Thursday, July 31, 2008

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

I used to call these green chicken enchiladas until someone pointed out the necessity of naming your food in a manner that makes people want to eat it. Yes, I can cook, but sometimes I need help on the PR front. Anyways, this is one of my first recipes I came up with myself. It still remains one of my favorites as well as a great dish to take to outings. It is super versatile as it can be made vegetarian or fancy with practically no effort. Want veggie? Remove the chicken and cream of chicken soup; add tofu (dried a bit) and cream of celery soup. Fancy? Instead of making it in a casserole style, opt for ramekins in individual portions. I think people miss the fact that most meals can be prepared in a fancy or family style way with little or no tweaking. I like to do that to my recipes depending on the situation, that's why I cook what I cook. Also, if you make this recipe a few times, you should be able to pound it out in about 30 minutes (excluding baking).

So back to the recipe. Being that it is summer, if you can get hold of fresh green chiles, use those instead (roasted and diced). If not, the canned work quite well. I prefer the green, hatch variety of chile for this for its tanginess and good flavor. If you like something a bit more smoky or meaty, try poblanos. The goal here is flavor from these chiles, not heat. Sadly, most people never differentiate the two with chiles; it's either hot or hotter. Chiles can add flavor and depth to a dish without adding a ton of heat. Remember that.

The other point with this recipe is with the tortillas. Tortillas outside of the southwest are becoming increasingly better in quality as local manufacturers pop up, but some are still lacking a lot of moisture and texture. If your tortillas are a bit dry and bland (just bite into one, you will know), use this trick to moisten them up a bit. Heat a medium pot of water until slightly steaming, add some salt, peppercorns, chiles, or whatever else you want to flavor it, and dip your tortillas in this for about 3 seconds right before you use them to build a layer. Just dip, build, dip, and build. It brings a little bit of moisture and prevents your enchiladas from being dry and tacky.

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

2 boneless Chicken breasts (about 8-10oz each)
1 t cumin
1 t chile powder
1 t salt
½ t pepper
½ t cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix seasonings together, place chicken in baking dish, and sprinkle on seasoning. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Bake in oven for about 30-45 minutes or until chicken cooked through. Let chicken cool slightly, then shred or chop.

2 T olive oil
1 Onion, diced
3 cans diced green chiles
1 can diced tomatoes (better if these are with chiles too), drained
1 can cream of chicken (or celery) soup
¾ c sour cream
2 t cumin
1 t chile powder
½ t cayenne
½ t garlic powder
2 t salt
1 t pepper
¼ c cilantro, chopped
1 ½ c Colby jack cheese, shredded
~20 Corn tortillas

In a medium sized skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft. Add diced chicken and chiles, stir and warm. Add tomatoes, chicken soup, and sour cream, cook until slightly bubbling. If too thick, add more sour cream or milk. You are looking for slightly thin because a good amount of moisture will be absorbed by the tortillas, but not too much because you want to avoid the dish getting soggy. So go for something like stewish consistency. Add seasonings and adjust to your liking. Add cilantro last.

In a 9x13 baking dish, spread a small amount of the chicken mixture on the bottom of the dish. This will help prevent sticking. Slice corn tortillas in half (dipped in water or not depending on the quality), arrange enough so it covers bottom of dish, overlapping is fine. Spoon some of the chicken mixture over the layer of tortillas, and then follow with another layer of tortillas. Repeat until you have used up the chicken mixture (probably 4 or 5 layers, this is why the tortilla number varies). Top with grated cheese and place in oven. Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes until cheese is nice and bubbly. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes so it will set.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Trials and Tribulations of Pinto Beans

This recipe came about from my stubbornness in buying canned pinto beans. Nothing wrong with it (heck, I buy canned black and white beans all the time), but it was always something my family did, making pinto beans from the dried version. However, I have failed at this quite a few times. My first attempt was mushy, the second pithy, and the third had no bacon. Yep, utter failure. However, much to the chagrin of my girlfriend, I wanted to try them again. I had tried the stove before, but this time I was going to take the super slow cooking method, the crock-pot. Sweet.

First thing is first, buy a pound of dried pinto beans. If they come with "ham flavoring packets", THROW IT OUT. If I want that kind of flavor, I will buy ramen. Sort through the beans to make sure there are no stones, then place in a big pot and cover with water at least 3 inches above the beans. Soak overnight. This was the first mistake I had; I did not soak them the first time I made them. Do not skip this step; the beans need to take on a lot of water. In the morning, drain the beans and place in a crock-pot. Next comes the best part, throwing everything in and walking away. You will need:

1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeno cut in half
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 smoked ham hock (or a few slices of bacon)

Add the first four ingredients to the pot, and then add water. And ahem, the ham hock or bacon is not optional; you need the smoky flavor to round out the beans. Trust me. Add enough water to cover the beans by about 4 inches. Season heavily, stir, cover, and turn the crock-pot on low. Walk away for about 8 hours. That easy. Taste your beans after about 8 hours, they should be tender but still have a little firmness, and they should not be pithy, but moist on the inside. Fish out the onion, jalapeno, and bacon, discard. Serve the beans with steak, chicken, tortillas, rice, or whatever you feel like. If you enjoy chiles as much as I do, add a can of diced green chiles after the beans are done cooking.

So there you have it. After my mistakes, you benefit by knowing it is really hard to screw these up (because I have not done it yet). Not only are these tasty, but really good for you and quite economical. I have not gone back to canned beans since; hopefully you can do the same.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Spicy Turkey Burgers with Avacado Cream

I stumbled into this recipe the other night after my original burger plan fell through. Apparently blue cheese CAN go bad, even though it is technically already bad. Oh well. I like turkey burgers, but they can be pretty tricky. They love to dry out, and they love to stick. The first can be overcome by adding some kind of binding agent to the mix, in this case the form of an egg. The latter can be done by make sure your grill is well greased (vegetable oil on a paper towel). I cannot tell you how many times a greased grill has saved my butt from a disaster over the flame. Now I do it every time just to be safe.

