Green chile chicken enchiladas

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.

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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.

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And by the way: these reheated to be even fucking better than they were on day one.

Eggs Benedict

I crave protein and raw fruits and vegetables in the morning. Normally, I’m such a carbs junkie that I can’t stay off the corn and rice long enough to get a solid amount of protein, but first thing in the day, all I want is meat, eggs, cucumbers, and an ocean full of water. This morning, I stayed in bed nearly two hours before I got up for good — at 1:30pm. The one time I did get up was only to let the dogs out and eat a cookie!

Nevertheless, it was my breakfast time when I woke up, and making eggs benedict sounded like a winner. Who doesn’t need five eggs, 4 oz of sliced uncured ham, and a full stick of butter first thing in the morning, anyway? This is the Midwest, lovers. This is America. This is exactly what the rest of the world thinks we eat, all day long. And I, your giggling blogger, did just that.

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Sort of, anyway. The first round of hollandaise sauce was botched. I remembered that it was just a full stick of butter, three egg yolks, and a bit of lemon juice, but forgot the technique. Still too cocky, I threw everything in the pot on low and watched it all clump up. Damn.

I hit the internet again, and found a basic hollandaise recipe before trying again. I’ll save you the trouble, and repeat it here. You don’t need a double boiler, and it doesn’t have to be as hard as some sites claim (what kind of non-chef has a fancy double-boiler anyway?). But you do only have two hands, and you’ll need both of them to slave over the stove for the entire length of cooking the hollandaise — about 15-20 minutes. Put on a good audiobook or some jams and rock out while you stir incessantly. Warm up your wrists in whatever way you see fit.

  1. Chop up an entire stick of butter into about 20 pieces and set within arm’s reach of the stove.
  2. Crack the eggs and retrieve the yolks of three eggs, put those in a saucepan. A big, 3qt saucepan is what I used, and it worked well. You don’t actually need an egg white separator. Here’s a Lifehack if you don’t know how.
  3. Bust the yolks and stir until they’re an even consistency with the heat off.
  4. Turn the heat on the tiniest, lowest possible setting on the stove. Add in each one of the butter slices veeeeeerrryyyyy slowly. V-e-r-y fucking slowly. Like, until the entire slice is melted, don’t add the next one. Stir. Stir. Stir. Stir until your arm feels like it will fall off. Stir until you feel like you’ve given a hundred handjobs. Stir some more. Don’t let the eggs scramble. If they scramble, you’re screwed. Stir some more. I used a rubber spatula, and that worked much better than an unreliable whisk (I don’t even own a whisk). Don’t switch arms, cheater.
  5. Add a little less than a tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir. Taste. Decide if you want more lemon. You can’t undo lemon.
  6. Stir more. When the sauce is thickened enough to stick to whatever you’re stirring it with and feels warm and your arm really hurts, you’re done. While you prepare the rest of the meal, stir it more to avoid getting a gelatinous “crust” over the top. I don’t add seasoning to hollandaise, because I add it on top of my meal to control the amount of salt that finds its way into my food.

The rest of the meal is pretty straightforward. Warm up some English muffins* and some sliced ham by whatever means you deem necessary. I poached my eggs for the first time as I listened to this lovely British man talk, but it was far more complicated than it was worth to boil the water and watch the thing swirl around, worried I was going to lose more eggs to my cooking experiment. I’ve done it. I’ve poached, now. I’m totally giving myself (and you) permission to fry the damn thing over-easy if you don’t have time or inclination to boil your stupid eggs all fancy-like. I assembled the dish: English muffin, ham, egg, hollandaise, and then topped it with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.

Ta-da. Looks pretty neat, huh? Kind of made it worth slaving over that hollandaise, huh?

On the side: a cara cara orange.

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*Note: I used Kinnikinnick’s English muffins, available here. They were “okay for gluten-free food,” but not amazing. I probably won’t top them with my finest jams, but for soaking up hollandaise, they worked great. Kinnikinnick makes way, way, way better animal cookies than anybody else, for the record.