Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas with Homemade Red Chili Sauce

Here is a fantastic Mexican recipe if you are feeling very ambitious to make the real thing.  As you can see by the recipes below, there are many steps to this dish but it is well worth the effort.  It can be broken down into a number of parts so it doesn't all have to be done on the same day.  The sauce can be made a couple days ahead as can the chicken filling.  On the day the dish is to be served all that is entailed is assembly and baking. I am lucky enough to live in a community where there are a multitude of Hispanic markets so finding the two chiles called for was not a problem. We also are very lucky to be able to get fresh tortillas, flour or corn, made right here in town.  I am sure there are mail order places on the Web where Hispanic chiles and spices can easily be found also.
Ancho Chilies
                                               Guajillo Chiles
This recipe makes about 4 cups of amazingly thick and complex red chili sauce. The leftovers can be frozen in one cup increments and used again.  I think it would be fantastic without the enchilida sauce additions as a marinade on baked chicken, served with some Spanish rice and some sort of vegetable. Yum.  I got this recipe from The Oregonian Newspapers' great food magazine called Mix.  Even if you're not in the Portland area, it's a great read for those interested in food and in Portland, Oregon, which is nationally known now as quite the restaurant and food mecca these days.
Basic Red Chili Sauce

If you like your sauce spicier, save some of the chile seeds and add them to the sauce after it's pureed and strained.  I found that this definitely needed more chile seeds as it is very mild if you take all of them out.

2 medium onions, peeled and cut through equator into 1/2-inch rings
1 head (15-20 cloves) garlic, papery outer skins removed, individual cloves left unpeeled
10 ounces dried ancho chiles
5 ounces guajillo chiles
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
 About 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar, plus more to taste
About 1-1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more to taste

Adjust the oven rack so that it is 6 inches below the broiling element and preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange the onion slices (keep them intact in their round slices) and garlic on the foil in a single layer. Broil until the garlic is charred and tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Remove the garlic, flip the onions with tongs and broil the onions on the second side until they are tender and lightly charred, 10 minutes more; set aside. When garlic has cooled, peel it.

Put on rubber gloves and break the stems off the tops of the chiles and shake out the seeds (reserve some to add to the sauce later, if you like heat). Using kitchen scissors cut down the length of each chile and open them up flat. Trim and discard any veins on the inside of the chiles.

Turn an exhaust fan on or open a window and place a heavy cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the chiles in batches and toast them, pressing down on them with a spatula, until they are lightly blistered and tan spots appear, about 30 seconds per side for the guajillo chiles, 40 seconds per side for the ancho chiles. Do not over-toast the chiles or the sauce will be bitter. Place the toasted chiles in a large bowl and add hot tap water to cover. Place a plate on top of the chiles to keep them submerged and let them soak until softened, 30 minutes.

Drain the chiles and blend them in batches in a blender or food processor with the onions, garlic, broth, oregano and cumin; be patient, you may need to stop several times and move the contents around a bit to make sure the sauce becomes evenly smooth. When the last batch of chiles is done, swish out the blender with 1/4 cup of water to get out any of the chile mixture sticking to the bottom and sides of the blender and add it to the sauce. Strain the sauce through a medium-mesh sieve, pressing on the solids, or use a food mill. Discard the solids (skins and seeds).

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Quickly pour the chile sauce into the pot. (Keep a lid handy; the sauce will sputter and spit as it is added to the pot.) Reduce heat to maintain a very gentle simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has lost its raw chile flavor, 30 minutes. Add the brown sugar and salt to taste. Cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
For the Enchiladas:

1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (3 pounds)
3 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes
 2 cups shredded Asadero or jack cheese (divided)
3 green onions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
6 to 8 (10-inch) flour tortillas cut in half

For the Enchilada Sauce:

1 cup Basic Red Chile Sauce
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine the paprika, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Rub the mixture all over the chicken breasts and place them in the prepared pan. Bake until the chicken is cooked through (an instant-read thermometer will register 175 degrees), about 30 minutes. Reserve the baking dish to bake the enchiladas. While the chicken is still warm, chop it and combine it with the cream cheese, 1 cup of the grated Asadero or jack cheese, scallions and cilantro in a medium bowl.

While the chicken is baking, make the sauce. In a small saucepan, combine the chile sauce, tomato sauce, chicken broth and cumin. Bring to simmer over medium heat, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently until ready to use. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish used to cook the chicken. Microwave the tortillas until just pliable, about 30 seconds. Place 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture on one tortilla and roll up tightly. Place the enchilada seam side down in the pan. Repeat with the remaining filling and tortillas. Spoon the remaining chile sauce over the top of the enchiladas, sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, and bake until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbly, 25 minutes.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Bread

Can you just imagine how good this bread is going to taste toasted with a smear of butter?  I'm sorry you can't be here to try some with me.  The aroma as this very delicious bread was cooking was truly intoxicating.  I think there is nothing better than the smell of bread baking except perhaps bacon cooking.  Anyone care to debate me on this subject?

