Monday, February 27, 2012

Que hay para la cena?- S10E11

Hola and welcome to "What's for dinner?"

Today we're going to address a growing problem here in American kitchens... leftovers.  That's right, those darned leftovers, never as good as the first time, always sitting in your fridge, waiting for the trash bin.  Well today's Good Eats recipe deals with this issue and may I say it's been a long time coming.

After our so-so experience a few nights ago with a roasted chicken, we were left with, you guessed it, leftover chicken.  Now we could eat this by itself or alongside some vegetables, but where's the excitement in that?

So, Naris began trolling the interwebs, looking for a bit of guidance to help take care of our little issue and he stumbled upon a Good Eats episode all about leftovers!  The episode is titled "Tortillas Again" and sees Alton Brown (AB) faced with a striking crew, picketers outside his kitchen and an enormous stack of leftover tortillas.  When Naris spotted the recipe for Enchilada Lasagna, he knew it was the right vessel for our leftover chicken (we also had many of the other ingredients on hand).

So, the adventure began...

Off I went in search of the missing puzzle pieces.  Fresh & Easy held most of what we needed, chili powder, onions and corn tortilla's, but they were missing two crucial ingredients, the queso fresco and the chipotle peppers.  Now, we could have substituted monterey jack cheese, but what fun would that be?!?  So, off to Chavez Super I went searching high and low for queso fresco, unfortunately, they were loading in a bunch of refrigerated stuff so I couldn't get to the case myself and I had to ask a nice young women who worked there to help me out.  I told her I needed 3 cups of crumbled queso fresco and she went off and returned with a small wheel of cheese, ensuring me that once broken up it would increase in volume.  Now, she was quite nice and seemed to know what she was talking about, unfortunately when I got home and we crumbled the cheese, it only filled up about 2 scant cups but we went with it anyways.  They also only had chipotle pepper powder, so I went with some fresh serano peppers instead.
The sad queso :(
Next, it was time to get our mise en place set to go, out came the cheese, tortilla's, chili powder, peppers and onions.
Gathering ingredients
Mincing the garlic
Dicing the onion
Per AB's suggestion, we toasted up some whole cumin seed (low heat, just until you begin to smell it) and then tossed it in our handy Cuisinart Smart Power Blender* and ground those sucker to a powder.  Time and effort were minimal, results were excellent, I highly recommend you take this step.
Toasting the cumin seeds
Grinding the cumin to powder
Keeping with our leftover theme, we used some tomato sauce and canned tomatoes we had on hand instead of buying new stuff just for this recipe.  They wouldn't have expired until 2013, but it meant less stuff in our crowded pantry.

Finally, it was time to begin the sauce.  Now, other times that I have made enchiladas it has always been with premade sauce in a can or jar, but for this little adventure that just would not do.  So, out came the stock pot and in it went the serano chiles, 3 of the garlic cloves, chili powder, tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper and some leftover chicken stock we had frozen in to cubes (we do this whenever there is a chicken carcass, it means we always have stock on hand and we make use of the whole bird and some vegetables that might not otherwise get eaten).
Giving the sauce a whirl
Since we substituted some chopped tomatoes for the tomato sauce, I whipped out our handy Cuisinart SmartStick Immersion Blender** and smoothed out the chunks to make our enchilada sauce nice and smooth.

While the sauce was reducing (cooking the excess water out), Naris set out to make the filling.  He placed some vegetable oil in a heated skillet and reheated our chicken medium heat and then set it aside.  Next, in that same skillet, he added a touch more oil and sauteed the onion with a bit of salt, reducing the heat to medium low and sweating some of the water out of the onions.  A few minutes later, in went 1 garlic clove and the oregano, which were given a minute to come together.  And finally, back went the chicken to meld the flavors, then off the heat it went and we were ready to begin assembly.

Since we didn't have a 13"x9" glass pan, we split this in to two dishes, if you do have the right pan, jsut double the ammounts.  In went a quarter cup of the sauce, then 2 tortillas dipped in the sauce, then a layer of the chicken filling, a coating of queso fresco and a final topping or two more sauce dipped tortillas.
First layer of chicken filling and queso fresco
First complete layer
We repeated this process until we had exhausted our supply of filling (about two layers in each pan) and then spread the remaining queso fresco on top of the dishes and covered them with aluminum foil.

Oven ready
Into our preheated 350 degree oven they went and after 30 minutes we removed the foil coverings.  Then the lasagnas got 10 more minutes to melt the cheese on top and they were ready for dinner.
Final product, ready for chow time
Once this cooled for a few minute on our handy Joseph Joseph Expandable Trivet***, it was time to dig in.  This recipe made about 6 large portions and cost a whopping $14.11 total (including leftovers used), which works out to $2.35 per serving!!

The Verdict!

Jesse: I thought this was a great way to use up leftovers and next time I would definitely get more cheese and perhaps add some more vegetables and a sour cream or guacamole topper.  At 1/5 the cost of a usual enchilada dish at a restaurant, this is a steal and some really good...

Home cooking: 3, Restaurants: 2

Naris: I would definitely make this again, but it needs more cheese.

Home cooking: 4, Restaurants: 1

Until we cook again,

Cost Breakdown!

-Chili powder - $0.99
-Organic onion - $0.89
-Tortillas - $1.99 (have 3/4 of pack leftover)
-Queso Fresco - $3.89
-Serano Chiles - $0.09

Had on hand:
-Oregano ~ $3 for whole box of organic (used about 1/9 of box)
-Cumin ~ $3 for whole box of organic (used about 1/9 of box)
-Chicken ~ $3.50 for portion used - non-organic
-Garlic ~ $0.60 for portion used of organic
-Tomato Sauce/Chopped ~ $3 (got once can on clearance and both were organic)

*We use this blender because it has multiple cups to make individual portions of smoothies, or whatever you want to blend (the cups also serve as travel mugs!, which means less dishes to wash).  It also has a handy chopping/grinding blade and small cup that we use for small amounts of spices and nuts.  The Coup de grâce, it takes up about as much counter space as a Costco sized jar of Peanut Butter and after mail in rebate cost us about $28.
**This blender serves a bit of a different purpose, it can handle hot liquids, goes directly in to whatever vessel you need.  It is also great for mixing emulsions that you don't want to aerate, like molecular gastronomy experiments!
***We got this trivet not long ago, and man is it useful.  It stores away to the half size of a normal but expand to hold 2 pots/bowls or one large pan.  It also comes in fun colors, which I love!

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