Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New American Cooking: Gourmet Enchiladas with Two Sauces, Tortilla Sauce and Chili Sauce

I absolutely adore Mexican Cuisine. It's one of the easiest, most accessible and tastiest cuisines by far. And one of my favorite dinners growing up was always Taco night or Enchilada night at home.

Being a navy family had some upsides and some downsides. My family lived in military housing when I was little and when we were stationed in Hawaii. Life on the base was pretty livable. There were playgrounds and ballfields, pool halls and bowling alleys, and clubs for both the enlisted and the officers. One of the downsides was facilities were not always near where you lived.  For example we would go shopping at the Military Commissary (Grocery) on the main base. It became a tradition that on shopping night we would have either "Taco night" or "Kielbasa, potatoes and kraut night "for dinner. It was a monthly tradition as my Mother and Grandmother would go shopping normally once a month for a"big shop"! I mean they would take a list of all the food needed to cook all the meals we would have for the month. It would end up being three grocery carts full of food. My brother and I would sometimes help but mostly just got dropped off to play or hang with my Dad. It sounds funny but everyone did that back then. Everyone was on a budget and a lot of people did not have the time or the transportation to go to the store regularly.

It is kind of interesting that we used to live like that. I mean in our world today, especially Mine in NYC. , where one can get anything by walking two blocks one would ever need, that we had to shop once a month for both convenience and budgetary issues. I mean it was a trek to the base where the store was and then there was all the planning that went into it. I mean those ladies in my family did a great job of keeping us happy and well taken care of. And it was a lot of hard work. We are so lucky today to live in a world where food is so easy to get. And most people don't even cook as much anymore, with the advent of "eating out" as the norm.  Thank goodness more are starting and many for the same reason's my Mom and Grandmother cooked, Money!

But back to Mexican food. My love of tacos and enchiladas began in the grocery isle with the advent of "Old El Paso" Mexican food products. They became widely available when I was little and our home kitchen jumped right onto that taco wagon. Refried Beans right out of the can mixed with spices and sour cream, red rice, taco shells, a packet of seasonings and ground beef filling was enough to turn our dinner table into a fiesta!  I still love a good taco night to this day as it's still a fun dinner. However, my vision of Mexican food, like the rest of the US, has grown up since then.

In the last 10 years chefs have been creating delicious and gourmet versions of the simple peasant foods of Mexico and South America. And Tex Mex which is different from other types of Mexican foods has taken a direction all it's own. Mexican cooking especially Tex Mex is real American Cooking. It is original and indigenous and takes from the cooking and food traditions of the peoples who came before us and whose traditions were older than the trees. Chef's like Rick Bayless show us the purity and simplicity of the mexican kitchen as well as the deep flavors and different authentic ingredients that make that cuisine soar.

So as I approach Mexican food these days I too find appeal in finding new ways to present "the same old things". I mean an Enchilada is an Enchilada. But I think we all know not all enchiladas are created equally! So as I was thinking about making an enchilada that would be unique I stumbled upon the concept of the Enchilada Banderas. Basically the idea behind this style of Enchilada plate is that it combines different colored sauces and fillings in a trio. The sauces were a red sauce (chili), a green sauce (verde), and a white sauce ( Suiza). All put together on one plate they represent the colors of the Mexican flag. It's a fun a tasty combo.

Well not wanting to make three different kinds of Enchiladas I settled on the idea that I would make two different sauces for one stella Enchilada. I also got the idea that the two sauces should be somewhat contrasting. Namely one creamy and one Spicy. I had recently read about so called Mexican Gravy or the red chili sauce that serves as the basis for all good Tex Mex. And wanting a different "creamy sauce" I stumbled upon and Emeril Lagasse recipe for a Tortilla sauce. So I thought lets combine the two and come up with a filling for the enchilada which is very tasty and different. Potato was a Rick Bayless idea and spinach or cooked Kale also sounded interesting.

So I worked on it and It really came together nicely. I added butternut squash and potatoes with sauteed greens, some white cheddar cheese and some salty crumbly Mexican cheese in a simple sauce of green chili's and  a little sour cream. Just enough to bind things together in the corn tortilla. Made the two sauces which were each a singular sensation and work of labor and love. But put together on the plate, amazing. So this recipe takes some time and effort. You could short cut an use a canned sauce for the red and figure out how to make the white sauce but the effort is worth it. Believe me it's good. So next time you want to kick your Mexican meal up a notch, try this Enjoy Ya'll!

Forrest's New American Enchiladas ( Potato, Butternut Squash, Greens, Green Chili and Cheese) with Tortilla Sauce and Mexican Red Chili Gravy

New American Enchiladas with duo of sauces

Serves 6

6 large 8 inch Corn Tortillas
1 small onion chopped
1 large Potato cubed and cooked ( in Microwave)
1 cup cubed butternut squash cooked ( in Microwave)
2 cups chopped greens kale or swiss chard sauteed
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 can green chili's (mild)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 T milk
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp oil plus 1/2 cup oil
2 cups grated sharp white cheddar
1/2 cup Hard White Queso Fresca crumbled ( or Feta Cheese)

3 cups Tortilla sauce ( recipe to follow on this blog) held very warm on the stove top
2 cups Mexican Red Chili Gravy ( recipe to follow on this blog) held very warm on the stove top


Place onion in a large skillet with oil and over medium heat soften
Add potatoes and squash and spices and salt and pepper to taste
Cook till spices bloom but don't over stir and break up the potatoes
Add the green chili's and sour cream and milk and make sauce
Hold warm. You may have a little extra more than you need for 6 servings.

To make the Enchiladas:

Heat 1/4 cup of oil till hot and fry the tortillas till soft and not yet crispy.
Pull off and place 2 spoonfuls of the filling inside add some of the greens and then some of both cheeses and roll ( make sure you don't overstuff ) then place seam side down on a baking sheet. Repeat till all the Enchiladas are done. Hold in warm oven.

To Serve:

Place a enchilada with spatula into a flat bottomed serving bowl or pasta bowl.
Cover with both sauces first with the tortilla sauce on one end and the gravy on the other end.
sprinkle with remaining cheddar cheese. and garnish with a parsley sprig or cilantro leaf. Enjoy Ya'll!

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