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Mexico, One Plate at a Time: Starters, Snacks, and Light Meals

November 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Please post your full-length reviews of recipes from the starters, snacks, and light meals chapter of Rick Bayless' Mexico One Plate at a Time here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Creamy Enchiladas with Chicken, Tomatoes and Green Chile

    Okay - I am very happy that I made this. Not because I loved the finished product, but because of the sauce and I discovered how to make crema mexicana...

    1. Homemade crema. I think this step is worthwhile - the crema, just on its own, is delicious. I used the cultured buttermilk and it just transformed the cream!

    2. The sauce: Used canned tomatoes and 2 1/2 serranos. While the tomato puree and onions are cooking together, you really do have to stir the pot constantly because the tomato will leap out of the pan if you don't. I did this for a full 15 minutes and then I turned the heat down to low and let it slowly simmer on its own for a bit longer. The finished sauce (after adding the broth, and then the crema) is sensational. I am now on a quest to find many uses for this sauce. Delicious. I kept eating this straight out of the pot.

    3. Assembling the Enchiladas. I do admit that I took a shortcut and did not lightly oil the corn tortillas and warm them before assembling (my husband was getting very impatient to eat), but the tortillas were pliable enough not to break apart when rolled. For the filling, I used a shredded rotisserie chicken. Used a 9x13 pan. Sprinkled with Monterey Jack. Put in oven for about 20 minutes.

    4. Final product: We ate immediately, as he instructs, and it was tasty, but not as great as I was expecting. He warns that it softens to near mush after 15 minutes, but I feel that it was at mush stage right out of the oven... So, I will not make these again, but will definitely be making the sauce and the crema. If anyone has some creative ideas for using the sauce, let me know.

    Served with Mexican Beans from the Pot and Classic Mexican White Rice

    18 Replies
    1. re: akp

      akp, thx for mentioning the buttermilk/crema thing
      I hadn't read that part of the book and I have some buttermilk in the fridge . . . good crema without preservatives can be hard to find at the grocery store.

      1. re: akp

        I agree with many of akp's comments above. I used a combination of hot cherry peppers and jalepenos (still picking them from the garden).

        1. This was easy and great. I wrote a huge post it note on my oven to remind myself that the crema was resting in the oven.

        2). Loved the sauce. Hated how much the sauce jumped out of the pot. Even constant stirring didn't alleviate the mess. But, it was absolutely delicious. I would have liked extra sauce for the enchiladas because the leftovers were a little drier than I would have liked.

        3). I did take the step to oil and warm the tortillas. I think I used too much oil. Admittedly, I was very stressed during this step because I was worried about the impending sogginess. I think oiling and warming helped to prevent it. I used the leftover rotisserie chicken from the chile rellenos that I made a few days prior.

        My quibble with this recipe and cookbook are as follows. For all of the text and supposed testing ideas within the cookbook, nowhere in the cookbook were there directions on how to assemble the enchiladas. Meaning, which way were the tortillas to be rolled, etc. I couldn't get the finished product to fit in the dish so I staggered them. Which worked great except for actually serving it. Since they weren't lined up I ended up breaking them upon serving. I tucked both ends of the tortillas under each other and placed them down. It worked ok, but it was slightly awkward. Also, there was no guidance as to how much meat, other than to roll the chicken into it. I ran out of chicken and had to use the leftover chicken meat from the rellenos to fill it up. I found it annoying that one recipe had too much and the other had too little.

        4. Final product - it was good. It actually grew on me. When I first ate it, I didn't think it was worth the effort. The re-heated leftovers had a better flavor. I think this is a good recipe but I would mix up the fillings.

        I served this with mexican white rice.

        http://shim1.shutterfly.com/procgserv...

        http://shim1.shutterfly.com/procgserv...

        1. re: beetlebug

          Wow, looks like ooey-gooey comfort food to me! I know what you mean about missing details. I find myself having several pauses w/ each recipe due to lack of details. Does seem like it was rushed to print and not combed over enough. I've found Mexican Kitchen to be more thorough...

          1. re: Carb Lover

            interesting - I never got Mexican Kitchen because I already have Diana Kennedy's books . . . thoughts?
            Bayless OPAAT fills the shortcut/contemporary slot for me.

          2. re: beetlebug

            I did find, as well, that I enjoyed the re-heated leftovers better! I think that the flavors of the sauce just had to have some time to permeate the entire dish.

