Chicken Enchiladas

Anyone who knows me well knows that I could eat Mexican food for every meal.  This preference stems all the way back to a childhood of begging to go to Taco Bell or to make tacos at home as often as possible.  As I’ve gotten older, my Mexican palette has expanded from crunchy tacos with meat and sour cream ONLY to guacamole, enchiladas, Mole and fish tacos.  I can make a mean taco, but I decided it was time for me to tackle homemade enchiladas.

I’ve looked at lots of recipes and watched various celebrity chefs make them on TV. I’ve taken note of the components of enchiladas at my favorite Mexican spots and I concluded the following as I developed my recipe:

1)      The enchiladas must be chicken enchiladas.

2)      The chicken must be shredded so as to absorb the delicious sauce and flavor.

3)      The tortillas must be corn tortillas.  This is critical not just for taste, but also for texture.

4)      No cumin allowed.  I don’t know why, but I just don’t care for this flavor.

5)      Spicy is better, just not so spicy that you can’t feel your mouth.

6)      Cream cheese is an excellent addition to the sauce inside and on top of the enchiladas.  It adds a touch of richness, balances the heat of the hot peppers, and it’s a little bit tangy.  Nobody wants an enchilada lacking in flavor and cream cheese won’t let you down.

7)      The tortillas must be soft in order to roll them.  I prefer not to dunk them in a bunch of hot oil (the best way to keep them from splitting and to hold their shape) so I microwave them between a few damp paper towels.  Not so authentic, but it means I can eat enchiladas more often, which is the ultimate goal here.

Now that we’ve covered those details, I’m hungry.  Let’s make some chicken enchiladas.

These ingredients will soon be combined in nothing short of deliciousness.  Don’t forget the tomato paste like I did in this picture.  It’s a critical player.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Rub a boneless, skinless chicken breast with olive oil.

Sprinkle both sides with chili powder, paprika, season salt, and garlic salt.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.

After it’s done, allow the chicken to cool for a few minutes.

Then, using your best tools (your clean hands) shred the chicken.

Chop up onion, garlic and jalapeno, seeds and all.  Please try not to touch your face until you’ve thoroughly washed your hands or you will be very sorry.  I speak from experience.

Sauté onion in olive oil over medium heat until translucent.

Then throw in the garlic and half of the jalapeno, allowing them to soften for about 30 seconds.

Sprinkle in the rest of the chili powder, paprika and season salt.

Drop in half of the cream cheese.

Pour in half of the chicken broth.

Plop in the tomato paste.

Stir all of that deliciousness together until combined.

Throw in the shredded chicken.

Let everything hang out together until the sauce has reduced a bit.  It should be thick and absorbed into the chicken.  It shouldn’t be too loose or assembling the enchiladas will be a disaster.

Once reduced, remove the chicken from the skillet and set it aside.

Then be lazy like me and throw the rest of the cream cheese into the same skillet.  This will actually catch some of that good flavor left in the skillet.  Laziness or genius? Most likely both.

Add in the remaining chicken broth and jalapenos.

Mix everything together and reduce until slightly thickened.

Microwave the stack of tortillas in damp paper towels for a minute or so on low power to soften them.

Then start assembling by placing 1/8 of the chicken mixture in each tortilla, rolling them up and placing them in the baking dish as you go.

I didn’t do the best job preventing these from tearing slightly.  Oh well.  Nothing a little bit of sauce and cheese can’t cover up.

Then cover the top of the enchiladas with the cream cheese sauce.

And then top ‘er off with the shredded cheese and bake the enchiladas for 15-20 minutes on 300 until the cheese melts.

Here is the final product.  Enjoy!

Y’all come back and visit,

Sugarlump

Ingredients:

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp season salt
  • ¼ tsp garlic salt
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cup chicken broth
  • Approximately 2/3 package of cream cheese
  • 8 small corn tortillas
  • ½ cup shredded cheese

1)      Cover chicken breast in 1 tbsp olive oil and then season with 1 tsp chili powder, ½ tsp paprika, ¼ tsp season salt and ¼ tsp garlic salt.  Bake at 400 degrees on a baking sheet for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.  Let cool and then shred chicken.

2)      Sauté onion in 1 tbsp of olive oil until translucent over medium heat.  Add in garlic and ½ of the jalapeno, cooking for approximately 30 seconds before adding remaining chili powder, paprika, and season salt.  Add in 1/2 of chicken broth, the tomato paste, and 1/2 of cream cheese.  Mix together until combined.

3)      Add shredded chicken to mixture and allow to reduce until most liquid is absorbed.   Set aside in a separate bowl

4)      Using the same skillet, add remaining cream cheese, chicken broth and jalapeno pepper, whisking together until incorporated.  Let thicken.

5)      Wrap stacked tortillas in damp paper towels and heat in microwave until soft.

6)      Assemble tortillas, placing them in a baking dish.  Once all tortillas are assembled, cover them with cream cheese sauce and shredded cheese.

7)      Bake at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted.

