Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Mexican Feast: Kale and Cheese Enchiladas, Homemade Enchilada Sauce, Refried Black Beans and Mama Grande's Rice

After my Austin trip, I regrouped in CT, spent some time with the people I’d briefly left, ate out for a couple of meals, then got back to cookin’!  Yesterday, some of my favorite girls in the world gathered at my teeny tiny apartment so I could feed them and have some much needed hang time.  Since I’m still channeling Texas, I made quite the feast of Spinach and Kale Enchiladas with Homemade Enchilada Sauce with My Refried Black Beans and Mama Grande’s Rice, stolen out of Texas Monthly Magazine (I can’t let go).  It was an all around evening of feeding the soul with food and friends.
            I’ll start with the Enchilada Sauce.  I found the recipe on allrecipes.com, a great site to use if you want to tailor a recipe to the exact amount of servings you need to produce.  I took the easy (or hard way, some may argue) out and made exactly what the recipe called for, leaving me with tons of leftover enchilada sauce.  Not a bad thing as it turns out, but I’ll talk more about that later.  The enchilada sauce this recipe produced was smoky, spicy and thick- delicious!  I’ll just link to it rather than copy/paste- give credit where credit is due, right?  It’s: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Texas-Enchilada-Sauce/Detail.aspx.  I will say that I used one 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes that I blended and some leftover tomato paste with about ¾ Cup of water added instead of the crushed tomatoes and second can of tomato sauce, respectively. 
            Then came the enchiladas themselves. I had a ton of kale leftover from this weekend and I really wanted to make a healthy, hearty enchilada dish, so I looked at some spinach and cheese enchilada recipes and used one with a few modifications. Note: if you like your enchiladas with more crunch and cheese, add white/yellow onions and more cheese to the filling.  These were fine as is, but I’ll explain after you’ve read the recipe, it’ll make more sense.
1/2 cup sliced green onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
Half a large bunch of Kale, washed and pulled from the rib in small pieces
1 Poblano Pepper, diced
½ Jalapeno, diced
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
    12-15 (6 inch) corn tortillas, depending on pan size

The Mexi-feast!
Your oven needs to be at 375.  Use a tablespoon of butter to coat a medium saucepan, then throw in the onions and garlic and cook till fragrant.  Then add the kale and don’t be afraid to cook it senseless because you don’t want tough kale in your enchiladas!  So about five minutes later, remove from heat and stir in Ricotta and Sour Cream and 1 Cup of the Monterey Jack.  Take that skillet you just used and sauté the poblano and jalapeno until fragrant and a little pliable, about 2-3 minutes over medium heat.  Now warm a skillet over medium to low heat and take the corn tortillas one by one: wet them with a little water so each side is barely wet, then put it in the skillet, letting them warm for about 30 seconds to a minute per side.  I do the water thing because it takes a while to assemble these tortillas and they can crack when folded if they dry out.  I found that by steaming them a bit by using the trick above they stay pliable and moist until it was time to top them off and put them in the oven.  So once you have your tortilla warmed, take a nice spoonful of filling and wrap that bad boy up, placing it seam down in your dish.  You want enough filling in each one so they are nice and plump, and so the seams just cross over each other by a little under an inch.  Do this one by one till you don’t have any more room in your dish.  Now this is where I messed up- I only covered the little roll-ups with sauce until I couldn’t see the corn tortillas anymore.  You need to drown these things in sauce; I mean really lay it on thick.  Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese over the top, then pop it in the oven for about 15-20 minutes! So good.
            The easiest part of this feast was making the refried black beans.  I have yet to find the be-all and end-all of refried bean recipes or met an ancient Mexican lady who can teach me all she knows, so my refried bean dish is really simple and probably not traditional at all.  This made four servings, perfect for the gals and me.  If men are consuming this, double it.  All you need is:
            1 Can Black Beans
            1 can Spicy Ro-tel or an 8 oz can of hot salsa with tomatoes and green chilies
            Olive Oil or Bacon Fat

If you are making these beans for breakfast, as I often do, fry up some bacon or sausage before making the beans in the pan with the leftover fat- it makes them taste amazing!  Don’t do this if you are a vegetarian or watching fat content- substitute a couple of tablespoons olive oil.  The flavor is still there and olive oil is handier, unless you keep bacon fat around.  Drain the liquid from the can of bean and throw it in the hot oiled sauté pan on about medium heat.  Also drain the ro-tel (just add salsa if using that) and put that in the pan.  Take a potato masher to the mixture (you can do this before adding the ro-tel if you like the big chunks of tomato in there) and mash to your heart’s content.  I roughly mash mine I guess you could say.  Let it start to bubble then push it around the pan to prevent from burning or sticking.  I sit there and baby mine, stirring almost constantly.  You will know when they are done- they form a gooey paste of beaniness.  Just make sure you don’t let them burn to the bottom of the pan.  Quick tip:  when I see that the beans are almost paste-y enough I turn off the heat and put the cover on the pan.  This keeps them warm until serving and prevents moisture from escaping and drying out the beans.  We’ve all had dry refried beans.  They’re disgusting.
            Last but certainly not least is Mama Grande’s Rice.  I don’t know Mama Grande, but I am so glad her granddaughter shared Mama’s recipe with Texas Monthly for their “Cook Like A Texan” article.  This rice is the quintessential moist and fluffy Mexican rice that you never thought you could have at home…until now.  I modified (forgive me, Mama Grande!) and used olive oil for vegetable oil and ½ a tomato and ½ an onion because my silly, tiny food processor was too small for the job (I just realized the recipe calls for ½ cup onion, not half an onion, but it was still yummy).  It still turned out great, but if you can follow the original, try it, I’m sure it’s perfect.
            2Tbl. Vegetable oil
            1 C long grain white rice
            1 medium tomato, in wedges
            ½ C onion, chopped
            2 ¼ C Chicken broth, divided
            1 clove Garlic
            1 tsp. cumin seeds- very important to use seeds, so much flavor!
            ½ tsp black pepper
            ½ tsp salt
            3 T. tomato sauce

*I’m just going to write exactly what Texas Monthly told me, because it was spot on.
Heat oil in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat.  Add rice and stir every 3 to 4 minutes until it turns golden brown.  Meanwhile, put tomato, onion, and a ¼ C broth in a food processor and blend until tomato is liquefied.  Grind garlic and cumin seeds with a molcajete or mortar and pestle*.  Add the tomato mixture, the garlic and cumin, pepper, salt, tomato sauce and remaining broth to the rice.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and leave covered for another 5 minutes.  Uncover and fluff with a fork before serving.  Serves 5 to 6.
Kara, Fay and Grace: Mexican Food-eating Maniacs
* If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, add the garlic and cumin seeds to the food processor when you blend up the tomato mixture.
            So that’s the Mexican feast.  It was super delicious and satisfying and made me feel like I was back in Austin again.  Sigh.  I guess I’ll just have to keep cooking like this!

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