          3. re: akp

            I made these enchiladas last night and agree that the crema step was great! I made my crema from sour cream, but the buttermilk idea sounds very good. Hubby and I loved the sauce, although I think we are still cleaning up tomato stains from the kitchen wall! I used asadero cheese on top, which melted very easily.

            Hubby's only complaint was that the dish overall seemed kinda sweet. I tended to agree and would like a little bit of lime or tequila or something in it to take away the sweetness.

            I am glad I made this dish and look forward to cutting a little bit of the sweet out maybe with some lime or something.

            1. re: akp

              Creamy Enchiladas...
              akp, totally agree with your comments.
              I made this 2 nights ago & liked the sauce and the crema, but the resulting baked mush was not pleasant. Won't make this again but good to know how to make the sauce & cream. I also served them straight out of the oven and it didn't help the texture, also it was overall lacking in flavor.

              1. re: morebubbles

                The only way to have Enchiladas is straight from the Griddle / Frying Pan.... never baked... all successful Enchiladas in Mexico are created on the spot.

                Given that... I cannot recommend Chilaquiles enough for a similar but more convenient product (that most people really, really like for its al dente pasta like quality). If you haven't made them before...

                > Cut up some Tortillas into quarters or thick strips & let them get stale... the more the stale, the better

                > Pan Fry them in good Corn Oil (not Mazola... but true, unrefined Corn Oil which you can find at Whole Foods & other Gourmet shops) or Lard

                > Once they are golden, crisp add them to the sauce (in the pan or a casserole... cover & simmer for 5 minutes or so)

                > Plate... then serve with raw onion, queso fresco, cilantro & your favorite protein (Refritos, Fried Egg, Grilled Chicken, Steak, Shrimp etc.,)

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Thank you so much for that 'refresher', EN! I haven't made them but I remember my grandmother used to make chilaquiles & I couldn't remember what they were exactly (I was going to ask you, but you read my mind!)
                  We're talking homemade tortillas here, right? Fry them, into the sauce, then serve with the stuff you mentioned on top on each serving, correct? A further question please: How would you season the protein, say chicken or shrimp, or does it need much of it? Thank you! More al dente, sounds better already...

                  1. re: morebubbles

                    Well you could use homemade tortillas... but honestly, you will not notice much difference relative to decent commercial tortillas.

                    As far as seasoning the protein... you will not go wrong if you just salt & pepper... maybe marinade in Garlic Oil. Otherwise... if you save some of the Sauce (before adding Crema) that would make a good finishing sauce.

                    If you want to get daring... you could season in Garam Masala or another traditional Indian seasoning mix... to play on the similarity of the Sauce with an Indian dish that puts Chicken in a Tomato-Saffron cream sauce.

                    Another idea would be to marinade the Shrimp / Chicken in vanilla to give the dish a particular Aztec focus (Tomato, Serranos & Vanilla were key, go to seasonings in their cuisine).

                    Another dimension would be Pre-Hispanic herbs... maybe an oil infusion of Mexican Oregano & Spearmint for the marinade... then place the Shrimp / Chicken over Avocado leaves wrapped in Hoja Santa then grill.

                    Please let me know how it turns out!

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      wow, I don't know how this happened, but I had lunch (and dessrt) but I'm hungry all over again reading your descriptions! ok, then, will try again but in a different way, thanks! (I like the Indian seasoning idea as well, great! odd how I'm more familiar with those seasonings--will do research on Aztec seasonings too, brilliant)

                    2. re: morebubbles

                      Oh & yes... you have the process down.

                    3. re: Eat_Nopal

                      Eat_Nopal, I'm letting you know how it went with chilaquiles etc.
                      Sat. I made the tomato/chile( used 1 poblano & 1 jalapeno) salsa from the book & made tortillas. I served my portion this way: a tortilla, a few Tbls salsa, shredded chicken, cheese & cilantro. Fried beans on the side (I cooked them in 1 Tbls bacon grease with 1 Tbls olive oil and added half a chopped chipotle). Also served pickled peppers en escabeche. It was good!
                      Now for the fun part. I saved some tortillas to make them go stale. This morning I had the most amazing breakfast--I did as you suggested: heated up the salsa and placed my stale tortilla (I cut it in two) into it, let it cook some (OK I just realized I was suppossed to fry it--oh well). Fried an egg. Then I layered the tortilla with salsa, the fried egg, cilantro; served with some leftover fried beans on the side and sprinkled all with grated hard cheese. It was magnificent!! Spicy, flavorful, the tortilla texture just right (like you said, al dente)! The sauce also improved with sitting for 2 days, thicker, darker and overall better flavor. Thank you so much for the tips! It was worth it, glad I didn't give up entirely.

