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Enchiladas With Chili Gravy
4 to 6 servings (makes 12 enchiladas)
Think of this as a kit: a spice blend, a sauce for coating the tortillas and a killer gravy you'll be glad to have on hand. The components can be made on different days, and all are great to have around. Assembled and frozen enchiladas make a nice, homey meal for houseguests or housesitters.
The recipe makes more chili gravy than you need here, but you'll be happy to have it on hand, for topping tostadas, scrambled eggs, chilaquiles and more.
MAKE AHEAD: The chili gravy can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months. The spice blend can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month. The tortilla sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months. Defrost completely and stir to re-blend before using.
Adapted from "The Enchilada Queen Cookbook: Enchiladas, Fajitas, Tamales, and More Classic Recipes from Texas-Mexico Border Kitchens," by Sylvia Casares with Dotty Griffith (St. Martin's Griffin, 2016).
For the chili gravy
1 1/2 cups chopped white onion
5 cloves garlic, smashed
3 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup cooked ground beef, crumbled
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup flour
2 cups no-salt-added beef broth
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons Tex-Mex Holy Trinity spice blend (see NOTE)
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
For the tortilla sauce
7 dried guajillo chili peppers, stems and seeds removed
2 dried arbol chili peppers, stems removed (no need to remove seeds)
1 3/4 cups water
For the enchiladas
Twelve 6-inch corn tortillas
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, plus 1 1/4 cups for sprinkling
1 cup diced onion (optional)
For the gravy: Combine the onions, garlic and 1/2 cup of the water in a blender on high speed; puree until smooth.
Pour the mixture into a small saucepan; add the beef and 2 cups of the water. Cook over low heat, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Use a large spoon to skim off and discard any froth on the surface; repeat two or three times as needed. Also, use the spoon to break up clumps of meat for a smooth consistency. Remove from the heat.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, reduce the heat to low; add the flour, stirring constantly to form a smooth roux. Cook for several minutes, until it develops a light brown color, then remove from the heat.
Heat the broth and the remaining cup of water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until heated through. Meanwhile, whisk together the chili powder, salt, Tex-Mex Holy Trinity spice blend and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl. Stir that mixture into the broth mixture, whisking until smooth.
Gradually add the cooked beef and chili powder-broth mixture to the roux, stirring constantly so it's lump-free. Stir and cook over low heat for 5 to 15 minutes or until the mixture is almost as thick as ketchup. The yield is about 5 cups. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before using.
For the tortilla sauce: Rinse the chilies with cool water, then place them in a medium saucepan with the 1 3/4 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Pour the cooked chilies and their liquid into a blender or food processor; puree for about 1 minute, until smooth. Strain the pureed mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. The yield is about 13/4 cups. Cover and refrigerate until chilled before using.
For the enchiladas: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking oil spray.
Place the tortilla sauce in a wide, shallow bowl. Dip the tortillas into the sauce one at a time, coating both sides and shaking off any excess. Stack them on a plate. You'll have sauce left over; strain out any pieces of tortilla before pouring it into a clean container to cover and refrigerate.
Working with one at a time, place about 1/3 cup of the cheese down the center of each tortilla. Roll the tortillas and place them, seam sides down, in the baking dish. Repeat until all the tortillas are filled, arranging them in a baking dish with barely any space in between.
Pour 1/4 cup of the chili gravy over each enchilada, then sprinkle evenly with some of the remaining shredded cheese and the onion, if using. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbly. Garnish with a little more cheese before serving.
NOTE: To make the Tex-Mex Holy Trinity spice blend, combine 3 cloves of garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin seed, 1 1/4 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns and 1 tablespoon of water in a molcajete, mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Process until the garlic is a smooth paste and the spices are finely ground. The yield is about 4 teaspoons. Transfer to a small airtight container; refrigerate for up to 1 month.
Nutrition | Per serving (based on 6, using 3 cups chili gravy and 1 cup tortilla sauce): 630 calories, 26 g protein, 38 g carbohydrates, 43 g fat, 19 g saturated fat, 85 mg cholesterol, 1,060 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar
Sweet Potatoes With Chicken and Lemon Grass
This thin-brothed stew is homey yet flavorful enough to serve to holiday house guests. It was inspired by the Hmong community in Minnesota, whose cooks tend to use simple ingredients.
The Hmong top the dish with an optional, lightly salted mixture of chopped Thai chilies, fresh ginger and cilantro, which we really liked in testing; see the NOTE, below.
MAKE AHEAD: The stew can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Prepare the chili pepper topping just before serving.
Adapted from "Smashed, Boiled and Baked (and Fried, Too!): A Celebration of Potatoes in 75 Irresistible Recipes," by Raghavan Iyler (Workman, 2016).
1 pound sweet potatoes
2 stalks lemon grass
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (trimmed of visible fat), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup water
1 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns
Steamed white or brown rice, for serving
Fill a medium bowl with cold water. Peel the sweet potatoes and rinse them under cool water, then cut them into 1-inch cubes, submerging them in the bowl of water as you go.
Trim the ends of each lemon grass stalk to yield a tightly layered middle section that's about 3 inches long. Use the flat side of a chef's knife to smash the section, then cut that in half lengthwise, discarding the tough outer layer. Cut the halves into thin strips, then into small pieces.
Heat the oil in a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the chicken and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes or until it loses some of its raw look.
Drain the potatoes, then add them to the pan along with the cup of water, the lemon grass, salt and cracked peppercorns. Once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through.
Divide the stew, including the broth, among bowls filled halfway with rice.
NOTE: Stir together 10 to 12 thinly sliced red and/or green Thai chili peppers (not seeded), 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger root, 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro and tender stems, and a small pinch of coarse kosher or sea salt in a small bowl. Use some of the mixture to top each portion of the stew.
Nutrition | Per serving (using kosher salt): 300 calories, 27 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 85 mg cholesterol, 390 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar