Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Chicken Enchiladas

I've made some minor adjustments to a recipe given to me by my friend Gavin. What I like about this recipe is that it's easy, not exacting, and the result is always great.

What I mean by "not exacting" is that you can play with the measurements. Also, if you have crummy tortillas as I did last night, it really doesn't matter. They would not roll up, but immediately starting splitting and breaking up. No matter, I just covered with sauce and cheese. Rather than serving up as individual enchiladas, it was more like a Mexican lasagna -- I used a spatula and cut into squares.

Chicken Enchiladasrecipe

2 dozen corn tortillas
1 chicken (3-4 lbs.)
1 pint sour cream
2 cups grated cheddar

4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
1 10 oz. can Rotele tomato and chiles
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes or puree
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt

This produces a mildly spicy sauce. For more heat add 1 small can chopped chiles.

In a deep pot, cover chicken with water and boil for about an hour. Remove from water and let cool, then strip the meat and dice it. Combine with sour cream and 1 cup grated cheddar.

While chicken is boiling, get another deep pot or dutch oven, sauté garlic and onions in olive oil until soft. Stir in Rotele, crushed and diced tomatoes (and chiles of desired), oregano and salt. Bring to boil and simmer for 45 minutes

Using a glass chafing dish, dip tortillas in sauce one at a time and place in dish. Add some chicken mixture and roll up. Fill the dish. The amount of filling per tortilla is a matter of personal preference and your ability to roll it up. The number of enchiladas will of course depend on how full you fill them. I usually end up with 18-20, and it takes one 9" x 13" and one 8" x 8" dish.

Cover the enchiladas with a layer of sauce and sprinkle the remaining cup of cheddar on top. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Serves 8 - 10.

I generally have a few cups of sauce left over. For breakfast this morning I fried a couple of eggs, warmed the sauce and poured it over the eggs for an easy huevos rancheros.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Les Bons Entonneurs Rabelaisiens

Last February our trade organization had a conference in the Loire Valley city of Tours. Our banquet was held in a cave in the town of Chinon. As opposed to most of the Loire region, in Chinon the wine is red and is straight Cabernet Franc. I don't know much about wine, but my understanding is that Cabernet Franc generally cannot stand alone. However, there is something about the soil and climate in Chinon that makes their Cab Franc different. I really enjoy it. I enjoyed a whole lot of it the night of our banquet.

I was one of ten members of our group chosen at random to join the Brotherhood of Rabelais. The Brotherhood is perhaps Chinon's local version of an Elks Club, with a mission "both to perpetuate the teaching of François Rabelais, the humanistic and lively writer of "la joie de vivre", and celebrate the virtues of the Chinon wine for which every dignitary intends to be a passionate ambassador."

The ceremony involved trumpets, robes, medallions and sworn oaths. My memory of all this is somewhat vague. This may be due in part to the other requirement of entrance to the Brotherhood, chugging all the wine from a goblet. Perspective in the photo may be misleading -- this was the better part of an entire standard bottle. And I must note that it was not the first nor the last wine I consumed that evening.

My induction was a great pleasure and honor. The local Brothers take this ceremony with some seriousness but with tongue in cheek as well. The details of the banquet dinner are also vague, but I remember it as some of the best food I've had at any meal, and amazingly so as 250 of us were served at once.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Cucumber, Tomato & Onion Salad

This is an easy-to-make salad that goes well with a variety of fun foods. It's served with falafel and kebabs at Sticks in Charlottesville, Virginia. Great with hamburgers too!

Cucumber, Tomato & Onion Saladrecipe

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced (or one long seedless cucumber)
4 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup light olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white sugar
2 tsp dried oregano

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and let marinate for at least an hour at room temperature.

My First Failure

A bunch of us guys used to spend a winter weekend at George's cabin on a lake in Maine. George is a great cook and baker. The other guys all had either culinary or mixology talents. Then there was me. I decided to try and bring something I made, so I got a recipe for Bourbon Hot Dogs from Parade magazine.

When it was time to eat the dogs, we couldn't find them. George had transferred them to another pot, and left the empty pot on the floor, making it appear that his bassett hound, Chatham, had eaten all two pounds of sausages. Chatham was a bit of a sausage herself and so this turn of events was credible, but it had us really worried about what would happen to the dog.

Turns out, this was all a prank, and George eventually produced the hot dogs. Too bad for us! They were terrible, and I've never lived it down.

We put some bourbon to better use that weekend, sans frankfurters.

