Friday, March 27, 2009

3 Layer Red Chile Enchiladas

Since I have been slacking on menu plan Monday's for the past few weeks I find myself coming up from my sewing studio at whatever hour hunger strikes me and scrounging around for what to make.

Tonight I opened the frig and found: an open can of refried beans with a small scoop missing that I assume Mr. Rainbow Creek used for bean dip, a package of corn tortillas that were on the verge of expiration, 2 thighs and one leg leftover from the roasted chicken we had earlier this week, a package of Sargento 4 Cheese Mexican blend left from the queso fundido. My heart leapt at the thought that I might have a can of enchilada sauce in the lazy susan. And indeed I did had not one but two cans! One last thing, an onion.
I make my enchiladas lasagna style because it a lot less work and not as messy as the rolled up kind. And just as tasty.
Once you grab all your ingredients it is a good idea to prep everything and line it up. I am all about mise en place, everything in place before assembling and cooking. It dirties a few extra dishes but at least you aren't running to the frig or struggling to open a package of cheese with sauce dripping down your arm. Ask me how I know.
First cut your tortillas in half, I find that this makes it easy to line the whole pan nicely. You can do an 8X8 or 13X9 pan. But you might as well do the big pan because the leftovers are so good for lunch tomorrow or can be frozen for another meal.

I chopped the chicken into small cubes and mixed in one small diced onion. Put the sauce in a wide bowl for dipping the tortillas, pour your cheese into a bowl, I heated the beans a little so they would spread easily. I also sprayed the pan with Pam to prevent sticking, baked on cheese can be hell to clean up.

For the first layer dip the tortillas in sauce and line the pan. Cover this layer with one can of refried beans (1/2 if using 8X8) sprinkle a little cheese over the beans.

Here is the layout of the next layer of tortillas. I put the cut sides toward the outside of the pan and lay a row down the middle.

Next add the chicken and onion layer, top with a little more cheese.

Add the last layer of tortillas and cover with the rest of the sauce. I use the large can of sauce that I get at Sam's. If you live somewhere like the east coast where you can only get those tiny cans of sauce you will need at least 3 cans, maybe 4.

Cover the top with the rest of the cheese. Cover pan tightly with foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, uncover and cook 10 minutes more until cheese is bubbly.

I keep it simple and serve this with a side of salad greens with a little cilantro mixed in, and diced tomatoes. A little sour cream is good for topping too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Just Discovered No-Knead Bread - WOW!

I have really been in a cooking mood (or maybe I should say eating mood?) since I got back from my trip.

Sunday is usually our foodie day and I started out the day searching for some recipes I had seen on the morning news by Chef Mick from Tony's Fine Meats. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was totally engrossed in reading about the No-Knead Bread recipe by Jim Lahey from Sullivan Street Bakery and decided I had to try it even though I am not really a baker. I guess this recipe has been going around for a couple of years and some serious cooks swear by it.

For Sunday though, I decided on a western theme grilled filet mignon, warm potato salad, and cowboy beans.

For an appetizer I decided to try this no-knead flatbread with a pepper jack queso fundido.
I drizzled a little olive oil and a sprinkle of jalapeno salt on the flatbread, baked it on a pizza stone at 450 degree. We got the first one a little crisp, second one turned out golden brown and crisp on the outside with a soft chewy center. The recipe seems to call for 1 1/2 Tablespoons of salt. I took that to be an error and reduced it to about 1 1/2 tsp. That was plenty. I have half of the dough in the frig and will make a couple of grilled pizzas with that later this week.

For the Queso Fundido: I heated about 1 cup white wine (a sauvignon blanc is good) in a double boiler. Stir in one cup shredded natural pepper jack cheese, 1/2 cup mexican cheese blend with cheddar, monterey jack, queso, and asadero, and 1/2 cup mozzerella. You can use whatever cheeses you like, these were just what Ihad on hand. Just be sure they are natural cheese not processed. Stir over low heat until blended and smooth. Transfer to fondue pot or small ramekins and serve with warm flatbread. Serve this with the rest of the wine or any cocktail you like.

The steaks were seasoned with a heavy rub of Spicy Monterey Seasoning Blend and grilled on the Weber over very hot coals, 3 mins /side. Perfection!

My favorite potato salad is this super simple warm version. The flavors are mild and uncomplicated and it goes together quick so it is no more trouble than any average side dish.