In case no one has noticed, I tend to favor Mexican flavors, probably due to my growing up in walking distance to the border. So yes, this is a more southwestern burger. I spiced this burger pretty heavily, but it cools off nice with the avocado cream. You can also substitute yogurt for the sour cream if you feel like it (but whatever you do, do not reach for the mayo, trust me, it does not end well).

Southwestern Turkey Burger with Avocado Cream

For the burgers

2 pounds lean ground turkey
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 t. cumin
1 T ancho chile powder
1 t salt
Few dashes hot sauce (and cayenne for those who like it hot)

For the avocado cream

2 avocados, pitted
2 t lime juice
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
1/2 c sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix burger ingredients together, if too wet add some more bread crumbs. Make into ¼ pound patties, making sure to press firm. Preheat grill to high, scrape clean, brush with oiled paper towel, and reduce heat to medium. Grill burgers over medium heat until done.

For cream, smash avocados and toss with lime juice. Mix in other ingredients until pretty smooth.

Toast buns, slather bun with avocado cream, top with burger, lettuce, and tomato. Enjoy!


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Three Way Chicken Part 4: Pot Pie

This is the last recipe I make with my chicken preparation, and it is my newest addition. I ate pot pies as a kid (thank you Marie Calenders) but over the years they have gotten more processed and less, well, good. So I went about trying to make my own and quickly realized how close the prep was to chicken dumplings. That being said, it is remarkably close, with the only changes coming in the topping, thickness of sauce, and the addition of bacon (you can thank my girlfriend for that keen addition).

Chicken pot pie can be prepared individually (if you have ramekins that size) or as a large casserole. However, in my opinion, they should not have a bottom crust as the ratio of crust to sauce is crucial. I like a pie-like crust for my topping, but biscuits work just as well. Pie crust is quite an ordeal, and I promise to cover it in a future post. For now just use this recipe.


3 pieces bacon, chopped
1 onion, diced
2-3 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
2 bay leaves
4 T butter
4 T flour
1/4 C milk
Chicken, shredded
4-5 C chicken stock
3/4 C frozen peas
1 t dried thyme (or 2t fresh)
1 T chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
Dash of cayenne

Add oil and butter to pot until hot; add bacon and sauté until starting to crisp. Add veggies, sauté until barely translucent, add the bay leaves. Mix in the flour and make a roux. Add chicken and let warm, then add stock. Cook until sauce starts to thicken. If sauce is too thick add more stock (you will have some leftover). Add milk and seasonings, and go heavy on the pepper. Let the sauce come to a simmer and cook for about 20-30 minutes. Add peas last. And don't forget to fish out the bay leaves.

Meanwhile, you can prep the crust for the top.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
1 t baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Add shortening and butter to flour, salt, and baking powder, mix with fork, pastry blender or fingers until flaky. Gradually add ice water until the dough just comes together. Mix gently to form a loose ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly butter your ramekins or pan, followed by your chicken mixture. The goal is to mostly fill the pan, but not all the way to the top. Remove the dough from the fridge; roll out on a floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick. Place crust over the chicken mixture, gently pressing down. Bring in edges of crust and pinch around the edges (if you like lots of crust) or cut away excess and press down edges with a fork. Brush top with egg wash and crack some pepper over it. Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until crust is flaky and brown.

So that's it. Chicken three ways from one prep. I hope you find use for it, as it has made my life much easier when I delve into these dishes.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Three Way Chicken Part 3: Chicken and Dumplings

I have enjoyed doing this multiple tiered post over the past week or so, and thanks for the positive feedback. Today's post will focus on the second recipe to come out of this prep, chicken and dumplings. I came about this recipe after I made my mom's, which are tasty but needed just a bit of help in the full on flavor department. Most chicken and dumplings are prepared the same way, making a stock while cooking (or poaching) the chicken, making a sauce from the stock, and cooking the dumplings in that sauce. I really do not deviate much from that basic premise, mostly because it's darn good.

You can really prepare this recipe in one of two ways. You can dice your chicken and make a saucier dish to go under the dumplings, or you can leave the chicken in whole pieces and serve it with the sauce. Since I load my sauce with all kinds of fun stuff, I usually stick to the first application, which allows more integration of chicken and sauce.

Chicken and Dumplings


1 onion, diced
2-3 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
2 bay leaves
3 T butter
3 T olive oil
6 T flour
1/4 C heavy cream (or milk)
Chicken, shredded
5 C chicken stock
3/4 C frozen peas
1 t dried thyme
salt and pepper

Add oil and butter to pot until hot, add veggies, sauté until translucent, add the bay leaves. Mix in the flour and make a roux. Add chicken and let warm, then add stock. Cook until sauce starts to thicken. If sauce is too thick add more stock (you will have some leftover). You will want it a bit thin, as the dumplings will help thicken the sauce. Add cream and seasonings, adjust to taste. Bring to a lively simmer. Add peas immediately before you add dumplings.


1 1/2 C Flour
3 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
3 T Butter
3/4 cup buttermilk.

Mix butter into dry ingredients until flaky, add buttermilk and stir until
combined. If you have any fresh herbs lying around, add those in here (chives or parsley are particularly tasty).

Drop in dumplings by the spoonful into the hot liquid and cover, occasionally basting with the liquid. When the dumplings cook through, about 10 minutes, spoon up and serve.


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