Cooking with the Monkey Pt. 03byRedMonkeyButt©
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In the last two parts of this series, I have covered an entire carne guisada meal for a crowd and I have hopefully helped you make red beans and rice and etouffee. If you think that is all there is to this whole cooking thing I've got going on you've got another think coming. Hold on to your pants as I talk about several more things I like to make on a semi-regular basis. This will be the last cooking How-to I submit for a while as I switch over to baking for something a tad more yeasty and delicious.
Some of the things I use to cook are regional and may not be available where you're located. I try to add in notes for good substitutes, but if all else fails get on Google and search out the stuff I'm using. I know that Rotel is difficult to find up north and anything that is HEB brand can't be found outside of Texas for the most part. A good substitute for Rotel is a can of diced tomatoes and a small can of diced chiles. For the HEB store brand stuff you may just have to find something similar that you like and use that.
While I like to cook from scratch, I do use some things that are canned. I know they're horrible for you and don't compare to the real thing but really... who has time for that shit? I don't. You probably don't, either. So don't sweat it if you buy the canned stuff to make things easier on yourself.
This first meal isn't really a recipe. It's something I throw together when we have leftover refried beans (or leftover beans that I make into refried beans for this meal) and I have chicken that needs to be eaten.
I prefer to use dark meat chicken in everything except chicken salad and chicken cordon bleu. Yes, I know it's not as healthy as white meat chicken, but it stays much more moist when it is cooked in a wet setting like these enchiladas.
As made by me.
When I go out to eat at my favorite Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant, I prefer beef enchiladas over almost all else - with one exception. I adore the enchiladas verdes at Tiagos Mexican Restaurant. They have two locations in San Antonio - one near Sea World and one right by Bass Pro Shops. If you have one near you, I highly recommend the enchiladas verdes. They're spicy and bright and everything a chicken enchilada should be. They also happen to be covered in a nice green sauce as opposed to a milder sour cream sauce. They are perfection with borracho beans and Mexican rice and a nice cold adult beverage of your choice.
I'm not making those enchiladas verdes. I would not be able to do them justice, so they will have to wait to be devoured for the next time I'm on that side of San Antonio. My enchiladas are much simpler than restaurant ones, but they are still rolled and they are still delicious.
My method makes 16-24 enchiladas, depending on how much chicken I'm using. I tend to buy chicken when it goes on sale for $1.00/lb or less and fill my freezer with it, so there are times when I need to use a massive amount of chicken before it goes nasty in the freezer. These enchiladas freeze very well - simply cook everything and roll them, then lay them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or something and stick them in the freezer until they're solid. When they're frozen, place them in a gallon size freezer bag and keep them until you need them, or about a month. Whichever comes first. I cook these 8 at a time so that there are leftovers for lunch the next day, but you can do more or less depending on your needs.
The Shopping List
corn tortillas of your choice
green salsa of choice
* Plain cream cheese works fine in this (you're not going to use much), but I have also found that the chive flavor Philadelphia has out works really nicely as well. Experiment with different flavors and figure out what you like best.
** I make my own, but you can use canned or dehydrated as well. It doesn't matter. 8 enchiladas will only use about ½ a can of beans.
*** Asadero or colby jack are amazing with this, but if you're a cheddar lover, go with it. You just need some cheese to sprinkle over the top of the enchiladas. They're fine without it, too, if you prefer to go cheeseless.
**** I use Hatch green enchilada sauce - 1 can for 8 enchiladas. If you have a green enchilada sauce you prefer, use that. Tuldy's makes a really good enchilada sauce mix. Google them, you can only get it online. It is a bit pricey, though.
Season your chicken with salt and pepper and roast it till it's cooked. If you're using boneless skinless meat, you can shred it easily after it's cooked with the help of a stand mixer or a large bowl and wooden spoon and some elbow grease. If you're using bone-in skin-on chicken parts (I prefer leg quarters) you'll have to get old-school with a couple of forks. Whatever piece of the bird you are using, roast the chicken and then shred the meat.
I use a salsa called Native Texan Hatch Green Chile Salsa. In my area, I have only been able to find this at HEB Central Market. All it is is Hatch chiles, tomatillos, and some other stuff. Find your favorite salsa at the store and see if that company makes a green salsa. I have a preference for Hatch chiles or poblanos because of the heat and flavor. Use what you prefer, or make your own. I included a nice roasted salsa with the carne guisada recipe that would be wonderful with this.
In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, combine your shredded chicken and salsa. I want to say I use a pint or half-pint jar of salsa for four leg quarters worth of meat, but eyeball it and do it to your taste. Heat this of medium heat until it's all warm and then turn the heat down and let it simmer for a little while. The chicken will absorb the flavors of the salsa and make for a better finished product in the end. Simmer it for 10-20 minutes while you get the tortillas ready. Preheat your oven to 350F now.
