Sunday, May 9, 2010

Enticing Enchiladas

I can't get enough of Mexican food. If it not for the fact that my belly would swell in more ways than one were I to feast on it on a nightly basis, I might do just that. I love to cook it, I love to smell it, I love to devour it. The fact that I could run away with an enchilada is why I was oh-so-excited a couple weeks ago when I discovered that the Latitude 22 potluck to which I was invited presented me with an opportunity to spend some quality time with some of my favorite things: corn tortillas, salsa verde, black beans, cilantro, and, perhaps my favorite spice in the world, cumin.

Before I launch into my recipe, let's talk about what a cool idea a latitude (or longitude, for that matter) themed potluck is. The idea is that you can prepare any type of delicacy, of the cocktail, appetizer, entree, or dessert variety, as long as it is inherent to the cuisine of a country that falls on the given latitude, which, in the case of our friends Shannon and Chad's potluck soiree, happened to be 22. Oh, the possibilities, the diverse array of options. Latitude 22 marches through Chad, Senegal, China, Taiwan, Cambodia, India, Hawaii, and Mexico, just to name a smattering of the locales. The food prepared for and served at the party included some of the tastiest saag paneer and dal this side of Delhi, a peanut sauce laden platter of sauteed spinach inspired by Chad, as well as mango lassi, chai, and a knock your socks off pitcher of mai tais.

Then there were my enchiladas. A couple of words about my take on the enchilada. They are essentially a Mexican version of lasagna, including layer upon layer of cheesy, beany goodness. Another necessity, something to which I'm currently addicted (seriously, I found myself dipping carrots into it the other day) is the dollop of Mexican salsa crema. This heavenly condiment is a creme fraiche-esque type of sour cream that is a staple of Mexican and Latin American cuisines. After you try it once, you will insist on appointing it a regular member of your condiment shelf. It goes great over eggs, on top of a baked potato, and even in soup. Imagine it over a bowl of chili. Salsa crema can be found in the refrigerated dairy section of most grocery stores in New York City. I'd say anywhere, but I'm not exactly sure that the Star Market in Hyannis would be so inclined.

If you want to go to there, here's how.


1 can refried kidney or black beans
1 can chipotles en adobo, chopped fine or pureed in a food processor (optional)
1 small red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
*1 pound crimini, baby bella, or white mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 tablespoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon each garlic power, onion powder, crushed red pepper flakes, dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin (aka heaven)
Salt and pepper
2 cans salsa verde or red enchilada sauce, whatever your poison (I personally prefer the verde)
1 pound small corn tortillas
*1/2 pound fresh spinach
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper

2 avocados, pitted and cut lengthwise into long, thick slices
Small bunch chopped, fresh cilantro
Mexican salsa crema

*If you prefer meat version, simply substitute the mushrooms and spinach with 1 pound of ground and browned beef or turkey combined with the taco seasonings.


Preheat the oven to 425.

In a medium saucepan, over low heat, combine the refried beans and a 1/4 cup of water, stir, and allow to thin for 5 or so minutes. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the garlic, saute for 3 minutes, and then add the mushrooms and the spices. Saute for 5 minutes, until the mushrooms release their juices, but retain their texture. Set aside.

Ladle a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a 9-inch casserole pan, and then top with a layer of the corn tortillas. They will probably overlap, but that's fine. Add a layer of the beans, either in an even layer or in dollops, whatever you prefer, followed by a layer each of of the mushrooms, raw spinach, and cheddar cheese. Ladle sauce over the beans, veg, and cheese, and then sprinkle with about a tablespoon of ground chipotles, if you really crave a kick. Continue the layering process until you run out of room or of ingredients, whichever comes first, topping with a layer of tortilla, cheese, and sauce.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until the cheese and sauce are bubbling.

Meanwhile, combine the salsa ingredients in a small bowl.

To serve, scoop the cooked enchiladas out of the pan like a lasagna or casserole, top with some salsa, cilantro, and a dollop of salsa crema. Enjoy the decadence and the inevitable toot that will follow the next morning.

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