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Family Visit: Scene I

I haven’t posted much this past week as I have been a tad busy with out-of-town guests (my immediate family), visiting my grandparents in Kentucky, picking beans out of the garden, making potato and chicken salad (clarification: potato salad and chicken salad, not salad with chicken and potatoes.  That would be weird.), cleaning up my house, drinking enough water to match the rate at which I am sweating it out due to the triple digit heat wave, breaking up and shelling beans to put up, wrangling my cats, watching the clouds, working at my day job, watering my scorched container garden, sending thank you notes, catching up on recorded reruns of Pioneer Woman, tracking severe weather across the U.S., and remembering my name.

It has been quite a week, but a good one.

I had Mexican food for dinner Friday, Sunday and Monday nights.

I repeat: It was a good week.

It was also nice to see my family.  We tend to have some good laughs when we’re together.

The fun began when my sister drove down from Lexington and we picked up my parents at the airport the Friday before last.

Getting down to business, we drove straight to Mexican Restaurant #1 for dinner.

My Dad ordered a large Margarita, which was served in what seemed to be a punch bowl with a stem.

I had taken a few minutes to decide what kind of drink I wanted and I was telling the waitress that I would like a strawberry daiquiri as my Dad’s water basin of a drink arrived.

The waitress then asked me what size drink I would like.  Seeing my eyes bulge out of my head as they placed my Dad’s drink on the table, she cracked a smile and devilishly asked:

“You want big?”

I was a little hesitant to order a drink as large as my head, but I kind of wanted one.   The waitress was a very perceptive lady and concluded:

“You want big.”

A few minutes later, this is what arrived.

Yes, Eugene, that is my drink.

As you can see, we were off to a great start with the family visit.

We enjoyed a tasty dinner and caught up on what had gone on in the past week.  I was telling my parents about taking my cats, Gus and Scarlett, to the vet for the first time since moving to Nashville.  I had to take them in for a distemper shot and I was going on about how Scarlett had behaved quite badly, per usual. I believe at this point in the conversation Eugene was sort of half-listening as she tried to make a dent in the 4 plates of food she had been served because she looked up confused and asked:

“Wait, she had to get a shot for his temper?”

We all died laughing. Another great “Julia-ism.”

Oh, you crack me up, Eugene.

More to come on the rest of the family weekend.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Hello, Nashville!

Hello, Nashville!

19 driving hours, 1150 miles and 8 states later, Amarillo, my mom, my dad, Gus, Scarlett and I arrived in my new hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.   My dear mom and dad, as well as Amarillo (my moving truck that I grew attached to) were along for the journey to help me move.

Although my cat Gus meowed constantly for about an hour straight after we left, the cats traveled much better than I thought they would.  I think their pleasantness had a lot to do with my ingenious set-up for them in the back of my car.  I purchased the largest animal crate that would fit into the back of my Jeep and used the divider (intended to be used vertically) to create a mezzanine level so the cats wouldn’t be on top of each other.  Scarlett took the main floor and stretched out in the camper while Gus opted for the upper deck and was able to see out the windows and enjoy the scenery.  I realized about an hour into the trip that Gus’ blanket (“the mommy”) was outside the cage so at our first rest stop I put the blanket in his bed in the cage.  He snuggled right in and the meowing abruptly ceased.  What a weird cat.

They were much more relaxed when we were moving at a steady pace than when we were stopped.  I think the might have thought that a stop meant we had arrived at the vet’s office.   They do not like the vet.

The drive was especially beautiful in some of the states we passed through, particularly Virginia and eastern Tennessee.  This was my view for about 500 miles.  Not too shabby.

I love me some hills.

This was a very pretty sky.  I can’t remember if this was late Thursday or very early Friday.  It’s all a blur.

Here is my naked apartment right after I signed my lease and my life away.

Love the pale pink counter tops. Not.

I will be painting as soon as I have some energy after packing up, driving across the country and then unpacking my life.  Maybe I’ll feel up to it by the time my lease is up.

My seeeester, Eugene, and my cousin Lauren drove down from Lexington, Kentucky (where they both go to school with the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champions.  No big deal).

They were such great helpers and I really don’t think I could have gotten everything carried up into my 3rd floor apartment and pretty close to set up without them.  I think I’ll keep them around.  I tried to get them to stay at my apartment but they gave me some spiel about having to get back to school for class.  Lame.

Who could say no to this?

After a few hours of unpacking the truck and carrying my ridiculous amount of stuff up to my apartment on Friday, we were all starving and we went to one of my new favorite spots in Franklin called Sol.  It’s kind of funky Mexican or Mexico meets the South or something like that.   Whatever you want to call it, it is obnoxiously delicious.  We started out with some freshly made table-side guacamole.   YUM.   As our entrees were ready to be served, our waiter took the guacamole bowl and I was very displeased because I had not yet scraped the bowl clean with the homemade tortilla chips so as not to leave a morsel of deliciousness behind.