                      1. re: morebubbles

                        I'm beginning to think that Eat_Nopal's suggestions for using leftovers are better than the original recipes. My favorite meal this month may have been from one of EN's recommendations on what to do with leftover soup beans.

                        Your handmade tortilla photo is inspiring, morebubbles. You did that from harina, not fresh masa, right? Some day I'll try it. Right now it's time to give Mexican a rest.

                        1. re: JoanN

                          thnx Joan! yes, from dried masa harina, I can't get fresh masa here OR masa harina for tamales. I'm resting now too, after I make a salsa with tomatillos & pepper I have left. Your beans do look good and tasty! I agree that EN's suggestions yielded better results

                  2. re: akp

                    I know this is a little late in the game to be asking, but could someone paraphrase the homemade crema recipe cited above, I think it is on p. 133. I can't get a copy of it anywhere and I really want to try this recipe.

                    1. re: dkennedy

                      Here you go!

                      1 cup heavy whipping cream
                      1/4 cup good-quality commercial sour cream with active cultures OR 2 TB buttermilk with active cultures

                      Heat the cream in a small saucepan just enough to "take the chill off"/body temperature (about 100 degrees). Remove from heat and whisk in the sour cream or buttermilk. Pour into glass jar, set lid on loosely, and place in a warm place (not over 90 degrees). It should thicken in 12 hours. Tighten lid and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. It should last a week in the refrigerator.

                  3. Shrimp Ceviche "Cocktail"
                    Made this tonight. It was terrific. I halved the recipe, served 2 generously (had is as an appetizer/salad). Looks pretty and tastes fresh and nice. Wouldn't change anything (the tortilla chip was purely decorative, because the cocktail is so satisfying it doesn't need anything else).
                    That creamy enchilada recipe looks great to me too, I want to try it.

                    1. Forgot to say that I'd like extra points for having used Mexican avocadoes (from Michoacan)! :)

                      1. Classic Guacamole
                        Made this this evening. It was just OK. I'm used to making it my way, in which I add more flavoring/spices. I fixed it up by adding a bit more tomato, lime juice, tabasco, cayenne, etc. Guess I wouldn't make this recipe again altough it's not horrible or anything! I didn't add cilantro which prob. made a difference.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: morebubbles

                          cilantro=big difference
                          even if you don't think you like it (or are partnered with someone who claims to hate it...)
                          I think it's worth making at least part of whatever with the cilantro
                          (I converted that way)
                          cheers!

                          1. re: pitu

                            Cheers right back! There seems to be a large community of cilantro haters out there. Amazing! I like it, so next time, you're right, I'll have to try the cilantro on half of the guacamole, or other dish.

                            I'm into trying the crema as well, it's hard finding Mexican ingredients here so at least that's one item I can make myself.

                        2. Griddle-Baked Squash Blossom Quesadillas

                          I've always wanted to make something with squash blossoms ever since seeing them at the farmers' markets here. So last Saturday, I bought a bunch and then went in search of the other ingredients for this recipe. I'm lucky that here in the SF Bay Area many of the ingredients are available: I was able to find asadero cheese and, in one small market, fresh ground masa that was still warm when they weighed it out for me. Ran out of juice looking for epazote, so I substituted cilantro instead.

                          This recipe was tasty but not as good as it could have been-- and it was my fault. YOu're supposed to have a tortilla press to roll out the masa into a thin tortilla: I just did this with a rolling pin and waxed paper. As a result, my quesadillas weren't perfectly round, which made them more difficult to stuff with the cheese and squash blossoms. The cheese kept leaking out, so I didn't cook them as long as Rick recommends (6-7 minutes!). Still, they were yummy in a general quesadilla sort of way. The squash blossoms didn't really have a distinctive taste, I felt.

                          I was trying to cook four dishes that night (pork loin in tomatillo sauce, classic white rice, this, and mac and cheese for my toddler), so I didn't give this dish the attention it deserved. It could be lovely in the hands of a better cook. I'll try it again some other night when I'm not so harried-- I think it's definitely worth another try.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: redwood2bay

                            That's interesting... there's a local Mexican restaurant that we frequent that has squash blossom quesadillas and I find them to have a very distinct taste... almost nutty!

                            1. re: redwood2bay

                              Next time if the cheese leaks out... let it, it will toast to a declicious golden brown... which in Mexico is intentionally produced and sold as Cheese Chicharron.