Friday, July 03, 2009

Going to the Mountain


So were the sage words of the founder of Islam, Francis Bacon and countless other scholars and academics no doubt (in concept at least).

Everyday is still a new experience in England-- whether it's figuring out what people are saying (I will likely forever be challenged by accent and slang), what certain foods are (yes, it doesn't seem like it would be that challenging, but believe me, it is) or trying to determine why they play the same episode of Friends about five times a day... and sometimes multiple times in a week! (I've given up). In general, I've found I've been able to compromise and find alternatives-- whether it is to food (no sushi? more grilled cooked fish and musubi... thankfully i'm able to get ume and nori; although ume has to be ordered); clothes & shoes (compromise: don't buy clothes anymore; instead have funneled my shopping compulsion into things for the home and iTunes downloads... to the positive impact on my wallet, might I add); country-living (more planning outings on the weekend; dinner at least one night of the week in the city-- coinciding with one of my travel days; spending the night "in the city" be it downtown Birmingham or London, once a week).

But the one thing that I haven't been able to find a solution to? Mexican food.

I grew up in Southern California-- Los Angeles to be exact. There Spanish is the dominant language and there are actually more Mexican-Americans than Americans. "So What?" you ask? That means kick-ass Mexican food.

And by kick ass I don't mean chain restaurants like Chipotle (although, do love me some Chipotle) or El Torito. I mean authentic, little hole-in-the-wall places that are sometimes hygienically questionable but you know abuela or perhaps tio (or tia, hijos/as o otra) are cooking recipes passed down for generations... EXCELLENTE.

And that is one of the HUGE gaps that I can't seem to fill. There's a Mexican chain called "Chiquitos" here... that is barely palatable... and not the least authentic (despite its claim). But other than that? You can barely buy ingredients (ummm... taco seasoning suspiciously tastes like curry...). So if the mountain ain't coming to Mohammed...

I've raised my chicken enchilada game to the next level and have experimented with making it taste "more authentic." I still haven't attempted to make my own sauce (I need a weekend for that), but I've been playing with the chicken mixture and think I've come up with a perfect blend thanks to some google sleuthing and piecing together bits and pieces from various places (including my friend McKay's recipe, whose this is originally based on!). Instead of grilling the chicken and cutting into chunks, I wanted to shred the chicken and make it really moist.. hence the new recipe, below. It actually is much easier than grilling (because you just let it sit on the stove) and the prep time is pretty quick. I'm still tweaking, so I'll let you know how it goes... and I'll let you know when I attempt sauces!

Hapa Shredded Chicken Enchiladas
Makes 8 Enchiladas; Extra "stuffing" can be sprinkled on top before the cheese mixture

You'll need:
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 a medium-sized onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed (I usually use 3, but I love garlic)
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 small, or 1/2 large bell pepper (any color-- but I like yellow or green for color), sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded (get the goo outta there) and diced
  • 1 large (16 oz) can of Enchilada sauce
  • Tortillas (i use flour, but you can use corn or whole wheat; note that whole wheat tends to be a little sweeter so you may need to counter with additional salt... it also for some reason is a little soggier... my experience shows that flour works best)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Taco seasoning packet
  • Hot sauce (optional; 1-2 tsp, or more depending on heat tolerance-- I like "Cholula" which is a Mexican hot sauce that you can actually get here-- it's available in most US grocery stores; one of these days I'll attempt my friend Alberto's grandmother's hot sauce which is AMAZING)
  • Shredded cheese (monterey jack, cheddar, mozzarella-- really, whatever you like; in America they also have those Mexican seasoned shredded cheese packets which I found works well; but if you don't have it, I just mix a little of the taco seasoning with the shredded cheese-- same idea)

(chicken mixture before enchilada assembly)


  • Place chicken breasts in a pot
  • Add 1/2 onion, smashed garlic and salt
  • Add water, just enough to cover top of chicken
  • Bring to a slow boil; Once boiling, reduce to simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes, covered
  • Once cooked, transfer chicken to bowl or other dish and place in refrigerator to cool (really for as long as you want... just want to make it cool enough to handle). I usually scoop in as much of the onion and garlic from the broth as I can-- it makes it extra tasty.
  • Retain broth
  • Once cooled, shred chicken (with hands) or with two forks (if using forks, you don't really need to cool)-- for the Hawaiian readers of this blog, think kalua
  • Melt butter in frying pan (or wok) and add bell peppers, tomato, remaining onion and diced garlic; saute until veggies are soft (you can use olive oil, but come on-- there's not much better than butter. if you use olive oil, about tbsp is enough)
  • Add chicken, taco seasoning (if using taco seasoning for cheese, retain 1/4), and 1/2 cup broth
  • Simmer 10 min to reduce liquid
  • If you're using hot sauce, add to chicken and veggie mixture. I usually add about 1 tbsp or more (I like it hot!)
  • Cook until warm
Now it's time to assemble your enchiladas!
  • Take one tortilla and add a few large spoonfuls of the chicken mixture in the center (be sure not to overstuff-- they'll be harder to seal).
  • Sprinkle a little cheese over mixture (retaining enough to sprinkle over all the enchiladas once assembled)
  • Fold ends toward center and roll the tortilla to close
  • Place in 13x9 baking pan
  • Repeat until you have used all of the chicken mixture (or you run out of space), arranging enchiladas in baking pan
  • Once assembled, pour enchilada sauce over enchiladas (you may not need the whole can-- it depends how "saucy" you want them)
  • Sprinkle remaining cheese over the entire mixture
  • Place in oven at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes (until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling).
(Before the oven)

(The final product*)

*if you like cilantro (I don't-- but wish I did for aesthetic purposes), you can finely chop and sprinkle cilantro over the top-- it would make it very pretty). Stay tuned for a good side to this meal in the next edition of: Going to the Mountain.

**Cook's note: taco seasoning can be VERY salty; so I usually only use about 3/4 of the packet or less; I don't usually cook with a lot of salt, so that may just be me. But between that and the enchilada sauce, beware of salt!