I quickly got over my outrage as soon as my dinner arrived.  I ordered one of the evening’s specials: chipotle honey pan seared salmon with herb and parmesan polenta (and some sautéed spinach that I ignored).  This was heaven on a plate.  I have a picture that will surely make you hop in your car and drive however many miles (it doesn’t matter how many) to taste a bit of this wonderfulness.

After dinner, we were all drifting off into food comas and wanted to pass out.  Eugene, Lauren and I had to make a quick trip to Walmart, however, because I had no food in the house and no couch for my sister or cousin to sleep on.  As with all Dyer Walmart trips, this was an adventure.  We were delirious at this point and must have circled the bedding department 43 times before I made up my mind on which sheet set and blanket would coordinate best with my décor (even though they were going on an air mattress).

I expected to find an air mattress in this section also, but I was informed by my cousin Lauren that such an item would actually be found in the “camping and recreation” section.  I mentioned to her that I was impressed by how well she knew the departments and that I was grateful to have her along because I never would have found it on my own.  Her response:

“Honey, I was practically raised in Walmart.”

Her parents might find this statement troubling, but I thought it was hilarious.

We got back to my apartment and Lauren blew up the air mattress (inflated it, rather.  She didn’t explode it.  That would have been real bad).  And then we all passed out at the thought of more unpacking the next day.

More to come.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sugarlump

New York City on Business

My mother and I were just in New York City for a quick business trip before I leave the nest at the end of next week.

Clarification: My mother was in NYC on business and I was there to eat, not for business…….unless you consider eating serious business……which I do.  So, never mind, I am sticking to my story that my mom and I were both there on business.

Side note: My mother would like the record to show that, while on the train from Boston to New York, a fellow passenger asked if we were able to connect to the internet on our laptops.  She informed him that we were indeed connected and asked if he had completed a few steps required to connect.  He had.

Then she suggested he open a browser window and see if that prompted the final step of agreeing to the terms of use policy.  After a few seconds, he confirmed that that “did the trick” and he was connected to the internet. 

My mother then beamed with delight and made some celebratory hand gestures because she had just (successfully) provided technical support.  If you knew my mother (and also knew that my father is in the field of Information technology), you would realize how monumental this moment was in her life.  And with that, we were off to a great start.

Upon de-training in Penn Station, I passed Detective Lionel Fusco from one of my favorite shows “Person of Interest.”   We both played it cool, but it was a pretty big deal.  I would have taken a photo but a) I’m not that quick on my feet and b) I was playing it cool.

After checking into our hotel, my mom and I made our way to Bloomingdale’s.  Here are some pretty flowers they had in the entry:

We didn’t hit it big at Bloomie’s, but we each got a dress.  Actually, it was the same dress, one for me and one for her.  I must have still been on a celebrity-sighting high to have bought matching dresses with my mother (especially after all of the years I was forced against my will to wear matching outfits with my sister), but we will soon be living 1,000 miles apart so I guess I’ll let this one slide.

After leaving Bloomingdales, it wasn’t quite time to eat yet, so we strolled around the city for a little while. There were lots of purty trees in bloom even though the weather had decided to turn back to winter less than a week after the first day of spring (confirming my decision to move to the South):

OK, enough of that.

Now, let’s get down to business:  Eating

Dinner: Dos Caminos

I have been waiting years for this dining experience and boy did I have some high expectations after all of the talk from my parents, friends, and Jessica Simpson about how great this place is.  I am pleased to report that it did not disappoint.  Very tasty guacamole (although I think Rosa Mexicana has a slight edge), delicious tacos pescados and dos enchiladas. Yum.  I just ate a huge lunch, but typing that made me hungry again.  Mexican food does that to me.

Apparently I liked it so much that I forgot to take a picture. But before my voracious appetite took over, I did manage to snap a shot of the best sangria ever.  My mom and I debated over whether to order individual glasses or a pitcher given it was just the two of us.  After a long debate and some number crunching, we decided to go for the pitcher and agreed to just leave the extra if it seemed like too much.

We had no problem polishing it off…

Hey now, don’t judge.  It was a special occasion: my first dinner since the night before.

Lunch: A Voce

Oh my word was this divine.  This wasn’t just really good, fancy-shmancy Italian.  This was exceptionally innovative, light, and yet rich in flavor and texture, and just the right portion size (to keep me from overindulging and feeling ill, although I could have plowed through a few more servings without hesitation).

Thank goodness this was not an all-you-can-eat buffet or I might not have lived to tell about it.

I think I have found my new favorite non-Mexican dish and it is comprised of gorgonzola-filled gnocchi, topped with finely chopped smoked walnuts and tiny cubes of apple, served in a butter sauce.  Soft, creamy, and savory with a hint of sweetness.  Perfection.  My taste buds are still rejoicing and my stomach is growling for more.

(What happened to my gnocchi? Oh, that’s right. I ate it. Darn.)

As we finished our glorious meal, my mother and I promptly made a pact to meet up in NYC every year.  I think this agreement had a lot to do with our determination to dine at this establishment again.  And again. And again and again.

DEE-lish.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Sugarlump