the stack on the kitchen table.  With my favorite magazine (Saveur) sitting proudly on top of the pile.  The Mexico Issue.  With some enchiladas on top that drew "THAT is what I want for dinner.  Tonight." from both husband and oldest son.  And so, a few hours later...that is what we had.  A new recipe that I adapted slightly using my own methods and a few altered ingredients.  We served and ate them the way we traditionally do.  Because enchiladas are one of those things we'll eat any meal of the day if the feeling strikes.

So basically, to me, it's a family effort.  From start to finish.  Planning to enjoying.  Simple to complex.  Traditional recipes and methods to new recipes and ideas.  To me, #SundaySupper means embracing old family traditions while creating new ones.

This was basically a "new to us" enchilada sauce.  That I fell in love with.  And hard.  The subtle sweetness of the piloncillo against the gentle heat of the chiles and that flavor of garlic that I love so much reminds of one of my favorite dishes in the whole wide world.  Mole.  And not just any mole (because there are many varieties), my favorite mole.  And much like that mole, I swoon over every bite.  And I didn't want to stop eating even when I was full.  But I did.  So as not to diminish my pleasure.  This will be a regular in our house from now on.  New tradition.

Enchiladas de Chile y Ajo (Enchiladas in Chile-Garlic Sauce)
Enchiladas de Chile y Ajo
by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Keywords: breakfast entree chiles chicken garlic tortillas Mexican

Ingredients (serves 6-8 / ~36 enchiladas)
    Chile & Garlic Enchilada Sauce:
    • 2 oz. dried California (or Guajillo) chiles
    • 8 fat cloves garlic, unpeeled
    • 6 plum tomatoes
    • 1 jalapeno, stemmed
    • 1 medium onion, sliced into ½" thick rings
    • 1 Tbs. olive oil
    • 2 c. chicken stock or broth
    • 1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
    • 1 tsp. dried marjoram
    • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
    • 1 slice white bread, toasted & torn into pieces
    • ⅛-¼ c. grated Piloncillo (or light brown sugar)
    • 2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
    • salt
    to finish enchiladas:
    • 36 corn tortillas
    • oil, for quick-frying tortillas
    • 3 c. cooked, shredded chicken
    • ~1 lb. queso fresco, crumbled
    garnish (choose your favorites):
    • Romaine lettuce leaves
    • freshly squeezed lime juice (to sprinkle over Romaine)
    • radishes, quartered
    • thinly sliced onion
    • chopped cilantro
    • crema
    Make the enchilada sauce:
    Set a comal or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and press down, turning once or twice until chiles start to change color slightly (usually get lighter) and smell all earthy and delicious, 30 seconds or so. Transfer them to a bowl and cover with boiling water (2-3 cups or until submerged). Place a plate on top to keep them under the water. Let sit to plump and rehydrate for 20-30 minutes.

    While you're waiting, add the tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno, and onion to the skillet and cook, turning as needed, until tender and charred in spots, 8-15 minutes total, removing veggies to a bowl as they are done. When you remove the garlic cloves, set them to the side to cool a bit. When you're able to handle them, slip the garlic from its skin and add it to the bowl of reserved veggies.

    Once your chiles are rehydrated, lift them out of the water, leaving behind the stems and the seeds (just use your fingers to pull them off). Add chiles to the blender with 1½ cups of the chile soaking liquid. Puree until smooth.

    Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the chile puree and cook, stirring regularly, until it has thickened to a paste, ~10-12 minutes.

    Return the chile paste to the blender and add the charred veggies along with the chicken stock, oregano, marjoram, black pepper, and toasted bread. You may need to do this in two batches if your blender isn't large enough to hold them all. Just divide everything will all end up back together in the end, so the amount per batch isn't crucial. Puree until as smooth as you can get it, 2 minutes or so.

    Reduce heat under skillet to medium-low and set a strainer over it. Push the puree through, using a rubber scraper or wooden spoon to help you extract as much liquid as you can. You should be left with a small amount of skins and seeds in the strainer. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and allow to simmer for ~6 minutes. Stir in the piloncillo (or brown sugar), starting with the lower amount. Stir in the lime juice. Taste. Add salt and more piloncillo, if it needs it. Keep sauce warm.

    Assemble the enchiladas:
    Clear yourself a workspace - a countertop, an extra large cutting board, or a table. Prepare your garnish (whatever you'd like to use) first. In our house, we like to squeeze lime juice over whole, washed leaves of Romaine lettuce. If you're using radishes, dice them or cut them in slices or quarters. Reserve some of the queso fresco to sprinkle over the top. Have chicken warmed and shredded in a bowl in front of you. Set out a large tray or individual plates. Once you're all set, start assembling the enchiladas.

    Pour oil to about ¼-inch deep into a large skillet set over over medium-high. Once oil is hot, dip the tortillas, one at a time in the oil, and fry until they are pliable; this takes about 30 seconds to 1 minute per tortilla. Grasping with a tong, allow as much oil to drip back into the pan as possible. (You may need to replenish oil as you go along.) Dunk the tortilla into the enchilada sauce that you're keeping warm, making sure to coat the whole thing. Transfer the tortilla to your work surface. Divide the shredded chicken and queso fresco amongst the tortillas. Roll them up quickly and transfer to serving platter (or plate). Repeat until all of the enchiladas are made. Add your choice of garnish to the platter (or plates) and the top of the enchiladas.
    Serve immediatley and enjoy immensely!

    -3 cups cooked chicken comes from ~24 oz. raw chicken. I like to make sur that my chicken is extremely flavorful - this makes better enchiladas. You can used any part of the chicken you like and cooked in any manner. My go-to method is to place chicken breasts in a pot. Add onion, garlic, any herbs I have then, black peppercorns, and a bit of salt. Cover by an inch with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a very gentle bubble (poaching). Let "poach" for 10-15 minutes (depending on thickness of breast), then cover and turn off heat. I'll then allow it to finish cooking through and cooling down a bit in the pan (not removing cover so the heat stays in). When ready to use, I'll remove breasts and shred by hand or with forks. This method is great, because it also gives you a couple cups of flavorful chicken broth.

    -Giving the tortillas a quick dip in the hot oil seems time consuming, but it makes for better tasting enchiladas that hold up well to the sauce. Plus, they're perfectly pliable. Once you get the hang of the quick-fry, quick-dip,'ll develop a method, which makes it go pretty fast. I'm usually sliding one tortilla into the oil as I'm taking one out and so-on. You could also line a sheet tray with a few layers of paper towels and shingle the tortillas there after they come out of the oil. Just cover them with a kitchen towel until they're all done being fried. Once you've fried them all, you can then dip consecutively into enchilada sauce. Find your rhythm, and it can be an enjoyable task.

    these enchiladas were inspired by and adapted from a recipe in Saveur No.149
    Enchiladas in Chile-Garlic Sauce