Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Enmoladas

First, a couple of hard truths.
1) My own mother does not read my blog. Thanks, mom. Though I guess we're even, because I don't follow her Native American spiritual updates.
2) I hate my mother's enchiladas. Since she doesn't read this blog, I can write that without hurting her feelings.
I love all my mother's food, bar three things: her enchiladas, her bolognese sauce, and her lasagne (which is made out of her leftover bolognese).
By the way, if you know my mom, please don't tell her this. If I get a teary phone call from her, I swear I will hunt you down and kill you.
Now, the thing about my mom's enchiladas are: they are usually enchiladas suizas (Swiss enchiladas, though there is nothing swiss about them), also called enchiladas verdes (green enchiladas). I don't like her green chile sauce and I didn't like spring onions back in the day. I like spring onions now, so maybe I should give them another try.
Mom would also make red enchiladas sometimes. I didn't like these either. Again, I didn't care for her sauce (which wasn't very spicy, despite the fact that enchilada means "infused with chiles"). Also, she always adds black olives, which are not native to Mexico and don't really belong in the dish.
However, this never stopped me ordering enchiladas at Mexican restaurants in the Southern California of my youth.
So it was a revelation to me when I read in Rick Bayless's book that enchiladas are not:
baked - in Mexico you dip the corn tortilla into the sauce and then quickly fry it
a sit-down meal - like most everything made with corn masa, real Mexican enchiladas are a snack food or antojito
even that popular in Mexico - although, in a bizarre example of back-migration, enchiladas suizas are catching on, tacos, tamales, etc are the mainstays.
However, the biggest revelation for me was that enchiladas have what Bayless calls parentes: relatives. Out seems you can dip tortillas in any sauce, not just the common red or green sauces.
In addition to enchiladas (dipped in chile sauce), there are also enfrijoladas (smothered in beans), entomatadas (dipped in tomato sauce), and enmoladas (dipped in any of the seven moles).
Now, this dish has got to be the weirdest "quick and easy" meal ever, because it's only quick and easy if you have the mole on hand. Which I did, because I spent four days making it after Christmas.
If I had really wanted to be authentic, I would have made my own corn tortillas, but I really was looking for something I wouldn't still be cooking at ten o'clock at night. Making homemade tortillas is great fun, and not difficult by any means, but it takes for-fucking-ever.
So I just used some store-bought flour tortillas. (My mother always used flour tortillas as well). And I baked them, mostly because I needed the enmoladas to be out of the way while I prepared a side dish.
To start, I poached two chicken breasts in water seasoned with salt and pepper, epazote, and Mexican oregano for twenty minutes. In case you haven't poached chicken before, here is a fuller description.
Poaching chicken breasts:
1) Place chicken breasts and seasonings in a pot.
2) Cover with water and bring to the boil.
3) Reduce heat and simmer until cooked.
4) If there is time, let the chicken cool in the broth.
Once the chicken had cooled, I removed it from the broth and shredded it. I then strained the broth and kept it on hand to use for the mole.
I reheated the mole in a wide non-stick pan, adding some of the broth (a little at a time) to keep the consistency from getting to thick.
When the more was warm (not hot), I dipped the tortillas in the sauce (one at a time) and placed them in a baking dish. I filled them with the shredded chicken and some chopped spring onion (ironically, inspired by enchiladas suizas), rolled them up, covered them with foil, and baked them for twenty minutes at 170° C. I have no idea how to cook in Fahrenheit, by the way.
In the meantime, I prepared my side dish.
I got this idea from an episode of Saturday Kitchen a few years ago. I cut some courgette (zucchini) into long, thin strips like over-sized linguine.
I blanched them in boiling water, drained them, and put them in chilled water to stop them over-cooking.
I happened to have some of my coriander pesto on hand, so I heated that in a pan, added some cherry tomatoes and the courgette linguine and stir-fried it all for a bit.
By this time the enmoladas were ready to come out. Before plating up I sprinkled them with more chopped spring onion and crumbled up feta cheese.
Why feta? Because all the Mexican cookbooks I have say that feta is the nearest thing you're likely to get to Mexican queso fresco (literally "fresh cheese"), which is the most common type of cheese in Mexico.
In America, any given Mexican dish probably comes covered in yellow "American" cheese and/or white Monterey Jack.
Those of you who used to watch King of the Hill may remember Peggy berating get niece during Cinco de Mayo:
"You can't use Swiss cheese. It's not Mehican. It's American. You have to use Monterey Jack."
And she pronounced "jack" with a Spanish j: "hack".
Monterey is a real Mexican placename (meaning "mountain of the king"), but "jack" sure as hell ain't Mexican, or even Spanish, nor is any word that has the letter k. Ths letter doesn't exist in Spanish. (It wouldn't exist in English either, if it hadn't been brought to England in the 10th century by the Norse, who got it from the Goths, who got out from the Greeks.)
It's not that there is no other type of cheese in Mexico. There's even one quite similar to Jack, but it's a regional product, whereas queso fresco is pan-Mexican.
But enough about cheese and orthography. Below are some photos of my main and side dish.
I had been slightly worried ray the feta wouldn't work with the mole poblano, but the acidity actually provided a nice contrast.
The courgette linguine, however, continued to release water even after they were chilled, which eventually diluted the flavour of the coriander pesto. So I have yet to perfect that idea.
So far this blog has had over 500 pageviews but zero comments. Perhaps one of my readers might comment with some advice on keeping the courgette from washing away the seasonings in the future.