ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: ¡Benchiladas! Edition

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It’s been all of about thirty-five seconds since I posted an Adventures in Domesticity based off of Rick Bayless’s Mexican Everyday, and that just seems shocking. And so I am back with yet another recipe to tackle. This time it’s “Red Chile Enchiladas with Chicken and Melted Cheese.”

I selected this dish mainly because a) I had chicken in my freezer, b) it’s big and can stretch over several meals, and c) despite its appearance, it’s not all that unhealthy. Besides, with Cinco De Mayo right around the corner, why not whip up a batch of enchiladas? It’s only prudent.

After the jump, check out my handiwork (as well as a few choice photos of my dirty stovetop)…

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Step 1: defrost my chicken. I submerge it underwater and force it down with the aid of a small plate. The experience draws vivid memories of Geena Davis’s seminal torture scene from The Long Kiss Goodnight.

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Meanwhile, I get to work on the sauce. I start with three chipotle chiles and some of their adobo sauce. The recipe actually calls for toasting dried guajillo chiles, but Bayless offers up chipotles as an alternative. Since I didn’t feel like toasting; I opted for this “riff” on the recipe. Plus, I love chipotles.

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Also heading into the blender are 28 oz of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, some garlic, cumin, and black pepper. It’s serious.

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All that, my friends, shall become a sauce.

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After a minute or so of blending, the sauce is pretty smooth. It’s shocking considering that my Magic Bullet blades can barely slice butter at this point.

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If you think the sauce is done, you are SADLY mistaken.

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Time for phase two: heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a sauce pan and pass the liquid through a sieve to strain out all the chile skins. Looks simple enough.

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I discover rather quickly that this process may take a while.

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Pressing the tomato gunk through the strainer…

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UgggggAH. Most annoying step ever.

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Anyhoo, I’m to now cook the sauce over a medium-high heat for about five to seven minutes — until it’s all the consistency of tomato paste.

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As you can see, I’m calm under pressure. Photo by Lisa Timmons.

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In the meantime, I prep two cups of HOMEMADE chicken stock (a tip of the hat to Ina Garten).

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Turns out that reducing enchilada sauce is quite the messy affair. Massive splattering has imperiled my stovetop, my saucepan, my fridge, and my precious, precious hands. Temperatures were lowered.

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Once the sauce reached a tomato paste consistency, I added the chicken stock and reduced to a simmer for ten minutes. I then got to work shredding about a cup of cheddar cheese.

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Let’s not forget about the chicken. After its time in the water bath (as well as some assistance from the microwave), the defrosted meat gets seasoned with salt, pepper, chile powder, and olive oil (my choices. Rick Bayless merely suggests using half a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken). Anyway, I shove the chicken in a 400 degree oven and let it cook away for twenty minutes.

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The stovetop, looking grand.

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The red sauce in its final form. It could probably reduce more, but my patience has grown thin, much like the sauce itself.

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Here’s a fun little interlude: tortilla prep! I lay six tortillas on a baking sheet and spray with oil (I used faux-Pam) on both sides.

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I eventually wind up with ten oiled tortillas, which then get stacked in piles of two. They go into the oven at 350 degrees (the chicken, meanwhile, has come out).

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Speaking of chicken, here’s mine — perfectly cooked, I might add.

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After three minutes, the tortillas are soft, warm, and pliable — much like me on a good day. I place them in this skillet for safekeeping.

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One does not look directly at the tortillas.

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As for the chicken, I have expertly sliced and diced it up. It is now ready for its destiny as enchilada filling.

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I ladle some sauce into the pan. My suspicions are confirmed: it’s runny. Oh well.

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I ladle more sauce into the chicken. Sauce, it seems, is a common theme.

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I now begin the careful process of filling the tortillas.

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My form is incomparable.

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Wrapping it up like a BOSS.

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Into the baking dish they go, seam side down. SEAM SIDE DOWN, people.

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Ta-da!

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I then cover the whole thing with more sauce and the cheddar cheese. Time to put these bad boys into the oven!

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While the enchiladas bake (fifteen minutes), I prepare some garnish. Bayless suggests slicing a white onion, but I have so many damn green onions that I decide to go that route instead. Also, present: cilantro.

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Guess what’s done? The enchiladas! Or as Lisa called them, BENchiladas (because I’m Ben).

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YUM.

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Macro shot!!! Now this all may look absurdly unhealthy, but think about it: it’s only a cup of cheddar spread over an entire dish of enchiladas. Other than that, everything else is pretty “clean.”

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Fearful that I might destroy my Benchiladas, I employ Lisa to break them free.

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Her approach is excellent.

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Lisa assures me that like brownies, the first one out is the messiest.

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Everything’s happening so quickly! Literally. I got maaaad motion blur going on.

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And there it is: one highly unphotogenic enchilada!

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Lisa goes back for some chicken that snuck out of the tortilla.

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Back to work on enchilada #2.

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Bang up job, Lisa.

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Hmmm… there’s got to be a way to make this look prettier.

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The garnish just looks awkward.

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One more macro shot for fun.

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Dinner is served!

THE VERDICT:

Real good. As big dish foods go, these enchiladas were solid, solid fare. I wouldn’t say they blew me away, but they were a great weeknight meal. The high water mark for Mexican casseroles still remains chilaquiles. I’m not sure if that dynamite recipe will ever be topped, but that’s not to say I was dissatisfied with these enchiladas. The flavors were big, bold, and tasty with great texture to boot. Definitely comforting. I’m looking forward to digging into this dish over the next few nights…

Check out the full recipe here.

PS. My stovetop is now clean and sparkly fresh!

6 replies on “ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: ¡Benchiladas! Edition”

  1. Thank you for letting us know what a drag it is to strain the sauce – there’s got to be a better way! This looks really good, and not too difficult for a beginner like me.

  2. They look like da bomb! Being from New Mexico, I am an enchilada master. Here we make them with Red or Green New Mexican chiles, but the smokiness of the adobo, chipotle, and fire roasted tomatoes look damn interesting! I wanna make this!

    Sometimes if the sauce is runny, the tortillas will soak up some of the extra liquid during the baking process…did that happen for you?
    Unfortunatley, I don’t know of an easier way to strain the sauce….unless you wanna pick seeds and skins out of your teeth for the rest of the night 🙁 I’ve been there.

  3. You and I have the same stove – mine’s dirty too, but not that bad, and really only around one burner – and we have the same F&E Olive Oil. I guess that means I ought to make these BENchies, right?

    Plus, it looks easy for someone like me, i.e., the definitive un-chef, and I have a shitload of chicken breasts in my freezer (Zaycon: It was fun once, not doing that again) looking for something to do.

    Your directions – narrative with accompanying pictures – are better than any cookbook.

  4. …and then we played Super Mario Bros. until we passed out, living happily ever after.

    The End.

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