Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pablano and Queso Fresco Enchiladas

Happy Cinco di Mayo! This day seemed like an appropriate time to branch away from my tried and true enchilada recipe...a recipe my mother clipped from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel years ago...a recipe that became a cornerstone of "family dinners" in Stevens Point. Others have carried the recipe on with them, and they have found it highly adaptable to accommodate not only any spice level, but also vegetarians. The best part was...this particular enchilada recipe did not rely on jars of sauce, cream of anything soups or packets of taco seasoning. It was one of my first attempts at from scratch* cooking.

So imagine my disappointment when pursuing food blogs and cook books. Page after page of enchiladas recipes toting cream soups, jars of pre-made sauce, boring chicken or ground beef fillings. My hopes were sinking until I stumbled upon this little gem from Vegetarian Times.

adapted from Vegetarian Times, September 2008, pg 75

Seves 6

The Ingredients:
The Sauce
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
2½ oz. dried New Mexican chiles, halved, stemmed, and seeded
4 medium tomatoes, chopped

The Enchiladas

6 Poblano or Anaheim chiles
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced (approx. 2 tsp)
1½ cups queso fresco
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
12 6-inch corn tortillas

The Process:
To make Sauce: Heat olive oil in saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic in oil 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft. Add dried chilies, and sauté 3 minutes more. Stir in tomatoes and 2 cups water. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, or until chiles are soft. Remove from heat, cool 5 minutes, then purée in blender or food processor until smooth.

To make Enchiladas: Preheat oven to broil. Place poblano chiles on baking sheet, and broil 15 to 20 minutes, or until blackened on all sides, turning often. Cool in covered bowl, then peel off skins and remove seeds. Chop chiles into 1/4-inch pieces.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic in oil 3 to 5 minutes, or until soft. Transfer to mixing bowl, and add queso fresco, 1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro, and chopped chiles.

Spread tortillas on baking sheet. Warm 3 minutes in oven to soften.

Spread 1 cup sauce over bottom of 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Divide cheese mixture among tortillas, and roll loosely. Place filled, rolled tortillas in baking dish. Top with remaining Sauce, and sprinkle with remaining Monterey Jack cheese. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until Sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

My Modifications:
I had perhaps a third of the sauce left over...using two-thirds seemed to be more than enough without drowning the enchiladas.

The Review:
I adored them, but these my not be for those who like their Mexican dishes tear-jerkingly hot. The heat was subdued and smokey. The flavors of all of vegetables really came through...the peppers, the tomatoes, the onions. And the corn tortillas were pleasantly soft and on the verge of soggy. For the record, I abhor working with corn tortillas. While I love the flavor and texture of flour tortillas, I can never roll these little flat tortas without them starting to crack of flake.

Overall they reminding me of the enchiladas you would be served at one of those hole in the wall madre y padre taquerias. Ross and I really enjoyed them. And we were really surprised that the picky eater among us...given that she avoids meat and spicy foods...didn't enjoy them. But to each their own.

*if one considers using canned tomato sauce, cartons of broth and stewed tomatoes "from scratch." The next incarnation of this recipe will likely use only the bounty of the farmers market, and homemade stock.

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