Friday, March 9, 2012

The Whole Enchilada.

I am a sucker for Mexican food. That includes the sauce covered, down and dirty stuff that was born in the states. You know, the deep fried ground meat concoctions swimming in pools of greasy orange cheese. Tacos (those crunchy taco Tuesday bar tacos that are made with already broken Ortega taco shells and a teaspoon of oily meat covered in iceberg, shredded cheddar and Tapitio hot sauce) and cheese covered, cheese filled enchiladas are my weakness. They are my kryptonite. What's even worse is that I have a seriously unnatural addiction to a fast food taco chain. I can't even drive by the place without uncontrollably salivating with the phantom taste of fire sauce in my mouth. It's ludicrous. Perhaps I have a cheesy, spicy, tortilla cradled meat deficiency. Yeah, it's a medical condition.

I'm not saying that I can't tell the difference between good and bad Mexican food. I definitely can. I am a huge fan of fresh, regional Mexican cuisine. I'm just saying that I can appreciate Americanized Mexican food too. Taco night was a huge occasion in my house growing up. My job was to chop the tomatoes and lettuce. My mother would bake off the store bought taco shells and open up a bag of pre-shredded, bright orange cheddar cheese. Tons of ground beef would get browned in a pan and a packet of mysterious taco spice would get stirred in. Sour cream, jarred salsa, and hot sauce were set up on the table. It was so much fun. It was like having a crazy taco buffet but at home. We'd build our tacos and sit in front of the TV and watch Jaws or whatever new movie HBO had on.

I know it's hard to see the cuisine you were raised with get bastardized. I often get annoyed when I see the words Cuban Sandwich on a menu (unless I'm in a Cuban restaurant). Just because you put pork on a sandwich, that doesn't make it Cuban! But I love Cuban American food. A lot of my favorite dishes were created in Little Havana, Miami. It's only natural for cultures and cuisines to adapt to their environments. Is it better or worse than the "real" thing? Or has it just become it's own unique cuisine. As long as it's tasty, I really don't care if it's authentic regional food or not. So long as it's cooked from the heart.

Chicken and Green Chili Enchiladas

(for the sauce)
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon New Mexican or ancho chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 serrano chili, minced (optional if you can't take the heat)
2 clove garlic, minced
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

(for the filling)
2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breast
olive oil
1/2 cup of chopped scallions
1 cup roasted green hatch chilies (you can use roasted poblanos too)
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

(for enchiladas)
8 (10 inch) flour tortillas
1/2 pint sour cream
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
a few sprigs of cilantro
sliced black olives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
In a roasting pan bake coat the chicken with olive oil and season well. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked though (165F).

Meanwhile, in a pot over medium heat add all of the sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes so the flavors can meld.

Shred the chicken and mix with the scallions, green hatch chilies. Let the mixture cool and add the pepper jack cheese.

In a 9x13 inch baking dish. Pour a little of the cooled enchilada sauce on the bottom of the dish. Place a tortilla in the dish and roll up 1/8th of the mixture in the tortilla.  Repeat until you have all the tortillas filled side by side. Cover with enchilada sauce and the cup of cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven 30 minutes.

To serve garnish with sour cream, black olives, and cilantro. Enjoy. xoxo