Now, you will not be able to roll the enchiladas with dry corn tortillas. They will split and you will have one nasty looking (but still delicious) casserole mess on your hands when you pull it out of the oven. In a shallow frying pan, pour a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil into the bottom and get it hot. If you're not sure it's hot enough, stick the end of a wooden spoon into it. If it bubbles, it's hot enough. If it doesn't bubble, it's not hot enough.
When your oil is hot, place a tortilla in it (carefully!) and cook it on both sides for about 10 seconds per side. You don't want to make it crispy, just get it pliable. Set this one aside and continue with the rest of your tortillas. Make sure your beans are good and warm at this point, too.
NOTE: If you do not like the idea of putting tortillas into hot oil and then getting all messy when you need to roll them, then wait until you're ready to start rolling and do this:
Get three or four paper towels off the roll - leaving them connected - and get the damp. Wrap your tortillas in these and put them in the microwave for about 30 seconds. This will steam them and make them pliable enough to roll and not split. HOWEVER, you need to do this in small batches (I do it 8 at a time when I do it this way) and they do not freeze well when softened this way.
At this point, you have some soft tortillas, warm chicken and salsa mixed, and some warm beans. What I do is mix a dollop of cream cheese into the chicken and stir it in well. This adds a nice creamy texture to the filling. You can completely skip this if you don't want that.
Get everything set up assembly line style in front of you. Take a tortilla and smear some beans onto the middle. It doesn't have to be perfect, just get some beans on there. Then spoon a couple tablespoons of the filling into the middle and roll it up. Place the enchilada seam-side down in your casserole dish and repeat the process until you have a full dish.
If you are freezing your enchiladas, you will want to use the oil method to soften the tortillas. Even then you may have some that start to come apart, but you shouldn't have any that completely split open. Just fill your pan and then continue to make the enchiladas until you run out of filling, placing the enchiladas on a lined cookie sheet and then into the freezer. They should keep in the freezer for about a month. They haven't lasted any longer than that in my house.
If you actually went and got the Tuldy's enchilada sauce mix, mix up some of it according to the directions and pour it over your enchiladas. If you're using the can, remember it should be one can for 8-10 enchiladas. Feel free to use more or less depending on your tastes. Some people like more sauce, some people like less. Sprinkle on your cheese of choice and pop the whole thing onto the middle rack of your oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and everything is bubbling around the edges.
These enchiladas are generally a quick meal at my house. They have the beans inside them, so I don't make sides with this unless it's rice or a salad.
Chicken Cordon Bleu
This is something I make less often than my family would like. It's more of a special occasion meal than an all-the-time thing. That said, this is an awesome meal if you need some major stress relief.
The Shopping List
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 thin slices prosciutto (or ham if you want to pay a little less)
½ lb grated Swiss cheese (I use Gruyere)
Panko bread crumbs
Preheat your oven to 350F.
Butterfly open each chicken breast.
Take one breast and lay it on a piece of plastic wrap and then layer another piece of plastic over it. With a rolling pin or heavy smooth-bottom skillet, beat the ever loving shit out of the chicken. Pound it to about ¼-inch thickness. Remove the top layer of plastic and layer a slice of prosciutto over the chicken. Sprinkle on a quarter of the cheese. Tuck in the sides of the chicken and then roll it tightly inside the plastic wrap. If you take the ends of the wrap and run the whole thing along the counter in front of you while holding the excess plastic, it should roll into a nice log. Get it nice and tight and set it aside. Repeat this process with the other three breasts and place them in the fridge while you get everything else ready.
In a shallow dish, season ¼ cup all-purpose flour with salt and pepper. Don't be shy, flour is a nasty, bland substance that needs help to taste good. Set this aside. In another shallow dish, beat two eggs and season them, too. Set this next to the flour and get out a third shallow dish. Season 1 cup of the bread crumbs with the leaves of four sprigs of thyme, one clove of garlic finely minced, salt, pepper, and two tablespoons melted unsalted butter. The butter will help the bread crumbs brown in the oven.
Lightly grease a cookie sheet with some olive oil and set it aside so it's ready. Take your chicken out of the fridge and remove the plastic wrap. Lightly dust the chicken with the flour, dip it into the eggs, and then coat it in the bread crumbs and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat this with the other three rolls. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown and baked through. I turn them once halfway through so the bottoms don't get too dark.
I serve these with sauteed green beans and mashed potatoes.
These two meals are meant to be easy, go-to homemade meals for those nights when you don't want to eat the leftovers and you don't really want a super heavy meal. The chicken cordon bleu also works as one of those meals you can use to impress your guests. Neither meal takes a ton of time to make or a ton of prep. Remember to wash up really well after handling raw chicken.