Warm Potato Salad: Wash and cut 4 medium unpeeled red potatoes into 1 1/2" chunks. Boil in well salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and return to pan, let stand on warm burner to dry. This is important, you don't want any excess water on the potatoes to water down the dressing. Add a couple of tablespoons diced red onion, 1/4 cup chopped celery, 1 Tbl dijon mustard, about 1/3 cup mayonnaise to pan. Sprinkle a couple dashes of rice vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar, salt, pepper and a good pinch of dried herbs of choice. Stir to mix, taste for seasoning, adjust if needed.

Cowboy beans: I use almost any variety of canned beans I have on hand for my cowboy beans, but most of the time I use pinto, black bleans and butter beans. Dice and cook a couple of slices of bacon in saucepot until it is beginning to crisp. Add 1/2 cup onion and saute over med low heat. Add 3 cans drained beans, about 1/4 cup barbeque sauce and a couple tablespoons brown sugar, a dash of cayenne pepper and a few dashes of Tobasco or Franks Red Hot sauce, simmer over low for 15 to 30 mins. or until ready to serve. I also add a small handful of chopped nacho slice jalapenos sometimes because I like the extra kick.

Now, to the no-knead bread. Definitely, I will be playing with this recipe alot more. All I can say it is everything I expected and not nearly as fussy as you might think. I substituted active dry yeast for the instant and used 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for part of the bread flour. I also had to leave for an appointment and got back later than expected so let the second rise go for a little over 4 hours. No problem, it turned out just perfect.

I didn't wait until it was all the way cooled, cut into it after I had waited as long as I could. The outside is so crunchy and the inside soft and a bit chewy. Try this even if you are not a baker! I might try it with a little more yeast for flavor next time. Mark Bittman does it with more yeast and less rising time so you can actually get it done in one day. But I do like the long and not so precise nature of this recipe and see no reason to hurry it.

Finally, the Irish Stew. This was just very similar to my basic stew recipe. I like to use chuck roast and cut it myself. You can buy the packaged stew meat too, but I like cutting my own so I can trim the fat as I like.

I don't peel the potatoes. I quarter them and quarter a couple of small onions. I use peeled baby carrots and baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced.

I sprinkle a good scoop of flour over the meat, and then season heavily with garlic pepper blend, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands. Then place in hot pot with heated oil to brown well over medium high heat. Use your heaviest pot, cast iron is good. Remember if it starts browning too fast or smoking remove from heat and lower the heat before continuing! The floured meat will act as a rioux when you add the liquid, so nice golden brown is good, burnt is not so good.

This recipe called for a dark black beer. I used Sam Adams Black Lager because that is what I had on hand. Guinness is good too.

Then I added about 3 cups beef broth, 1 small can tomatoe paste, 1 bay leaf and some dried herbs. Bake in 325 - 350 oven for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours until meat is tender. If liquid gets too low after 1 1/2 hours add a little more broth or water. This makes a really rich and tender stew. I served some boiled cabbage with it since it was St. Patricks day, and the homemade bread with soft butter.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Frozen Pasta Chicken Parmesan 15 minute meal

Tonight Mr. Rainbow Creek got home late and I was in the middle doing battle with a quilt I wanted to finish by this weekend. (That is another story for another time!) But I knew he was hungry and so was I since I had been down in the batcave all day working. I decided to offer to cook him some breaded chicken tenders and that was fine with him, but sounded pretty crappy to me. Then I remembered that I had some precooked angel hair pasta in the freezer so I threw together a big plate of chicken parmesan, it took about 15 minutes after the oven was heated and I was happy not to have a big mess to clean up.

I know you can buy those refrigerated pasta's that you just dunk in boiling water for a minute and they are really good. I used to buy those back in the day before I was being frugal. But they are really expensive. Now, when I make a meal with pasta I cook the whole package and it makes a lot more than we need, so I take the extra and drizzle a little olive oil over it and put it in a ziplock bag in the freezer. All you have to do when you need some pasta is heat some water to boiling in the microwave and pour it over the pasta in a large bowl. Take it out of the bag before you do this! It will defrost and heat through in a minute or so and you can hold it in the water til everything else is ready.

This chicken parmesan recipe is kid friendly and good for hardworking dads too. Add a salad and some garlic bread and you can do this meal in under 30 easily.

Cook frozen breaded chicken tenders according to package directions. Top with a little bottled spaghetti sauce and mozzerella and parmesan cheese, put back in oven for a few minutes to melt cheese. Serve with pasta and extra heated sauce.

If you don't like the breaded chicken you can use raw chicken breast tenders for this too, just bake about 10 minutes and cover with sauce and cheese.