Friday, June 27, 2008

Chicken Enchiladas and Fried Plantains

It has been a lazy week in terms of cooking. I have taken a break from food blogging for two reasons; I have been experiencing Food Blahs and I have been practicing my photography. Food Blahs are a periodic episode where food really doesn't interest me and cooking happens out of necessity more than pleasure. This is one reason I freeze extra leftovers - perfect backup for when you don't want to cook. As for the photography, I received constructive criticism from several sources about my images. To address that, I have been playing around with a fancy camera I own but never really use. It won't happen right away but hopefully you will start noticing an improvement to the images I post of the meals.

As for the Food Blahs, three very black plantains wake my palate again and chase them away. As I test the plantains for ripeness and find them to be perfect, I start thinking about what I can make to go with them. When you buy plantains you want them to be almost black and soft that way when you fry them they will have a nice, sweet flavor which complements spicy food very nicely. Under ripe plantains are practically inedible (think cardboard diskettes) so don't force this part of the recipe if you cannot find them.

Enchiladas can be a good quick meal because it is easy enough to poach chicken breasts (even if they are frozen). Better yet you can purchase a roasted chicken and shred some of it for enchiladas - which is the scenario I am using today. I have a whole roasted chicken and I shred the meat from a thigh and a breast into bite-sized morsels and set aside.

I read a nifty tip to soften the tortillas in my latest issue of Cook's Illustrated. You coat them with cooking spray and heat them in the oven. Since this is something I want to do right before I am ready to assemble, I merely turn the oven to 325 so that it will be warm enough when it comes time to pop them in. I will go into more detail about the process of warming a few steps later.

Meanwhile I decide to use a tomato-based sauce for the enchiladas. I roast three, medium-sized tomatoes on my comal until the skins start to blister. I keep moving the tomatoes around the comal until they are as evenly browned as I can manage and soft enough to remove the skins. I carefully cut away the core (where the vine stem attaches), place the tomatoes in my blender and puree them. I add this sauce to about half a cup of mole poblano and 1/4 cup of chicken stock. [If I was out of mole poblano I would use dried chiles like the California/Anaheim and cloves of garlic. I would soak about 4 dried chiles - after I have destemmed and deseeded them - in a bit of warm chicken broth. I would roast 2-3 cloves of garlic on the comal with the tomatoes. Then I would put everything in the blender; roasted tomatoes, garlic, chiles and chicken broth and puree it all together.] Reserve 1/4 -1/2 cup for garnishing.

Since I have shredded the chicken and set up the sauce, it is time to warm the tortillas for assembly. I spray 15 corn tortillas on both sides with cooking spray (I am using Canola spray), and lay them out in a single layer on two cookie sheets. I put the sheets in my pre-heated oven and let them warm for about 3 minutes. As they are warming, I take a 9x13 inch baking dish, oil it and coat the bottom of the baking dish with a bit of sauce.

When the tortillas are warm, I remove the sheets from the pan and carefully remove a tortilla, place it on top of the sauce from the baking dish, add a bit of chicken, wrap the tortilla around it and place the enchilada with the seam underneath. Repeat this process until all the enchiladas are rolled and placed in the baking dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas in the baking dish and cover everything with shredded cheese; 1 to 1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella or monterey jack cheese. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.

While the enchiladas are heating up, I cook the plantains. I remove the peel from each plantain by making a shallow slice through the skin down the length of each. Then I pull back the peel, remove the tips of each and slice a bit at an angle. Next, I heat about 1/3 cup of canola oil (or any neutral flavored oil) in a large skillet and gently fry the plantains in batches. You want them to be nicely browned on both sides. As each batch is ready to be removed from the oil, I carefully scoop them out with a slotted spatula, drain the oil a bit, and place on a paper towel, covered plate. When they are all cooked I set them aside someplace warm (although I don't mind if they get to room temperature).

Finally, I set up all the fixings. I love topping these with a crisp, shredded iceberg lettuce but I don't typically buy it unless I am making these for a big party. As an alternate, I slice up three scallions (want mostly just the green tops but I decide not to waste any and use them all); 1/3 cup of cilantro leaves (you could chop if you feel up for it); and slice 1/2 an avocado. I place all these fixings (as well as the reserved enchilada sauce in a small pitcher) on the table so everyone can garnish their own enchiladas. When the enchiladas are done, I serve one to three per person and add some plantains to the side.

1 comment:

Lara said...

Jennie - I noticed a huge change in your photos already. Great job!


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