Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sommer's Easy Mexican Rice

This is a super fast easy side dish for Taco Tuesdays or Sommer's Enchiladas!

1 c uncooked rice
2 c water  with 2 tsp Better Than Bouillon or  2 c Chicken Broth
1 TBS Olive oil
1/2 c salsa
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp taco seasoning
1 tsp cilantro
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 c frozen or fresh corn (optional)

Sommer's Secret: read my blog post on seasonings.

1. Bring all ingredients to a boil on medium high heat.

2. Reduce heat to low and cover. Leave alone for at least 20 minutes NO PEAKING!

Sommer's Secret:Throw everything in a rice cooker and push the button!

3.  After 20 minutes or when rice cooker is done uncover and fluff with a fork.

Serve hot with other yummy Mexican food! 


Sommer's Enchiladas

Being from the Southwest, I REALLY miss NEW MEXICAN food. Yeah, New Mexican food is different from regular Mexican food. It's a perfect mixture of Mexican and Native American cooking together with Hatch Green Chili's to top it all doesn't get any better than that.

As you can imagine, it's hard to find good Mexican food on Oahu (although I've found a few jewels). So when I get a hankering for some Mexican that's not Taco Bell my best bet is to make it myself. Unfortunately I never learned to make much New Mexican food (it's on my to do list), in the meantime here's my take on Enchiladas.

Ingredients: (Pretty much everything is to taste, I've guesstimated the amounts)
2-4 pieces Cooked Chicken (left overs from a Grocery Store Rotisserie Chicken) or 1 lb cooked beef (ground, shredded or cut up into bite-sized pieces)
2 tsp Cilanto
2 tsp Minced Garlic
1/4 c.  Water, Chicken Broth or water with Bouillon or prepared Chicken Base
1 TBS Taco Seasoning
2 tsp Chili Powder
2 tsp Cumin
 12 oz can Enchilada Sauce
16 Corn Tortillas
2-4 cups Shredded Cheese
1 TBS Olive Oil
1 small chopped onion

Sommer's Secret for Quick Cooked Chicken:For added flavor boil with 1 TBS of Salt, 1 roughly chopped carrot, small onion and 1 clove of garlic. Shred the cooked meat and omit the skin. Save the cooking liquid. Extra liquid can be strained or blended and frozen in ice cube trays to add quick flavor to any dish. 

1. Heat 1 TBS Olive Oil in skillet on medium high.

2. Add Chopped Onions to "Sweat". Cook until soft and translucent.

Sommer’s Secret: If the oil crackles and sizzles when stirring the onions your temperature is too high and you will be sautéing your onions. You don’t want them to caramelize/brown, just soften so you don’t have crunchy onions in your enchiladas as you won't be baking them for too long. 

3. Add 2 tsp Minced Garlic and cook for a minute to take away the "raw"taste of the garlic.

Sommer's Secret: I love the GIANT bottle of minced garlic since we put it in everything! Funny Story: When I got married to Scotty the only seasonings I was really used to regularly using was onions, salt, pepper, parsley and raw chilis- for flavor. Yep that's it. I remember not liking the smell of olive oil and the smell of roasting garlic in the oven made me sick. For some reason they just were too "bold" of flavors for me. Fast forward 10+ years later and EVERYTHING needs Garlic. It reminds me of the guy in Crocodile Dundee who is eating (I think) a bat and says "eh, needs garlic"....ha ha ha....

4. Add cooked meat, Cilantro, Taco Seasoning, Chili Powder,  and Cumin.

Sommer's Secret: The Seasonings are really what make the enchiladas taste "authentic". And it's hard to tell someone how much to add since it really is "all to taste" of the person. Here's my take on seasonings:

Cilantro: Use Fresh Cilantro when ever you can. I'd love to grow my own but my black thumb keeps sabotaging my efforts. Since the fresh cut herbs usually go bad before I can use it all I like to purchase the refrigerated paste since it lasts a lot longer. We have Mexican Food night on "Taco" Tuesdays so the $4.00ish tube is a reasonable price for us.

Taco Seasoning: I use this because it is cheap, fast, and gives a quick "base" flavor to build upon. The guess-work is taken out of "how much" seasoning to add and contains all the seasonings to make your food "Mexican" or "Spanish" tasting. However the flavors are much more subtle and I find you must add other seasonings to really make your dish sing.

For blander palates taco seasoning or Paprika only may be the route to go. Generally Taco Seasoning includes seasonings in the roughly the same increments: Chili Powder, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Red Pepper Flakes, Oregano, Paprika, Ground Cumin, salt and pepper.

I also keep on hand use "Southwest Chipotle" Seasoning which is more course (has little dried bits in it) vs. powdery consistency of traditional Taco Seasoning. It also contains Chipotle which is a smoke dried jalapeno pepper. 

Chili Powder: Since the hubby and I like a little kick to our food, Chili Powder has a permanent home in our cupboard. The Taco and Chipotle Seasonings just don't cut it so adding more kick is a must.

You could also add chopped jalapenos, ghost peppers, or Tabasco Sauce to really bring up the heat. I also love to add canned fire roasted green chilis  for a little flavor without a lot of heat.

Cumin!!!!! It's crazy that I've only recently discovered the amazing-ness of Cumin. I used to see it in the seasoning isle all the time and would just pass by. As I was looking in my recipe folder, I saw a handwritten note that read "Cumin:Secret Ingredient". The mysterious note was scrawled on a scrap of paper and hanging on for dear life to the edge of my sugar cookie recipe of all things!

Anyway, I picked up a "smaller" bottle at the grocery store. (You probably already noticed that most my cooking ingredients come in a mega-bottle). Cumin is what makes my enchiladas ENCHILADAS. They are that unique flavor that makes your dish authentically Mexican, Spanish and New Mexican. I love it! And it is now another permanent fixture in the seasoning cabinet (bigger bottle guaranteed to come).

5. Add chicken broth or water and bouillon/chicken base according to the directions on the jar.  Add a little liquid at a time, enough to make a thin sauce that coats the meat and onion mixture.

Sommer's Secret: Canned Chicken Broth or the water you boiled your chicken in is great. For extra Chicken flavor ,the Bouillon or Chicken Base is great!  To save on time I use the "Better than Bouillon" Organic Chicken Base that I get at our local Sam's Club or CostCo (I can't remember).

 It's pretty much a concentrated chicken broth paste. I like the lower sodium one to limit salt. It's lots cheaper than buying chicken broth by the can, lasts a long time in the fridge and is easy to add to pretty much anything for extra flavor.

6. Add some of the enchilada Sauce to make the mixture more "sauce-y". 

Sommer's Secret: To save on time I've made these enchiladas as a "casserole" by just layering the ingredients. A few times I didn't have any Enchilada Sauce on hand and ended up using canned SALSA if you can believe it in lieu of Enchilada Sauce. I realized Enchilada Sauce is pretty much the same ingredients as Salsa only pureed and strained. I've also made my own sauce from tomato paste by adding all the seasonings I listed above with a little water and olive oil to thin it out. All the results are pretty much the same to me. Although I'm sure there are those purists out there who will simmer their secret sauce all day.....but who has time for that?!

Get ready to get messy!

7. Add a little enchilada sauce to the bottom of the baking dish.

8. Set up your Enchilada making Station In the order of preparation: skillet for "cooking" corn tortillas, meat mixture, enchilada sauce, cheese for rolling up inside, ending with your baking dish.

9. Assemble each enchilada one at a time.

a) Warm up/Cook 1 corn tortilla on a hot  dry skillet over medium high heat. I like to use locally made "Hawaiian" Mexican corn tortillas. They have a factory here in Honolulu that makes them fresh daily....


b) Place hot Tortilla in Enchilada sauce, flip to completely cover.


c) Place coated Tortilla in baking dish. 

     d) Add a little meat mixture (about 1 heaping Tablespoon full)

    e) Top with Cheese .I'm using left over provolone here but any of your favorites will do.

    f) Roll up leaving seam side down.

    g) Repeat until baking dish is full and each roll is neatly lined up.

    Sommer's Secret to pretty Enchiladas:
     I say "cook" the tortilla because you need to do more than just warm them up. They need to be nice and hot....almost too hot to handle in order to get perfect little tubes of goodness that are Enchiladas.

    If you don't get the tortillas pliable enough you get something that looks like this:
    Icky, crumbly, mess

    so NOT pretty!
    10. Pour remaining Enchilada Sauce over the top of the rows of Enchiladas.

    Sommer's Secret: Keep additional Enchilada sauce and topping cheese in the center of each row of enchiladas so that when you bake them the ends of the tortillas get nice and crunchy while the center parts stay warm and gooey.  I like to bake them with out the cheese at first and get the whole top layer nice and crusty and then broil the cheese over the top.

    Serve hot with Refried Beans, Sommer's Mexican Rice, thinly sliced lettuce, chopped raw onions, diced tomatoes and a hearty dollop of sour cream. Garnish with fresh cilantro. And your favorite condiments.