I’ll just say for the record I’ve never been to Mexico — an hour in Tijuana doesn’t count and it’s also a different story. But I am so obsessed with anything that smacks of Mexican flavors. Probably this is more Tex-Mex than bona fide Mexican, but I can tell you that it’s tasty so there it is. If you’re looking for a variation on meatloaf, here you go. I only wish I had come up with this while our kids were home. I think I actually could have gotten a black bean past two of them without complaint. So that’s my hint that you can potentially trick your kids into something healthy with this. And if they don’t eat it, that just means more for you. The proverbial win-win in my book. Read the rest of this entry »
My go-to comfort food is Mexican or at least the Americanized version of it because I’ve never actually been to Mexico so I would never presume to suggest I actually know “Mexican” food. But when I’m in the dumps, Mexican is what I want. Burritos, tacos, enchiladas — any and all of the above would work just find thank you very much.
The casserole I’m sharing today may be six or nine degrees of separation from “real” Mexican food, but I can guarantee you will find it A) tasty and B) comforting. The recipe is inspired by The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, one of my two most-thumbed, splattered cookbooks from the famous Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY. In the cookbook the recipe is called Frijoles Con Cueso Etc Casserole. I made their recipe regularly BK (Before Kids) and completely gave up on it AK (After Kids) because it contained beans (not happening) and stuff mixed together (and I had one child who did not like when any of his food groups touched).
I had some leftover rice and was flipping through the cookbook because I remembered (or I thought I did anyway) a recipe for using up leftover rice. I didn’t find that recipe but the flipping was a walk down memory lane to a time when the only person I had to cook for (and please) was Peter (who is probably the easiest person to cook for ever because he loves everything). So many recipes we had eaten together when dinner was just about when we were hungry and what would I make. Flipping through that cookbook instantly transported me to that time. I decided to forget the rice issue and make my version of this casserole. As Peter and I ate, we were transported back to our 20s. Yeah, it was that good.
Janet here: So you don’t know what to make for dinner and can’t imagine making another burrito or quiche? Take a deep breath and realize you have the makings of a great (easy) dinner within your grasp. I’m talking something I generally call tortilla pies.
Here’s the general idea: You saute up some veggies, maybe take some chicken you’ve got in the fridge and saute that up, grate some cheese of your liking, add some spices and then build a tortilla tower. Bake it and you are in business about 30 minutes later. It’s that simple.
You could take some leftover veggies too for one of the layers….or saute them fresh in whatever combination you want. Interested in Mexican? Use chilies and south of the border spices. Got a yen for something Indian? Add in cumin and curries and you’ve got something that works there too. The point is it’s as versatile as you want it to be. The only limitation is your imagination.
Here’s a recipe to get you started.
12 6-inch corn tortillas
about 3 cups assorted diced veggies such as onion, garlic, zucchini, peppers, whatever your heart desires
about 1 cup of diced chicken
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheese
1 cup or so salsa OR
2 tablespoons butter, about 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup diced green chilies and about 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9X13 inch baking pan with canola oil.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and saute the veggies/chicken of your choice for about 5-7 minutes until just cooked. If you’re doing veggies alone, start with onions and then add garlic and the denser veggies, ending with zucchini, which cooks quickly and you don’t want it to be overcooked. If you’re doing chicken add it after the onions but before the garlic. It can all be sauteed together.
If you’re using salsa, move to the next step. If you’re making this roux version (pictured here), melt the butter, stir in the flour to make a roux and then add the broth and stir frequently until it thickens. Take it off the heat and add the chilies.
Place 4 tortillas (they will overlap a bit) in the bottom of the baking pan. Add half the sauteed goodies. Spread cheese on top and whatever sauce you’re using. Then add another layer of four overlapping tortillas. Spread your veggie/chicken/salsa/roux/cheese mixture on top. End with four more tortillas and a little salsa/roux/cheese. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes until bubbling and lightly browned on top.
It was the end of the work week and I was thinking e.a.s.y. was the way to go for dinner. I had been planning to make a frittata, but then G, on his way to a shower, said, “Hey you should put together these ingredients to make a Mexican amalgamation.” And he ticked off some chicken, rice, onions, egg and seasonings. After a chat about the word amalgamation (is it a word? It is. And didn’t he really mean amalgam? He didn’t and he was right or we would have been eating something with mercury in it, and yes, this is how our family rolls at times. It’s both a trial and a tribulation, depending on the word conversation. Someday I will tell you more about Easter and Shakespeare egg hunts.)
Anyway, I decided to go for it, and I have to tell you it was reviving, which completely surprised me. I got into thinking about the recipe and how much and what type of seasonings I would use. At one point, I yelled up to G, “What do you think about black beans?” and he yelled, “Go for it.”
G, a newly-minted college grad and a young man with a growing awareness of his body and mind and how they operate (ideally together), has been interested in cooking since graduation, and it’s been fun to share that with him. We’ve cooked more together and he’s had more suggestions about healthy eating. As he used to say as a boy, “It’s all good.” It really is.
Anyway this is the rough recipe. It’s loose because I was winging it as I went along and because, frankly, this recipe screams for some ad libbing. Let us know what you decide to add….
Mexican Stir Fry
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 chicken breasts, no skin, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, diced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 cup rice
1 16 ounce can black beans, rinsed
about 1 teaspoon chili powder
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
a couple of good dashes of Frank’s hot sauce to taste
4-5 eggs, one per serving
about 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese
Put two cups of water and a little salt in a pot. Add one cup rice and cook.
While the rice is cooking, heat up the oil and add the onions and chicken in a large skillet. Saute for about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and spices. Continue to saute, stirring periodically. When the rice is done, add it to the skillet and stir around.
Now you can either add the eggs to scramble them in (G’s original idea, which I didn’t get) or do what we did, which is fry the eggs in a separate pan just before you’re ready to eat. Then dish out the stir fry, add some grated cheese, and plop the egg on top. Maybe add a little more Frank’s and all you need is a cervasa to complete the meal. Enjoy!
We had good friends over for dinner and Susan (she of Fake It Til You Make It fame) requested enchiladas. I blithely said sure and kept this little secret to myself: I had actually never made enchiladas before.
I know, I know, it seems incredible after this many decades of cooking but so it goes. I had made tacos and burritos and even fajitas but never enchiladas. I also had never eaten an enchilada — none of which I was going to share with Susan. After all, she can still whip out the Cool Whip story on any given day in front of anyone. (See same post on Fake It Til You Make It.)