This bread turned out to be easier to make than the recipe might lead one to believe.  It has a number of steps, none of which are difficult but it does take some time.  Good things are worth the wait though, right?  This is makes two generous loaves of bread.  I am happy, as always, that I have my heavy duty Kitchenaid mixer to do the kneading for me which makes baking bread a snap.  Give this a try if you're looking for a baking challenge.

Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Bread

Makes 2 loaves

1 cup (6 oz) raisins
1 cup (8 oz) warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup (8 oz) milk, whole, 2%, or skim
1/4 cup (2 oz) unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons salt
5 1/2 - 6 cups all-purpose flour (I used bread flour)

1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 large egg beaten with 2 teaspoons warm water

Put the raisins in a small bowl and cover them with hot water. Let the raisins plump for at least 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Pour a cup of water into the bowl of a standing mixer or large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over top. Give it a few minutes, then stir to fully dissolve the yeast into the water.

Stir the milk, melted butter, and salt into the water. Add 5 1/2 cups of the flour and stir to form a shaggy dough. Knead in your mixer on low speed with a dough hook or knead by hand for 8-10 minutes to form a smooth, slightly tacky dough. Check the dough halfway through; if it's very sticky, add a little more flour. The dough is ready when it forms a ball without sagging and quickly springs back when poked.

Toss the raisins with a few tablespoons of flour to absorb any residual moisture from when they were plumped. With the mixer on gradually add them to the bowl and continue kneading until they are evenly distributed.

If kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto your work surface and pat it into an oval. Sprinkled about half the raisins over the top and fold the dough like a letter. Pat it into an oval again, sprinkle the remaining raisins, and fold it again. Knead the dough by hand for a few minutes to distribute the raisins through the dough. (Alternatively, you can reserve the raisins and sprinkle them over the dough along with the cinnamon-sugar.)

Return the dough to the bowl and cover. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and beat together the egg and water in a second bowl.

Divide the dough into two pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough out on the counter. It should be slightly less wide than your baking pan and as long as you can make it. The thinner the dough, the more layers of cinnamon swirl you'll end up with. If the dough starts to shrink back on you, let it rest for a few minutes and then try again.

Brush the entire surface of the dough with egg wash, leaving about two inches clear at the top. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar. Starting at the end closest to you, roll up the dough. When you get to the top, pinch the seam closed. Transfer the loaf to your loaf pan seam-side down. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Let the loaves rise until mounded over the top of the pan and pillowy, 30-40 minutes. Halfway through rising, preheat the oven to 375° F.

Brush the top with some of the remaining egg wash. If desired, sprinkle some of your remaining cinnamon-sugar over the tops of the loaves as well. Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown.

Remove the loaves from the pans and allow them to cool completely before slicing. Baked loaves can also be frozen for up to three months.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Soft Sugar Cookies

I am so very late posting this recipe for soft sugar cookies as you can clearly see by the theme of the cookies I made.  But here is the thing.  This recipe will be just perfect for St. Patrick's Day shamrocks or Easter Egg cookies, right?? 

What a perfect cookie recipe this turned out to be.  The cookie dough is a cinch to put together and extremely easy to work with when rolling and cutting.  And the frosting is just a very simple buttercream that can be dyed in any color you want.  It makes a whole lot of cookies, 5 or 6 dozen depending on the size of the cookies.  I haven't tried it, but I imagine this recipe could be cut in half or you could probably freeze half the dough if you didn't want to bake them all at once. 

Their taste is superb and when I took them to work for Valentine's Day, they were gone in a matter of an hour. Seriously.  Keep this in your recipe repertoire if you need a good, basic sugar cookie for all occasions.

Soft Sugar Cookies

For the Cookies:

6 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups sour cream
For the Buttercream Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons heavy cream
Food coloring, optional
Sprinkles, optional
1. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and sour cream and beat at low speed until combined.

3. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Dough will be a little sticky and that is ok. Divide dough into two sections. Flatten into rectangles about 1½ inches thick, then wrap with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or for at least two hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats; set aside.

5. Lightly flour the countertop and the top of the dough. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and place on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 7 minutes, until cookies are slightly golden around the edges. Immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Cook cookies completely before frosting.

6. To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and vanilla extract. Slowly beat in powdered sugar and the pinch of salt. Once smooth and creamy, add in heavy cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, then beat at medium-high speed for a minute or two until light and fluffy. Add food coloring, if desired, and beat until combined.

7. Once cookies have cooled completely, frost and add sprinkles, if desired. Allow frosting to set, then store in an air-tight container.