I’d been looking forward to trying my hand at enchiladas, but as far as I knew, I had no idea where to start. Aren’t enchiladas like rolled-up corn tortillas with microwaved cheese and tomato sauce, or something? They’re one of my favorite foods, but I was hopelessly lost in figuring out the process. Hello, internet! I did some digging, and this recipe for green chile enchiladas sounded both easy enough to follow and the right measure of spicy for my weak tongue.
I’d never bought a tomatillo and had to google what one looked like at two o’clock in the morning in front of the long, intimidating, brightly lit produce cases intermittently spritzing the greens with water. I still couldn’t find them. For a few minutes, I wondered whether I’d have to stop into a specialty Mexican/Latino grocery and had no idea how well I could ask for a fruit I could barely identify in my broken and out-of-practice high school Spanish. Finally, though, I found them in my chain grocery, right next to the habaneros, jalapenos, and poblanos in a tiny basket. The store offered only about two or three pounds worth, and they weren’t of the ripest quality. Undeterred, I bought most of the ones that weren’t clearly spoiled or mysteriously sticky.
I made the enchiladas the next morning while my very good friend headed over. My text message read: “You have to help me eat some of these 12 enchiladas.”
I was a real master of the kitchen for this dish and multitasked my little heart out, but it still took me a solid two hours from starting chopping to sitting down to eat. I used two large poblanos instead of anaheim peppers, but used them the same way, and used a packaged, Kraft “Mexican” cheese blend instead of shredding my own. I added hand-shredded roasted chicken thigh meat that I’d made for dinner last night. Thusfar, I’m most proud of this dish. Not only is it beautiful, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten — I had no idea I could cook restaurant-quality food at home.
By far, one of the best things about this project is how proud I am of the food I’m cooking. I hadn’t considered the work that went into making refried black beans, any more than opening a can of crappy ones or ordering them with a meal — until I used this recipe today and took the time to both lovingly mash such a simple side dish, and wash that masher with plastered-on dried beans later. I’m beginning to appreciate even the smallest bits of my meals. It took me a long time to blacken the peppers, sweat them, peel each bit of the skin off, seed them. I’m proud of that.
My pal and I had a deep conversation over the food about troubling events in our lives, but it seemed for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t inclined to shovel in food to avoid speaking. I wasn’t in a hurry to finish my food, and I wasn’t waiting on someone else’s timeline for more water to quench my thirst. I didn’t whisper to avoid the next table’s reaction to discussing delicate topics, and I gave a scrap of chicken to each of my dogs (whom I love like children). When I felt like crying during our conversation, I didn’t order a drink or dessert or ask for a check. Eating at my own table has been healing.
And by the way: these reheated to be even fucking better than they were on day one.