Chicken Filled Enchiladas with Tangy Crema Tomatillo Sauce

Since we enjoyed last weeks enchildadas so much I decided to try the second recipe for them this week.  These were similar in assembly to lasts weeks but I have to admit that I didn’t care for this recipe as well as the last one.  These were very good but they just didn’t have the smoothness of the version made with the bechamel sauce and I found that they lacked that smooth and smoky hint of heat in the finish.  The tomatillo sauce was nice but just a bit on the bland side for me.  I did enjoy the addition of the sour cream with the chicken filling.  At any rate, it was fun to experiment with different versions of the same dish and compare them.  I will definitely make these again and continue on the hunt for more authenitic Mexican recipes to try out.

Gutsy Cooks Club – Enchiladas Especiales Taciba Style

It is restaurant week here in San Diego so we are dining out most of the week in an attempt to try a lot of those restaurants that we talk about trying and somehow never get around to going to.  I did, however, manage to make these enchiladas for lunch so that I could kick out the new season of Gutsy Cooks Club.

I have to admit that I am not much of a Mexican food enthusiast.  So much of it seems to me to be the same ingredients just layered together in a different way but I chalk that up to my midwest upbringing where the concept of Mexican food was Taco Bell.  Here in San Diego, a lot of what we get as Mexican is just Tex-Mex and not authentic so…  I am a great admirer of Rick Bayless and thought it would be fun to give a few of his recipes a try.

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather.  I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed these.  Neither could anyone else as a matter of fact.  Anyone who knows me around here knows that I am not all that fond of Mexican food and how I go out of my way to eat anything else but Mexican food.  The recipe was simple to put together, it had a bit of prep work such as roasting the peppers and grilling the chicken but essentially it was a bechamel sauce made with milk and chicken stock and a little garlic.  The roasted peppers and spinach are processed in the blender with half of the bechamel and the chicken is stirred into the remaining bechamel.  Then the filled tortillas are rolled and placed on a bed of the green sauce, topped with more sauce and cheese and baked until warmed through.  They were delicious. 

At first bite I thought they were just a bit bland and then the roasted peppers kicked in and you get that hit of heat and smoothness from the sauce.  I brought some to a few of my Hispanic friends and they were knocked out by just how good they were too.  I have heard for years how Rick supposedly makes authentic Mexican food and now I have had it confirmed.  I liked them so much that I made a detour to the library today after work to pick up a few more of Ricks books to see what other surprises he had in store for me.

Cupids Strawberry Cake

I can see why Flo calls this her signature yellow cake.  I found it a snap to make and it certainly delivers on it’s promise.  It is rich and buttery without being cloying and it is moist but has a firm texture and crumb similar to a poundcake which I find especially appealing.  It lends itself easily to a variety of fillings and frostings.  It can be eaten plain or with a sprinkling of powdered sugar or it can be dressed up or down as you see fit.  The combination of the strawberries and the lemon buttercream was especially appealing to my family.

Even though I had been warned that the frosting could be a bit sweet I decided to try it as is before I made any changes to the recipe.  While I didn’t find it to be too sweet for my taste, I did find it to be a bit soft and slightly hard to work with.  My first attempt at frosting the cake found it sliding down the sides.  I put it in the refrigerator for a bit to firm up before proceeding and had no problems with it after that.  I served the cake for a collectors club meeting I hosted and it was extremely well received.  I will definitely be making this one again and the yellow cake will certainly be added to my baking repertoire.

Quintessential Cheese Blintzes

I have to admit, we are not big breakfast eaters in my house.  Usually toast and coffee or cereal is about all we get around to in the morning, but when I saw this recipe I knew we were in for a special treat and I wasn’t disappointed.

The recipe is simple and easy to prepare.   The entire thing can be done the night before and refrigerated and then just heated in the oven in the morning before serving so you don’t need to slave over the stove on Sunday morning making a fancy breakfast.

These are made using a standard crepe batter of eggs, flour, milk and water all tossed into the food processor and blended until smooth.  Then the batter is left in the refrigerator for a few hours to rest.  When ready to cook the crepes, stir the batter to emulsify the ingredients.  Film a 6-7 inch saute or crepe pan with butter and pour about 1/4 cup batter into the pan and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan.  Cook over medium high heat until the top appears dry and the bottom is lightly browned.  The recipe calls for filming the pan with butter between each crepe but I didn’t find that necessary.  I had no sticking problems at all.  Maybe it’s my pan, maybe I have just made way too many crepes and am used to the process.  You can do whatever works for you.  Stack the cooked crepes on a plate between layers of waxed paper and allow to cool.  At this point the crepes can be refrigerated to assemble later or frozen.  I allowed mine to cool and them assembled the blintzes.

The finished crepe batterCooking the crepesCompleted crepes

The filling is a cheese mixture, I used Fresh Ricotta Cheese , lemon zest, sugar, vanilla and an egg as called for in the recipe.  Place about 1 to 1/2 tablespoons of the filling on the crepe, fold the bottom up, then fold the sides in and press to flatten and seal them, then roll them to make a rectangluar blintz.   Since I was going to bake mine the following morning, I placed the filled blintzes in a generously buttered baking dish and covered them with plastic wrap and stored them in the refrigerator.

The assembled blintzes

The next morning, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and baked them for about 8 minutes, then turned them and returned them to the oven for another 10 minutes.

These can be served with any favorite fruit, preserve or jelly.  I had just gotten some wonderful peaches at the farmers market so I sliced them and sauteed them in a little butter to make sort of a fresh peach preserve and spooned it over them.  Heavenly.  These may just make breakfast eaters out of all of us.

Fresh Ricotta Cheese

A few weeks ago, I took a cheesemaking class at one of the local cooking shops. We had so much fun and the cheese was so wonderful I have been itching to get into the kitchen and make some more.  This week, I needed some fresh cheese and decided the time had come to make some of the delicious fresh ricotta cheese that we made in the class.

The whole process is simple and takes only about 30 minutes with hardly any hands on work so here we go.

Place 8 cups of whole milk in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and place over medium high heat.  Cook the milk, stirring almost constantly until the milk comes to a foaming boil. 

Heating the whole milk

 Turn off the heat and as the bubbles subside add 2 cups of buttermilk and salt (1/2 – 1 teaspoon if desired) and any other flavorings or herbs you wish to use.  Since the recipe I was going to use the cheese for called for lemon zest I added the zest of one lemon at this point.  Stir the mixture gently in one direction until the curds and whey begin to separate.  At this point the mixture will begin to look like thick buttermilk, the curds will be small and the whey will still be milky. 

Stirring to separate the curds and whey

Set the saucepan aside and let rest, undisturbed for about 5 minutes. 

The resting curds and whey

Once the mixture has rested for about 5 minutes, carefully pour the curds and whey into a cheesecloth lined strainer over a large bowl.  The whey will drain into the bowl and can be discarded or used for another purpose.  Allow the curds to drain for about 15 – 30 miutes depending on the consistency desired.  I let mine drain for about 15 minutes. 

Draining the curd

Use the cheese immediately or it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

8 cups of whole milk and two cups of buttermilk will yield about 10 – 12 ounces of fresh cheese.

The finished cheese