There are two revolutionary, world-altering developments that have taken place in my kitchen within the last couple of months:
1. We bought a rice cooker.
I had a rice cooker once before; a cheapie I brought with me to my dorm room in college. The rice tasted undercooked and gross, and when I moved into my first apartment it went in the trash. Over Christmas I got a few gifts I already owned from Costco, so I took them back and wandered the giant aisles for a worthy use of my store credit. Matt suggested a rice cooker, a nice digital one--even this upscale model was only $40, much less than most kitchen splurges I've indulged. We made white sticky rice the night we got it and...
"Why have we been torturing ourselves all these years?" Matt wanted to know. No, stove-top rice isn't the same as gently steamed, happy grains. I should have known; every serious Asian cook I know has one. But we've branched out into cooking our own grainy blends in it (random rice pilafs): quinoa, vermicelli, couscous, whatever. With some chicken broth and herbs at the end, it's like my Wizard shortcut side dish maker.
I'm sure you've probably heard about this new social media breakthrough. If not, maybe you should log off of Eats of Eden for a minute and go hit it up.
No, please stay here. I love you...
Anyway, Pinterest has been a total revolution in meal inspiration for me. Flipping through cookbooks doesn't work; I need a good chunk of time to get much out of them. Websites like Allrecipes or Epicurious are great if I know what I'm looking for, but just to browse, they're overwhelming. Pinterest displays pictures of food (and of course a million other things) in this clean, aesthetically-pleasing fashion that allows you to just absorb and be naturally drawn to what looks good. I haven't gone and followed every recipe I've tried on Pinterest to the letter, but I have used ideas to create new dishes.
Within the last week, I found myself liking and repinning this image: Thai Peanut Enchiladas. A pretty picture definitely helps (I wish I was a better food photographer! Maybe I should take a class). Thinking about the flavors, though, and I couldn't get it out of my head. Thai peanut! Mmm, savory, with just a hint of sweetness. Enchiladas! Damn I love enchiladas. So cheesy, and everything tastes good in a tortilla (don't believe me? Just ask KOIFusion).
The damn things wouldn't stop rolling around in my head. It was a craving for something I'd never even tasted: but I wanted to. How could this not be good?
I clicked through the picture to the recipe, and found a beautifully written recipe that went a little too deep for what I wanted to do tonight. First off, the peanut sauce was homemade. The batch was big, and I would probably mess up the sauce anyway. I am TERRIBLE at Asian sauces. The filling was very veggie-heavy, when I like a little more creaminess to my enchiladas. I took the basic concept and several of the ingredients, hit up Uwajimaya for a big bag of Japanese-style rice and a can of coconut milk (plus some bao for Matt; he loves the bao), and my dose of youthful nostalgia for my Sailor Moon-worshipping days.
I made a coconut rice in the rice cooker, which is as simple as cooking short-grain rice with one cup of coconut milk, two cups of water and salt. Parsley or cilantro is stirred in at the very end, after the rice has fully cooked. This would be my stand-in for traditional Spanish rice. I also stir-fried onion and bell pepper, melding curry and fajita favorites. The meat filling was similar to what I usually use: rotisserie chicken, sour cream, cumin and shredded cheese, but this time I added a hefty spoonful of Thai chile paste.
I bought a good-quality bottled Thai-style peanut sauce (use one that's similar to a dressing, not the thick Satay-style. And definitely don't use either Taste of Thai or Trader Joe's versions, because I've tried both and they're gross). The brand I used, which worked very well, is called Elki. I know I've seen it at Whole Foods and New Seasons, and I just bought it today at Uwajimaya. The right consistency for this type of dish, and a flavor that isn't bizarre. Seems I'm not the only one who can mess up sauces...
The peanut sauce was used just like you would enchilada sauce. A thin layer at the bottom of the pan, then drizzled over the enchiladas before they bake.
I thought these needed guacamole too. Avocado and peanut sauce? How wouldn't that work perfectly?
"I'm really skeptical about these enchiladas," I kept hearing from the living room. And I guess, who wouldn't be? I bet you're skeptical right now, thinking I'm out of my god-damn mind.
Well dear reader, go get yourself some peanut sauce, because this is the best thing I've made in 2012. Sorry cassoulet and souffle, I could eat these pretty much every day of the year. The peanut sauce is a bit like mole, marrying that sweet and savory line. The guacamole and tortilla makes your mind think Mexican, but then you get that coconut-infused rice and the red pepper, and your mind is officially blown.
"I'm so sorry I doubted you," Matt came around. "You could serve this. You could charge people and serve this. This is amazing."
Well, that would be awesome. But instead, I'll just hand you guys over the recipe and hope you believe me enough to try it. And follow me on Pinterest! Let's be inspired together.
(p.s. sorry for the craptastic picture. They may not be as pretty as the first pic, but I bet I win Chopped Mexican/Thai fusion basket edition).
Thai Peanut Enchiladas
1 batch of coconut rice, as described above
1 bottle good-quality peanut sauce
8 flour tortillas
1 cup of sour cream (plus additional 1/2 cup for topping--feel free to use light, I always do)
1 cup shredded cheese, your choice (I usually do a mix of mozzarella and sharp cheddar)
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp red chile paste
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 cups rotisserie chicken (either cooked and shredded, or from a rotisserie chicken from the store)
Guacamole for topping
Preheat oven to 375 and coat the bottom of a large Pyrex pan with approximately half of the peanut sauce. There should be a thin, but fully-covered, layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan. Add the onion and pepper and saute until softened, about 7 minutes. Transfer the mix to a plate and reserve. If necessary, add additional tsp oil to the skillet and warm chicken through. Turn off the burner and stir in the sour cream, cumin, lime juice and chile paste.
Assemble enchiladas by first adding approximately 1/3 cup of rice down the middle of the tortilla, then another 1/3 cup of chicken mixture, and top with 1/3 cup of pepper and onions (obviously just eyeball this; you want a decent amount of filling but don't pack it like a burrito). You should exhaust your supplies at eight enchiladas, which is the capacity of a Pyrex pan. Drizzle the enchiladas with remaining peanut sauce and top evenly with cheese. Bake for 18 minutes, then remove from the oven and add dollops of remaining 1/2 cup of sour cream. Bake an additional 5 minutes.
Serve with guacamole.