The Heartbreak of Success, and A Healthy, Easy, and Cheesy Chicken and Brown Rice Enchilada Casserole

Healthy, Easy, and Cheesy Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole on http://www.theculinarylife.com

Sometimes, everything hinges on a simple chicken enchilada casserole.
I’m doing good right now. In fact, many would look at my current circumstances and think I’m doing damn fine. I’ve got a handful of amazing friends, a stable job with benefits, a book that just came out, a cozy apartment all to myself, and a little money set aside for a longtime dream that’s about to be realized. I’m relatively healthy and I’ve got big plans for the future. I’m living the goddamn dream, right?

Why, then, does it feel so… icky? And what does this have to do with an enchilada casserole? Bear with me.

I first noticed this feeling of nebulous, bile-flavored guilt when I was in my early twenties. I was in a similar place: good job, living alone in San Francisco, with a whole crew of friends to keep me occupied. I was young and perky. I was actively engaged in city life and there was no inkling of the health or nuptial drama to come later that same decade.

Overall I was doing well but something was dragging me down, making me feel tossed about on the waves of my nice little life. Only I couldn’t seem to articulate that sensation, so I just felt depressed and anxious all the time, looking for vague ways to “improve my life.” This included bike riding, photography school, roasting a metric fuck-ton of chickens, quitting my job, moving out of state, getting my BA, a bouquet of bad boyfriends and fair-weather friends, and countless all-night underground dance parties with requisite extracurricular activities. But nothing quelled the festering ick. Read more >>

[Mostly] Authentic Mexican Enchilada Sauce

Mostly Authentic Enchilada Sauce on http://www.theculinarylife.com

- A recipe for enchilada sauce that brings a little heat and a lot of flavor. -

 Last week I posted a recipe for making super easy homemade enchilada sauce from scratch, and that recipe used tomatoes. Oooooh, that post caused all sorts of drama with the purists!

Anyone deeply familiar with Mexican cuisine knows that traditional enchilada sauce doesn’t actually contain tomatoes – as several folks flamed me last week to remind me. Traditional sauce is made with dried chilies that have been rehydrated and then toasted until they take on a nice, hot, smoky flavor. While dried chilies are indeed more traditional method of making the sauce, the standard American palate is used to tasting tomatoes in red sauce, and every time I’ve made traditional enchiladas for my friends and family, they don’t take to it right away. Americans love their tomatoes, and that’s the whole reason I developed my easy enchilada sauce recipe to begin with. Since it’s been repined on Pinterest over 4,000 times, I’d say it’s doing pretty well!

Now, I’m not a food snob – I want people to enjoy the food I make. So when people give me flack for putting tomatoes in a red sauce and calling it “enchilada sauce,” I don’t really care. It’s a tasty recipe and that’s all that matters.

That said, I have a huge appreciation for traditional recipes. As I advance my own tastes, I find myself liking new flavors and textures that aren’t familiar to many American tastebuds. But I still need to feed the ones I love, and if they won’t eat it, where does that leave me? Or you, my reader, for that matter? I’ll tell you where: Nowhere.

So I set about developing a hybrid enchilada sauce that uses both tomatoes and dried ancho chilies, calling it [Mostly] Authentic Mexican Enchilada Sauce. This recipe has the tomatoes Americans appreciate, while adding in a handful of the smoky, slow-burn chilies you’d find in more traditional dishes.

I hope nobody takes offense. If you do, please don’t flame me. My index finger cramped up from deleting all the bummer comments last week.

You can make this red sauce as hot as you’d like. As it stands now, it’s not too spicy but will give you a little bit of a sweat if you’re not used to spicy food. If you want to take it up a notch (or five) use a total of four or six dried chilies while keeping the rest of the recipe the same.

I love this recipe because it’s the best of both worlds: It’s familiar while encouraging folks to try new flavors. Consider this a “gateway sauce” for those that want to start exploring more authentic Mexican flavors without jumping cannonball-style into the pool.

Read more >>