Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Whole Enchilada

It seems that everyone has the best recipe for enchiladas.  Even Matt has his own cinnamon-fueled specialty rounding out his culinary repertoire (alongside bratwurst spaghetti, ghetto-style alfredo and cube steaks).  My recipe comes from my mother, who found it in a country-style cookbook.  I first had them at her house when we were visiting, when she always pulls out all the stops.  She used Cougar Gold cheese, which made the most sharp and creamy version I have ever met.  I've held a thick slab or tin of it in my hand on several occasions since, unable to justify the investment.  I got spoiled on specialty cheese during my food marketing days, like the post-food show $100 macaroni and cheese I threw together with 1/4 wheels of Ossau-Iraty, Beechers Flagship, Comte and Rembrandt.  After realizing how much the commoners pay for 1/2 pound of Jarlsberg, I faced a huge Catch-22: no money for good cheese, and no taste for bad cheese. 

I would sing the virtues of fabulous cheese all day long, but a wedge doesn't go far, and I certainly can't keep my deli drawer constantly stocked with artisan specimens all the time.  Not since I left the company handing out half-wheels of Manchego after a food show like leftover pizza post-manager meeting in a typical office.  But if you're having a very beloved guests over, you'll never beat tin-packed Cougar Gold in these enchiladas.

Random side note:  Today I was at Whole Foods and I was thinking about burrata.  Oh burrata.  It looks like a mozzarella ball, but when you cut into it, you find a creamy, ricotta-like curd that spreads like velvet across tomatoes and strawberries.  There is no better cheese for mid-August.  I asked at the cheese counter, as they sliced huge hunks of emmentaler, "do you have Burrata?"

"Yes, he'll show you where it is," she says, pointing me in the direction of a tall, dark, geeky-sexy cheese guy that I totally wanted to talk tallegio with.  He removes a delicate green leaf-wrapped cheese, placing it right into my hand. 

"There you are, burrata."

$9.99 burrata.  $9.99 for a cheese that was completely off my menu plan.

"Will you have this next week?"  I ask, putting it back on the shelf.  "My tomatoes aren't quite ripe yet."

2nd cheap-ass move at Bridgeport Village Whole Foods in a week.  I ooze class.

My everyday version may sport pedestrian Tillamook cheddar, but the filling is still creamy and delicious.  This is a great dish to have in your pocket for potlucks... if you can condescend to trying it over YOUR recipe.  Speaking of the recipe.  I had the little recipe card I copied it onto sitting on the counter, but I did a major recycle-n-sort this morning.  I think it may have become a casualty.  Luckily, Matt's begged me to make them enough times that I THINK I can remember it.  Watch out, your favorite recipes are one cleaning spree away from death. 

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

2 cups rotisserie chicken, picked off in little pieces (get one at Costco!  They're the best and the cheapest!!)
2 cups semi-hard cheese (Cougar Gold if you can, Sharp Tillamook Cheddar if you can't)
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Vegetable Oil
1 cup sour cream, plus additional for topping
1 small can diced fire-roasted chiles
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
8 flour tortillas
1 can of enchilada sauce (Matt insists Rosarita is the best, but I like the Trader Joe's kind myself)

Warm vegetable oil in a large skillet on medium.  Add onion and garlic and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken, sour cream, chiles, cumin, chili powder and salt.  Reduce heat to low and stir, allowing to heat through.  Remove from heat.  Fill each tortilla with about 1/2 a cup of filling, and top with cheese.  Roll, and place in a pan prepared with 1/3 the enchilada sauce poured on the bottom.  Continue for all the tortillas.  Top with remaining enchilada sauce and cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, uncovered.  Remove from heat.  Top with sour cream, then bake for 8 more minutes.  Serve, and top with guacamole if you want a real treat.  It might make up for the fact that you cheaped out on the cheese.


  1. Yummy! I haven't made these in a long time, when I made them for you guys, didn't I make a sour cream sauce to top them vs. the red sauce?

  2. I think you did, but I've just used regular sauce ever since. Yours live on as the best ever, though.

  3. Interesting. It never occurred to me that "the secret's in the cheese" (anyone who can guess the reference gets a gold star). I always thought it was in the sauce!

  4. For you, it might be. Enchiladas are like snowflakes. Melty, delicious snowflakes.