The Joy of Charcoal

I am a reformed gas griller. Used to hate charcoal because of the mess and the taste of lighter fluid. Then my friend Tom brought me up to date. You don't need lighter fluid because you can start the coals using a special chimney and some newpaper. And it's not so messy, as Weber has evolved the kettle grill. But what really won me back was that every time I ate at Tom's the food tasted better. And while Tom is a great cook, I knew part of the difference was the charcoal. Sometimes I miss the "instant on" of gas grills, but when I taste the food from my Weber, there's no going back.

Billy Goat Tavern, Chicago

Many times, I'd walked up Michigan Avenue just north of the Chicago River (one of my favorite spots in any city) and not noticed the sign for the Billy Goat. One time, my friend Henry spotted it and we went down the stairs to a lower level on which cross streets run, to see what it was.

Immediately on entering, we realized the import of our discovery. The Saturday Night Live sketch about a Greek burger joint - "Cheeborger, cheeborger! . . . no fries, cheeps! . . . no Pepsi, Coke!" - was a take-off on the Billy Goat!

It was a great cheeborger! I got a double, because the counterman refused to sell me a single. It is served on a piece of wax paper which you take to a fixin' station with onions, pickles, relish and condiments, and then carry to your table.

Alert the historic preservation society: the Billy Goat must always stand!

Elliott's Oyster House, Seattle

I've been to Seattle on business maybe six times. I know there any many good restaurants there. But my trips are always brief and I find myself returning to one place that has never disappointed. Elliott's is at Pier 56 on the waterfront.

If you like salmon, try their Alder Planked Troll-Caught King Salmon with tomato beurre blanc. On my visit this month, the server suggested Waterwood Sauvignon Blanc, which was an excellent and reasonably priced accompaniment.

If you have time and it's not too late, wander down to Pier 54 and tour Ye Olde Curiousity Shoppe. It's the most interesting novelty shop I've been to.

Frito Pie

OK, my wife thinks this is disgusting, but she does not represent all of womankind in this opinion. I discovered Frito Pie at the Bandolier National Monument snack bar near Santa Fe. I have served it at parties with great success. Please note that I don't really like Fritos eaten straight, but their flavor mellows and the chips soften when prepared this way.

Frito Pierecipe

1 individual size bag FRITOS® brand Corn Chips
½ cup chili (I prefer chili con carne, but this works with vegetarian or chicken chili)
¼ cup grated American cheese (or mild cheddar)
1 tbsp. chopped onion

Snip open one side of the Fritos bag. Pour in hot chili. Top with cheese and onions. Take a plastic fork or spoon and mix well. Eat from the bag (a must!).

"Two Trees" Barbecue Sauce

This is an adaptation of a recipe I found...somewhere. I know the original used sugar as the sweetener, and it was my own sweetie who suggested substituting maple syrup.

I lived in New England for 18 years and since then always have pure maple syrup on hand.

Combined with the other lead flavor, hickory smoke (thus the "two trees"), this is a sauce our family can't let go of. Since I first made it, we haven't wanted to use any other recipe for barbecue sauce. This one works best with pork, but also goes well with chicken. I don't favor sweet sauces on beef, so haven't used it that way.

Eric's Hickory Maple Barbecue Saucerecipe

1 cup water
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup tomato paste
2/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp molasses
1 tsp Hickory liquid smoke
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp ground mustard
¼ tsp sweet paprika
¼ tsp garlic granules or powder
dash cayenne

Whisk ingredients together in a small saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer for 45 minutes or until thick. Makes 1¼ cups.

Tomato Vinaigrette

Growing up, we were a meat and potatoes family. Can't say Mom was a creative cook, but we ate well. One of my favorite memories is her salad dressing, which I have re-created.

While you can use any lettuce -- all there was back then in the A&P was iceberg -- I prefer soft leaf varieties with this dressing. Add cucumbers and tomatoes. Scallions or sweet onions, green peppers and carrots go well too, but chop them fairly small. When tomatoes were just too expensive to buy recently, the tomato flavor is this dressing was very much appreciated!

Bea’s Tomato Vinaigrette Salad Dressing recipe

1/2 cup vegetable oil or light olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon garlic granules or powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in jar, cover and shake well.
Shake before each pouring.


In recent years, I've come to find food -- the making and eating of it -- to be one of my greatest pleasures and a favorite pasttime.

I've thought about publishing my favorite recipes, but my collection is small and follows no theme, so I decided I'd do this in the form on a blog rather than a cookbook. I also travel a lot and will share dining out experiences when they are exceptional.

You'll find my web site at www.mapville.com, and it includes a restaurant list I started in 1996.