Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fake Enchiladas!

They're not really fake.  But I'm not proud of how I made them.  Don't worry, though, they turned out to literally be the best enchiladas I've ever eaten in my entire life.  And I never, ever, ever use hyperbole to stress a point.  Ever.

Okay, so to justify my use of the word "fake": enchiladas are a beautiful thing.  The sauce should be made lovingly and the meat and vegetables should be prepared in such a way as to make them tender, juicy, and flavorful.  You should always use fresh ingredients, and avoid canned and pre-packaged foods at all cost.  But sometimes you are pressed for time and you're broke and you're hungry, so you make enchiladas the way I did today.  And you love every minute of it.

1 large chicken breast, chopped into 1" cubes ($1.00 if you cut it yourself)
1/4 each of a large red, green, and yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips (I got a pre-sliced mix for $3.11)
1/2 yellow onion, sliced (already had it at home)
1/2 tub of onion and chive cream cheese ($0.45 on sale)
1 small can salsa verde ($1.25)
1/2 jar Mrs Rendfro's Black Bean Salsa, or salsa of your choice ($1.85)
generous handful or two of shredded "taco cheese" ($0.75 on sale)
beer (the equivalent amount to what you'd typically pour out for your homies) (price is negligible)
1/2 can chipotle peppers in adobo (already had it at home, but typically about $0.50)
4-5 flour tortillas, soft taco size ($1.30)

Total Cost: $10.21  Cost per serving: $2.55!!!

Okay, first things first.  I knew I wanted rice and beans to go with this, so I went ahead and started a pot of brown rice, seasoned with chili powder, salt, pepper, and dried red chilies.  Next, I butchered up my chicken (I bought a pack of split breasts for less than $4, cut one up and put the rest in the freezer for later) and added it to a large skillet with some butter (oil would have been better but I was out) and onions.  When the chicken was seared but not yet cooked through, I added the peppers and the chipotles.

Chicken and peppers and onions, Oh My!

A note on the chipotles, if you haven't used them before:  Always keep these in your pantry.  I use them for everything, and they are so delicious that you have to get in the habit of using them if you don't already.  They come packed in a thick red sauce (adobo) with onions, and you have to fish them out, slice them open, and scrape out the seeds and membranes with a spoon or the back of a knife if you don't want to die from hot-mouth.  If you don't necessarily want to use the peppers in your cooking, you can just spoon a little of the sauce into your dish for an instant punch of flavor (try mixing the adobo with some chopped garlic and mayo for a spicy aioli to spread on sandwiches).

When the pan started to get a little dry, I added some of the salsa, a splash of beer, the rest of the adobo sauce from my can of chipotles, and the cream cheese.  I'd never made enchiladas with cream cheese, but several recipes I've seen call for sour cream, which I hate, so when I saw my favorite flavor of cream cheese on sale, I decided it would made a lovely substitute.  And man, do NOT miss out on this ingredient, because this literally elevated the dish to a level I never could have imagined without it.  The cream cheese makes the dish.  The chipotles are almost as essential, for the spice and smoky flavor they contribute, but the cream cheese is king here.  Trust me on this.

There is no way you could ever understand how delicious this is.  Unless you make it.

Okay, once I had all my stuff simmering away, I got my casserole dish ready.  This would have been way better (and would have fed more people) in a 9x13 dish, but all I had was a little 8x11 (or thereabouts), and it worked out just fine.  Pour the entire can of salsa verde over the bottom of the pan (you can Pam the sides of the dish at this point if you are so inclined, but hunger made me forget) and get your tortillas ready.  If the tortillas are rather flexible, you can use them as-is, but if they are a bit stale or too cold, they might tear, so you should nuke them for a few seconds to warm them up.

By this point, all the good stuff in the skillet was sizzling in a creamy and thick sauce.  If your sauce is too thick or too dry, add another splash of beer.  If it's pretty soupy, let it cook a bit longer.  When it's ready, spoon about a spatula-full of stuff in the center of a tortilla.  Roll it up burrito-style, then place it seam down in your casserole dish.  Repeat until you can't fit any more enchiladas in the pan.  Top with a generous serving of salsa (I do not believe in store-bought enchilada sauce.  Even if you're being lazy and can't make a sauce, use salsa or Rotel and you'll be just fine.  Enchilada sauce is poison.) and top the whole shebang with enough cheese to clog your arteries at the mere sight of it.  Or a healthier portion, whatever.  I opted for the artery-clog.

Don't let anyone fool you: pre-shredded cheese is the devil, but if you don't own a cheese shredder, it's a necessary evil on Enchilada Night.

That's it, folks!  Pop that baby in the oven at about 350 degrees for as long as it takes for the cheese to bubble and the edges of the tortillas to crisp and brown.  Don't set a timer, just keep an eye on it. You'll know when it's done.

For the rice: when it was done, I pulled out the red chilies and added half a can of Bush's Grillin' Beans, black bean fiesta variety.  Huge mistake.  That shit is nasty.  But I ate it anyway, and I have lots of leftovers!

Poor lighting and a chipped plate help to drive home the idea that this is a poor-man's supper.  I was just too dang hungry and intoxicated by the aroma to wait long enough to take a proper photo.

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