Monday, May 30, 2011

Wild and Wacky Food Adventurers

This past week, I went on an expedition with my dear friend Cristy. Our husbands graciously accepted our invitation to drive us around and carry things for us. Destination: Dekalb Farmer's Market. I would have photos for you but there was a big sign on the door prohibiting photography...right next to the sign prohibiting firearms. I've been to the market many times but not in a long long time. Cristy, my world adventuring friend, had never been, so clutching our bottles of hand sanitizer we closed our eyes and stepped into the International World of Food. It's an amazing place filled with beautiful colorful people and produce, items from all over the globe and stuff you can't find anywhere else. We made our way through, oooh-ing and "look at this!" until the men asked if we could move on to the next aisle. Anyway, the most exciting part came in the seafood department where a murderous trout leapt out of the tank and tried to bite Cristy's and my face off. We both screamed and jumped about 3 feet back. We watched as a tiny old lady wrestled a blue crab into her bag. He put up a furious fight but really, there was never any question who would win that battle. Cristy attempted to hypnotize a crawfish with her finger and all he could do was stand up and stare at her as if you say "You lookin at me?"  By the way, I read that our Federal Government spent a ton of taxpayer money on a study to analyze shrimp running on treadmills. It's true. (I was going to put the link but I can't find it.) Anyway, we eventually dragged all of our bags out to the truck, ate some bread with our hands in the parking lot, and laughed all the way home.

Emboldened by that adventure, I decided it was time for WSH and I to finally go to Bell Street Burritos and see if we could experience something we cherished years ago.  It's a complicated story but I'll try to make it short. Tortillas was restaurant on Ponce de Leon. We loved their food. We and our coworkers ate lunch there at least once a week. Eventually Tortillas closed when a Moe's and a Chipotle opened nearby, but there remained devoted followers all over the city. So many, in fact that a man made a business recreating Tortilla's beloved burritos and delivering them once a week. Finally he had enough customers to open a brick and mortar, thus Bell Street Burritos was born. On Saturday afternoon, I decided it was time to give it a try.  My timing is impeccable and I always have the best adventure ideas! As we drove down 85 South into the heart of Atlanta....OOPs the Auburn Ave. exit was blocked by police. Hmmm.. I noticed a HUGE crowd of people in the street. Jim said, we haven't come this far to be discouraged! And since he knows every single street and alley in the city I said OK! After 40 minutes of wrangling through traffic with side streets closed, we made it to the Auburn Avenue Curb Market which is a seriously funky place.  And because my timing is so good, we landed there right in the middle of the Atlanta Caribbean Carnival (23rd annual -- who knew?)  By grace alone we found a parking space and marched inside the market. Looking this way and that searching every stall, we found it! We made it to the great Emerald City!! And it was closed. Yes. a little note on the counter Sorry Closed.  Now before you look at their site and say Duh Sally, it says Mon-Fri... I am listed on their facebook and Matt had said he was opening on Saturdays and always sent a message when his schedule dictated otherwise. So there! I R not Stoopid.  Well, we had to buy something and show a receipt to get out of the parking lot so we stopped at a produce stand and bought some absolutely beautiful Silver Queen corn. It was gorgeous. We were hungry and stopped for a burger at Grindhouse Killer Burgers, which I'd read about , and they were really really good. The onion rings were perfection.  The proprietors were friendly, it was a very pleasant meal after such a big letdown.

Back to the corn:

It was so tender and delicate I had to take extra care not to smash the kernels as I pulled off the silk. We cooked some ribs to go with it and they were good, but as Garrison Keiller once said, "Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn."  Ooooh Baby this was the best corn ever.  Back to basics... it all comes down the best ingredients. Summer has begun. Eat some corn....soon!

See you soon.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chicken Enchiladas

Once upon a time, I was in a conversation with someone I love dearly and the subject of Cinqo de Mayo came up. She wondered aloud, "I wonder when Cinqo de Mayo is this year?" I couldn't help myself.... "probably on the 5th of May" I chortled. Of course she was wondering which day of the week it fell on but I've never let her live it down. I'm a good friend like that!  And because she loves and needs easy delicious dinners, (she's a LOT busier than I am) this one's for her 

How far this recipe has fallen from the lofty heights of The French Laundry, but I must say, it IS a tasty bite. And while I normally use very few processed products, sometimes you can get as good or better ingredients pre-made and save yourself a great deal of time. Alton Brown said he buys Teriyaki sauce for that reason, and that's good enough for me. This is a quick way to make a really delicious and satisfying meal.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
chicken stock
chili powder
garlic or garlic powder
corn tortillas
monterey jack cheese
green enchilada sauce

The corn torillas I use are from La Tortilla Factory which I buy at Publix. They are actually corn and wheat tortillas and are thicker and moister than most packaged corn tortillas available.  The salsa is my favorite Jack's Special Salsa (mild because I'm wimpy like that) which I've found in a number of stores locally. Be aware though, there are no artificial preservatives used so once opened, the refrigerator shelf life is much shorter than say, something that comes in a jar. The only Monterey Jack cheese I ever use is Whole Foods 365 brand. I used to hate MJ cheese because I thought it had no flavor, 365 does, and it is wonderful and resonably priced. Finally, the green enchilada sauce I used was  Ingle's Laura Lynn brand (Foodies- "Don't hate! Celebrate!"). You can use anything made primarily with green chiles and tomatillos, or make your own. I like this brand because it tastes remarkably like my favorite Taqueria's Pork and green chile sauce, without the pork of course.

It's Cinco de Mayo and I know this isn't "authentic" Mexican food but hola! to my mexican amigos if you are still following. One day I'll do what it takes to make the perfect dark mole... that could be a lifetime goal and actually more complex than some French Laundry dishes. But for now, back to the Enchiladas!!

First you season a mix of water and chicken stock with the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder (or minced garlic) taste it before you put the chicken in and adjust to taste. Add the chicken breasts whole and SLOWLY bring them to a simmer, then turn the heat down. The idea is to cook them through to 180 without boiling, which makes them tough and dry. This can easily be done a day or two before then refrigerated or, you can use left over roast chicken for this.  Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from the poaching liquid and when cooled enough, take two forks (or your clean fingers)  and shred the meat into ... shreds. (Sorry no pictures of that part.)  Add back to the pan (sautee some onions first if your initials aren't CMA or if you aren't in a hurry). Add the meat and add salsa to taste, season with salt and pepper. My chicken was a little dry so I added some wonderfully good schmaltz, which I had on hand from making chicken stock, and fixed it right up.  While all that's going on, bring the tortillas to room temperature.

Shredded chicken with salsa and seasoning

Spray a baking dish with non stick spray. With clean hands take a tortilla and fill it with a bit less than 1/2 c of chicken.

Then wrap it up so it's like a cigar, careful not to break the tortilla.

Place it in the baking dish with the "seam" side down. It looks so lonely doesn't it? : (

I'm so lonely... No enchilada friends to play with...

That's better!
Then comes the dousing with green enchilada sauce. This stuff is mild and has just the right about of tang to liven things up a little.

Spread the freshly grated Monterey Jack on top. Pop into a 350 oven until it's a little browned and bubbly

Could have browned a bit more. We were hungry!
Serve 1 or 2 and top with your choice of goodies. I used the salsa and a bit of creme fraiche which is the super sexy silky gorgeous sister of sour cream. Sloppy plating but as I said, we were hungry!

To stretch this out, you could serve with rice and black beans (yum!) or a salad. It's one of our favorite dishes and is super easy to make, reheats well and is just all round yummy.

Happy Cinqo de Mayo

See you soon.