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Saturday, November 22, 2008

enchiladas filled with braised greens and garlic-roasted potatoes


Alaskan enchiladas?

Alaskan enchiladas? Does that sound like an oxymoron? Well, ever since our friends Arthur and Michelle made us enchiladas a few weeks ago, I’ve had a terrible craving for MORE enchiladas. Their enchiladas were filled with spiced Alaskan ground buffalo and yummy homemade refried black beans—they were fantastic! While I didn’t have any buffalo, I figured that the bounty of Alaska would provide enough for more than one enchilada variation! Determined to feed my enchilada hankering, I rummaged around in my pantry and scrutinized my favorite cookbooks for inspiration. Ziploc bags of sliced and par-boiled collard greens line one section of my chest freezer, and I’ve got boxes full of potatoes and onions in the garage. I even have some Alaskan cheese that we use for our Alaskan cheese & roasted garlic bread! I came across several good recipes, including some for homemade enchilada sauce (one of my requirements).  This recipe is a hybrid of many of these recipes, but the filing is most directly inspired by one in Veganomicon, and the sauce is a variation on one from Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook.

Our friends Chuck and Laurie came over with their kids to share these enchiladas. Since I’d made all the components ahead of time, I chatted happily with Laurie while I rolled the enchiladas. Meanwhile, the kids were busy rehearsing a new musical play, complete with capes, crowns, swords and buried treasure. (The dads hid upstairs, playing guitar until dinnertime). At dinner, we managed to devour quite a few, washed down with pints of locally-brewed Midnight Sun beer.  YUM!



enchiladas filled with braised greens and garlic-roasted potatoes

These are fun to make, for sure—but unless you make the components ahead of time (that works great!) it’s not really a quick and easy, after-work kind of meal. But each of the components is simple, and you can do the prep the day or morning beforehand, and then just assemble and bake the enchiladas right before dinner.  Also, if you make double batches, you can bake them and then freeze the enchiladas for re-heating later—or you can just freeze the components for rolling more enchiladas in the future!

I invented this recipe with a little inspiration from Veganomicon, but the enchilada sauce is a variation on one from Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook.  I served it with my fresh cabbage and lime salad.

Luckily, my four-year-old Meredith likes braised collards, but in case you are feeding some people who might be skeptical of the greens, you can make one dish of enchiladas without the greens. 

The Overview

1. Make the enchilada sauce first, so it has time to simmer and then cool a little before you roll them all together.
2. While the sauce simmers, chop the potatoes and get them in the oven.
3. While the potatoes roast, chop the onions and then braise the greens.
4. Put the enchiladas together and bake them!

The Enchilada Sauce

The ancho chile powder is different than regular chili powder; ancho chile powder is nothing but ground up ancho chiles.  The chili powder you’re likely to find at the grocery store is basically a spice mix of cumin, chile, garlic, salt, and other things.  I don’t know how this recipe would work with regular chili powder, but you can find the ancho chile powder at Summit Spice & Tea Co. (1120 E. Huffman Road, #4). They have great spices and herbs of all kinds—you can pick up your cumin, cayenne, oregano, and sea salt there, too!

For the masa harina (corn flour used for making tortillas), look in the Mexican section of most grocery stores. I found it at Fred Meyer.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced finely
6 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup masa harina (corn flour)
¼ cup ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
1-2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt (and more to taste)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups vegetable stock or water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (or more to taste)

1. Saute the onions in the oil with 1 teaspoon salt over medium-high heat until golden-brown. Add garlic and cook 3 more minutes. Sprinkle in the masa harina, spices, and oregano, and stir until everything has a chance to toast a little bit. If you’re worried that it’s starting to burn, go ahead and add the liquid.
2. Whisk in the stock or water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and whisk in the tomato paste and sugar. Taste it, and add more salt and sugar to taste. It might not taste very good at first, especially because it will probably need a bit more salt and sugar, but don’t worry, it will taste better and better as it simmers.
3. Simmer partially covered for 30 minutes, stirring regularly.
4. If you want a smooth sauce, let it cool a bit and puree it, either with an immersion blender, or very carefully in a blender. Otherwise, just leave it as is.

The Garlic-Roasted Potatoes

2 pounds waxy potatoes, like Yukon Gold or Butterball
garlic oil (recipe in Step 1) or extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Make garlic oil: Mash or mince 3 or 4 garlic cloves and cover with ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil. Let steep for 30 minutes if you have time. Strain out the garlic and store the oil in the refrigerator.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the potatoes into ½-inch pieces. Toss them in a bowl with a few spoonfuls of garlic oil, then sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt. Toss again.
3. Lightly oil a large baking dish or sheet pan, and transfer the potatoes onto it. Roast the potatoes until tender and browned, 25 to 40 minutes. The time will depend on how many sheets of potatoes you do at once, and how you’re your oven reheats. Just stir the potatoes around with a spatula when you check on them, and keep roasting until they are done to your liking.

The Braised Greens

1-2 bunches kale or collards, long stems removed and leaves cut into 1” ribbons
sea salt or kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped fairly fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin

1. Plunge the kale or collards into a large pot of boiling salted water, and cook until tender. This could take as long as 10 minutes, but could be much shorter, depending on the age or toughness of the greens. Start tasting after 5 minutes, and cook until tender. (Boiling in salted water pre-cooks the greens and removes bitterness.) Reserve one cup of the cooking water.
2. Drain the greens in a colander.
3. Heat the olive oil and sauté the onions with a teaspoon of salt until lightly browned. Add the garlic and cumin and sauté for another couple of minutes. Add the greens and the reserved cooking water (or use a cup of vegetable broth or bean-cooking liquid). Cook for 15 to 30 minutes on low heat until they are lovely, soft and sweet, and taste again for salt. They can really use a lot of salt, so don’t be shy about adding it until it tastes nice and seasoned.

The Whole Enchilada

12-14 corn tortillas
cheese (optional. You can use cheddar, or jack cheese, if you like, but believe it or not, these enchiladas are also good without any cheese at all!)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and coat the bottom of a large (9 x 13”) baking dish with a spoonful of the enchilada sauce.
2. Ladle a cup of enchilada sauce into a pie dish and if the sauce is quite thick, add a little warm water to make it the consistency of heavy cream. Heat the tortillas up a bit, so they are pliable. You can do this one at a time on a hot skillet, flipping from time to time, or just microwave several on a plate. Drop the softened tortilla into the pie plate filled with sauce, cover it completely with sauce, then flip it over and coat the other side.
3. Place the tortilla in the casserole dish and run a scoop of greens down the center. Top with a scoop of roasted potatoes, and if you’re using cheese, sprinkle a little on top. Roll the tortilla up and place it seam side down in the dish. Continue with the rest of the tortillas, tightly packing the enchiladas next to each other so they don’t come unrolled. Pour a cup or more of the sauce (the sauce that you haven’t watered down—the thick stuff!) on the top of the enchiladas, sprinkle with a little cheese if you’re using it, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the edges of the tortillas look a little browned. Let sit for 5 minutes or so before serving.

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