Monday, November 14, 2005

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

'Tis the season for potlucks. This dish is a great one to take. It was given to me by my grandmother, who doesn't like to cook (but loves to throw parties). While the enchiladas look complicated, they are really very easy to put together and have a nice bite to them. And they can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator - just don't put the sauce or cheese on them until you are ready to bake it.

10 soft-taco sized flour tortillas
4 chicken breasts - cooked and cubed/shredded into small pieces
1 package of cream cheese (8 ounces - light cream cheese can be used, but not nonfat)
1 can mild green chiles (4 ounces)
1 can mild green enchilada sauce (19 ounces)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (additional 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese optional)

Melt the cream cheese in a saucepan on low heat with the green chiles. Add in the cooked chicken and mix well. Spoon or scoop the chicken mixture into each tortilla, spreading it out and rolling it up. Place seam side down in a greased 9x13 casserole dish. Try to distribute the chicken mixture as evenly as possible between the tortillas. Pour the can of green chile enchilada sauce on top of the tortillas, then cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and top with the grated cheese and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, but don't burn the cheese.

The easiest way to serve this is to cut the tortillas in half horizontally (so you end up with 20 half-tortillas), and dish up directly from the casserole dish. Serves 4 to 6 people.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Cooking with alcohol, or not

I like to cook with wine and other kinds of booze. You're probably thinking it's an excuse to open a bottle of wine. Not at all! I like the depth and complexity alcohol adds to the flavor of dishes. Theoretically, at least, the alcohol burns off, leaving the tannins and whatever the heck else is in wine in your entree. I can't imagine my favorite dishes without wine. That's why I cook with it. Although, sure, having a bottle of Chianti open for dinner is a side benefit, and Justin doesn't complain.

But not everyone likes cooking with alcohol. (cough! Deanna cough!) I get a lot of free preview issues of cooking magazines because, well, I subscribe (or have subscribed) to a lot of cooking magazines, and the latest, Cuisine at Home, includes a list of alcohol substitutes, which is as follows:

  • whine wine: white grape juice; chicken or vegetable broth; ginger ale
  • red wine: grape juice; cranberry juice; chicken, beef, or vegetable broth; flavored vinegar; tomato juice
  • brandy: white gape juice; apple juice; cherry, peach or apricot syrup
  • beer: chicken, beef, or mushroom brother; white grape juice; ginger ale [I think you can also substitute O'Doul's or other near-beer]
  • rum: pineapple juice with almond extract or molasses; vanilla extract
  • vodka: water; apple cider or white grape juice mixed with lime juice
  • sherry: vanilla extract; orange or pineapple juice; coffee

Choose whatever is most appropriate for the flavor of the dish. As a general rule, if you are using a recipe that involves other liquids, you can substitute more of those for the alcohol, as long as they are suitable for doing what the alcohol would be doing (e.g. you can saute things in wine, but not in cream). And of course there are recipes that just have to have alcohol in them, like Bananas Foster, Linda's famous rum balls (which I will post closer to the holidays), or other things you might want to light on fire.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pear Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving is three weeks away - yikes! Now, while my family has labeled me as "weird" because I hate stuffing and don't like pumpkin pie, I happen to love cranberry sauce. As a kid at large family Thanksgiving dinners, we ate the Ocean Spray jellied stuff - the kind that slurps right out of the can intact, so it looks like a jelly sculpture of the can itself. It was kind of cool. And it tasted great. Eventually, the whole berry sauce was discovered, and that tasted good out of the can and worked well as a garnish for turkey.

Then I discovered this recipe in Taste of Home (December/January 2001 issue), and my family has never looked back. It is, simply, the most delicious cranberry sauce ever. Plus, it can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator; it keeps very well.

2 - 1/2 cups cubed peeled ripe pears (about 3 medium)
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh gingerroot
1 cinnamon stick (at least 3 inches long), broken in half
1 package (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 to 1 - 1/4 cups sugar

In a saucepan, combine the pears, water, ginger and broken cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Stir in cranberries and sugar. Return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 - 12 minutes or until the cranberries have popped and sauce is slightly thickened, stirring several times. Discard cinnamon sticks. Mash sauce, if desired. Cool. Cover and refrigerate. Yields about 2 to 4 cups.