One of my good friends here in Wellington is a lovely lady from Texas, Elaine. Once when all of us were gathered at my house, over a cocktail or seven and copious amounts of cake, we got to reminiscing about school food and canteen food. Us Brits fondly remembered Fish & Chip Friday, whereas Elaine got instant exotic status by telling us about Tex Mex Friday at her school. This seemed so other-worldly to us raised in the cold climes of North-West Europe. Tex-Mex is generally a cuisine I'm not altogether familiar with, apart from suffering through a few badly-cooked fajitas - in my limited experience it seems an easy food for restaurants to do badly, although I'm sure travelling to Texas would cure me of that perception.
So I was delighted, if not a tad apprehensive, when I got a Tex Mex recipe for this month's Random Recipe Challenge, hosted by Dom over at Belleau Kitchen. The theme for February is 'the choice is yours'. My choice was already somewhat limited; ahead of our impending move, I've already made a start on packing up all but my most-used cookbooks. I did have a newcomer to the fold though - a Christmas present from Andy, as yet unused, and so an obvious contender for this challenge. My Year In Meals by Rachael Ray takes the successful format used by, amongst others, Nigel Slater, and tracks a year's worth of food eaten. I know that Rachael Ray isn't the most popular figure in the food world, but I stand unashamed of my admiration for her - anyone who can write recipes for balanced 30 minute meals and encourage more people to head into the kitchen is A Good Thing in my book, which this sort of is. I've found her food tasty and I've never had a duff recipe, so was delighted to get this present.
The recipe I picked, eyes-closed-no-peeking, was Enchiladas Suizas with Green Rice. I assume the name comes from the Swiss Cheese used, though would be happy to be corrected on this one. I had some difficulty tracking down a couple of ingredients (I guess Tex Mex has reached NZ to about the same point as the UK) - fresh large poblano chillis were a no-go, so I subbed with a couple of regular capsicums. I thought tomatillos would also be impossible, but was pleasantly surprised to find a tinned version at Moore Wilson's. I'm delighted I did, as I could really taste them in the finished dish. Texture-wise similar to a tomato, but with a much tangier taste, they resulted in a sauce that tasted almost a Tex Mex sweet and sour.
Both of us absolutely loved this dish. Filling, super-tasty, comfort food with a slight kick: the richness of the Enchiladas was counter-balanced by the fresh, punchy flavours of the green rice - which I would do again in a heartbeat, but possibly stick some garlic in there too, just because, and leave the butter out, as I couldn't see that it added anything to the finished dish. The green rice would go fantastically well with Asian dishes, too. Also, I know nothing about feeding children, but it occurred to me that the bright, luminous green colour might appeal to them.
Final point - don't do what I did and use Low-Fat Sour Cream. It curdled, and I'm pretty sure it's because of the low fat-ness. I generally don't get on board with Low-Fat ingredients - I'd rather just eat less of the real deal - but as I'm trying to follow a Healthy Eating Plan *sob* right now, I was a bit shocked that one portion of this dish would take out a massive chunk of my entire day's calories, so tried to bring that down anywhere I could. Not a smart move, as it turns out.
Thanks for hosting another great Random Recipe Challenge, Dom, and congratulations on making it to number 25!
Enchiladas Suizas with Green Rice
From Rachael Ray, My Year In Meals
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 green chilli, seeded and chopped
1 can tomatillos
Handful of coriander
Juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons honey
Salt and pepper
8 (6 inch) flour tortillas
1 cup creme fraiche, Mexican crema, or sour cream
1 cup grated Emmental
1 cup grated Cheddar
Red onion, sliced, and coriander, for garnish
Put the capsicums under a hot grill, turning them every few minutes, until blackened - this will take about 10 minutes. When charred all over, put them in a bowl and cover tightly with cling film. Leave to one side.
Switch the oven to 190c/375f.
Place the chicken in a pan and add enough water to just come up to the top of the meat. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for about 12 minutes, until they're cooked through.
While the chicken is poaching, heat the oil in a frying pan, add the olive oil and fry the onion, garlic and chilli over a medium-high heat until soft.
Put this mixture in a food processor along with the tomatillos, coriander, and lime juice. Peel and seed the capsicums and roughly chop them. Add these to the processor. Blitz until pretty much smooth. Pour this sauce back into the frying pan, stir in the honey, salt and pepper, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Shred the cooked, poached chicken with 2 forks. Warm the tortillas (RR suggests in a dry skillet; I followed the manufacturers instructions and zapped them in the microwave for 30 seconds).
Place a little sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Fill the tortillas with chicken, roll them up, and arrange them side by side in the baking dish - they should fit snugly. Top with the remaining sauce, them the sour cream and the two cheeses. Bake for about 25 minutes, until browned and bubbling.
Garnish with red onion and coriander. Serve with Green Rice.
1.75 cups chicken stock*
1 bunch spinach leaves
Handful coriander leaves
1 green chilli, seeded and chopped
4 spring onions, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup long grain rice
In a food processor, blitz 0.25 cup of the stock, the spinach, coriander, chilli and spring onions until it is a thick paste and everything is very finely chopped.
In a pan, bring the remaining stock and the butter to the boil. Stir in the rice, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes, until tender. Stir in the spinach mixture, cook for a further 2 minutes, turn off the heat and leave for about 5 minutes.
*I used the reserved water from poaching the chicken with a stock cube dissolved in it - can't get the liquid stock concentrate here and I didn't want to defrost some chicken stock and end up wasting the poaching water