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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Three Great Enchiladas From One Basic Recipe

John T Jones, Ph.D.

Enchiladas are good but a little variety helps. Here is how to make chicken, steak, and cheese enchiladas all at the same time. Oh, did I forget pork?

Meat Selection

Beef: I like steak enchiladas but you need good beef that is tender and flavorful. Some of the restaurants around here use ground meat in their enchiladas. These are the restaurants I never visit twice.

When I first started working as an engineer in Colorado (about a zillion years ago), an old industrial engineer told me this: Never buy a breaded piece of meat!

He went on to say that any old piece of meat could be breaded and you just don’t know what you are getting. It could be as old as the hills, unrefrigerated, contaminated, dropped on the floor and stepped on, or fetched out of the grease trap as far as you know.

The same goes for ground meat. Who knows it’s real history? In enchiladas it gives the wrong texture and the wrong flavor.

So buy a good piece of beef. You don’t need much because there are other things in the enchilada. Most of the good Mexican restaurants around here put in too much meat. You don’t need it.

For that matter, they use too much cheese. My heart surgeon doesn’t like that, but my wife does.

Pork is a good substitute for beef or chicken for those who prefer the flavor of pork. In 1956 when, with a fellow engineering student, I drove to Massachusetts to work for the Norton Company for the summer, we passed through Iowa. The hogs there were just like the hogs on our church welfare farm. They looked more like elephants than hogs.

I moved to Iowa in 1966 to teach in the engineering department at Iowa State University. By then, the hogs were lean and mean, still long but not fat. That change made pork an acceptable lower fat meat. And pork has a great flavor for enchiladas.

Meat and Poultry Preparation

Fresh, frozen, or canned meats can be used to prepare enchiladas. If you use frozen meats or poultry, thaw it out at room temperature or in the refrigerator. If you are like me and at times in a big hurry, then place the meat or chicken in the microwave and thaw it out. I have a freezer full of Omaha Steaks® products sold me to the nice folks there by telephone. I can’t say no! So I usually get my meat from the freezer.

I like to use a whole dead chicken so I let it stew in pomegranate juice until the chicken is ready to fall of the bones. Pomegranate juice seems to penetrate the chicken better than other juices and give a fabulous flavor, especially the next day.

If you use chicken breast, they are easy to slice even when frozen. For me, I want some brown meat so I use the whole critter.

When I say use a “dead” chicken, I mean it. Years ago my dad decided to buy a live turkey for thanksgiving. He killed it in the basement where it ran wild for the longest time and spurted blood from hell to breakfast finally creating a bloody feathered mess. When I was a kid, we chopped the heads off chickens and let them flutter hither and yon in the yard. Who needs that?

I buy Kirkland® canned chicken at Cosco®. It has a nice tecture and flavor and is very good in soups and chicken salad when you are in a hurry. I’m not much for canned meatsm but they are different now days, and there are some good choices to make. Spam® is still available but I’m not sure I would want a Spam® enchilada. Canned or prepared in the frying pan, season the chicken with poultry spice, creole spice, teriyaki sauce or whatever you want.

For other meats, slice the meat in to short strips. Keep each meat separately from the other ingredients. (You can use left over meat from that Sunday roast too and other than slicing in to short strips or small cubes, no other preparation is needed.)

Put some canola oil in a frying pan with a clove of garlic. Make sure the oil is hot. (You probably do not need much oil, so you may be able to just spray the pan and not use the garlic.) For steak, I like to use Omaha Steaks® All Natural Steak Seasoning. Another seasoning I like for about everything is Spice Island® Beau Monde seasoning. Tampa Spices® have a full range of low-cost spices (packed by M.I.S., POB 2081, Gibsonton, FL 33534). I like their creole seasoning and their meat and poultry seasoning.

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