Monday, April 28, 2014

Enchiladas del alma.

Chicken enchiladas with mustard greens and sweet potato mash. © Ryan Schierling
The problem with most enchiladas is that they’re unimaginative. Pick your protein, pick your sauce, cover with yellow cheese – casserole dish it up and stick it in the oven. We don’t even bother ordering enchiladas if we dine out, because most of these "pick two" formulas are terribly boring and a little pedestrian. 

What we’re doing here is offering you some other options. This version of “five days, five ways” is going to be four non-traditional enchiladas and one very traditional Tex-Mex enchilada that no one outside of Texas seems to know about but definitely should. There are no exotic elements or weird sauces, no strange fillings or garnishes, just really solid combinations that are tried and true. 

None of these are strict recipes in a controlled sense, where you take an exact amount of this and add a precise amount of that. These are just ingredients that have worked well enough together that we’ve added them to our regular rotation. We've made them so many times that they are now considered “family” preparations. 

This first recipe came out of Christmas dinner soul-food leftovers. We’d had an incredible roasted chicken, some tangy, cider vinegar-soused mustard greens and a light, fluffy sweet potato mash. The flavors mingled so perfectly together that we decided to roll it all up in a corn tortilla and give it a nice mild green sauce mixed with cream. We've since recreated that lovely Christmas dinner a number of times just to have leftovers for these enchiladas. As the filling was bits and pieces from a previous meal, there are no real quantities for a proper recipe, but I’ll walk you through it.

Enchiladas with roasted chicken, mustard greens and sweet potato mash

For the roasted chicken: 

According to the internet, Thomas Keller has pretty much destroyed all competition when it comes to roasting a chicken. See Buzzfeed. His method is simple, classic, and if you choose to go this route you will be very happy with the end result. My method for roasting a chicken is brine overnight, let dry in the refrigerator for 8 hours, let warm to room temperature, butterfly (see: spatchcock), rub with butter, salt and pepper, grill with indirect heat until the skin is crispy and the breast is at 160-degrees on an instant-read thermometer. I let the bird rest for 15 minutes, then it is devoured. For enchiladas, leftover chicken is pulled and any crispy skin is chopped into delicious little pieces.

For the mashed sweet potatoes:

Make these however you make your mashed potatoes, unless your mashed potatoes come as dehydrated flakes out of a box. Sweet potato and russet potatoes are peeled, chopped into chunks and boiled until soft. The water is drained, a good-godly amount of butter is added with a tiny bit of milk, salt and pepper, and I use to whisk to beat everything into a fluffy submission. You want light and airy, not leaden and dense. 

For the mustard greens:

Mmm-mmm hmmm. I’m a huge fan of greens, and these are nice and tangy with a little bit of crushed red pepper bite. In a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, add a couple tablespoons of bacon fat. Stir in a large package of pre-washed mustard greens, add a good pinch of salt and put a lid on it. Let the greens cook down until the stems are tender and everything’s nicely wilted. Add a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, a good pinch of crushed red pepper, a few grinds of black pepper and more salt to taste. Stir well, add a smidgen more vinegar if you like it tangy, which we do.

For the enchilada sauce:

Open your favorite store-bought 15-ounce can of green enchilada sauce. Hatch makes a nice one. Mix 1/2 cup of heavy cream into the sauce. 

For the enchiladas:

We use a 2-quart Pyrex baking dish that’s about 7x11 inches. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees, and get your filling ingredients ready. Ladle a little sauce into the bottom of the casserole dish and start assembling your enchiladas. Corn tortillas will split open if they’re not warmed before filling, but you should already know that, so warm those suckers up on a lightly-greased comal. Add a little chicken and crispy skin, a few spoonfuls of mashers, a nice row of greens, and roll it up. Once you’ve got a full pan, sauce it generously and bake until bubbly, about 30-40 minutes. 

Garnish with crumbled queso fresco and chopped cilantro stems. Why cilantro stems and not cilantro proper? Because the stems are delicious as well, and this is leftovers. You'll end up with a surprisingly light, fresh, new twist on enchiladas, and no goopy cheese. Dig in. 

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