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    Guest Post: A Tex-Mex Moonlight Chef

    My friend Rob and I like to e-mail each other about food. Professionally, he's a lawyer, but he also moonlights as a home cook, specializing in recreating (and eating) delicious Tex-Mex. Rob is an old friend from DC and I was so excited when we put this together. We've shared many food moments together growing up - from eating (bad) bar food at Rocky Mountain Brewery, (so-so) Tex-Mex in Bethesda, and grilling (terrific) burgers and hotdogs at my house. So let me introduce you to Rob and his enchiladas; the first guest post in a new series featured on other moonlight chefs.

    Rob Gillette lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife, Anna. His favorite things to cook are fettuccine alfredo, pad thai, salmon, deep dish pizza, breakfast scrambles, and apple pie. Also, he loves cinnamon. And guacamole. But not together. He grew up in the Washington, DC area, but was born in Austin, Texas, and went to college in Houston before moving to Portland, Oregon, where he attended law school. He practices law and shares cooking privileges with Anna. Together, they try to cook at least one new dish a week.

    "As a Texan, I'm manic about enchiladas and all Tex-Mex food. Unfortunately, Tex-Mex options in Seattle are very limited, particularly when you are striving to eat Tex-Mex at least 2 meals a day. I made enchiladas verdes recently and wanted to moonlight as a Moonlight Chef.

    Chicken enchiladas verdes is usually the benchmark by which I judge Tex-Mex restaurants. Some people use cheese enchiladas as a benchmark, which I support, but I try to eat a little healthier than cheese and tortillas. The first major decision is always corn or flour tortillas. Traditional Mexican places always use corn. Now I have had some amazing corn tortillas in enchiladas, but most of those occasions have involved San Antonio and four or five generations of handmade corn tortilla making excellence. Flour never disappoints. I like flour and I don't give a damn if the traditionalists don't approve. Also, I usually can’t find fresh tortillas up here, and I think the packaged flour are better than the packaged corn. So that’s what I use, but you can use either one. Try to use a good tortilla, preferably something fresh, because a good tortilla makes everything better.

    Next, the sauce. Making the sauce from scratch is the way to go, but definitely requires more time and a food processor. You need tomatillos and shucking them takes about 15 or 20 minutes. Apparently you can use canned tomatillos but I have not tried that. Put the shucked tomatillos under the broiler with some peppers, like jalapeños and some poblanos for about 10 mins, until softened. Remove from oven and remove the skins from the peppers after they cool off. This part is as annoying as it sounds. Put the peppers and tomatillos into the food processors. Add salt and chicken stock. Side note: If you cooked the chicken in liquid (instead of buying a roasted whole chicken), you can add some of that reserved liquid to the food processor. To save time, I like to buy a roasted chicken from the store. Yes, it is a shortcut, but this one, I think, is worth it.

    Back to the sauce. I also added some adobe sauce from some canned chipotle peppers. A little of the adobe sauce goes a long way, but a little give the sauce a great smoky flavor. Pulse about 10 (1 second) pulses until chunky. Then the best part, you get to taste the sauce and add whatever you think it needs. You can also use this basic recipe to make fresh salsa. The sauce and the tortillas are the key to the enchiladas. You can put whatever you want in the tortilla. I like chicken, chopped cilantro, and a little monterey jack cheese. 

    I love this recipe because enchiladas are God’s gift to mankind. But I also love it because it requires two cooking mentalities. My default mode for cooking is Follow Directions Strictly, and there is plenty of this mindset while you are shucking and roasting the tomatillos. My brain likes this structure for some reason, but I also love the creativity that is inherent in almost all cooking. When you season the sauce, this recipe allows you to think of a picture in your mind of what you want the sauce to taste like, and then paint that picture with your spices and favors right there on your food processor canvas. The best part is that you don’t have to wait for it to come out of the oven to see what you painted. You get that sauce the way you like it, and you are in business. It is also advisable to make guacamole and drink margaritas while the enchiladas bake."

    Chicken Enchiladas Verde

    Adapted from Cooks Illustrated


    2 teaspoons vegetable oil

    1 medium onion, chopped medium (about 1 cup)

    3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)

    ½ teaspoon ground cumin

    1 roasted chicken from the store pulled apart into shredded pieces

    1 ½ pounds tomatillos (16 to 20 medium), husks and stems removed, rinsed well and dried (see note)

    3 medium poblano chiles, halved lengthwise, stemmed, and seeded (see note)

    1 - 2 ½ teaspoons sugar

    Table salt

    Ground black pepper

    ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

    8 ounces Pepper Jack cheese or Monterey Jack cheese, grated (2 cups)

    Can of chipotle peppers in adobe sauce



    2 medium scallions, sliced thin

    Finely chopped lettuce

    Sour cream


    1. Toss tomatillos and poblanos with 2 teaspoons oil; arrange on rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, with poblanos skin-side up. Broil until vegetables blacken and start to soften, 5 to 10 minutes, rotating pan halfway through cooking. Cool 10 minutes, then remove skin from poblanos (leave tomatillo skins intact). Transfer tomatillos and chiles to food processor. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees. Discard foil from baking sheet and set baking sheet aside for warming tortillas.

    2. Add 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, remaining teaspoon garlic, and reserved cooking liquid to food processor; process until sauce is somewhat chunky, about eight 1-second pulses. Taste sauce; season with salt and pepper, adobe sauce, anything else you think it needs, and adjust tartness by stirring in remaining sugar, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Set sauce aside (you should have about 3 cups).

    3. Pull the chicken into shreds using hands or 2 forks, then chop into small bite-sized pieces. Combine chicken with cilantro and 1½ cups cheese; season with salt.

    4. Smear bottom of 13- by 9-inch baking dish with 3/4 cup tomatillo sauce.

    5. For corn tortillas only: Place tortillas on 2 baking sheets. Spray both sides of tortillas lightly with cooking spray. Bake until tortillas are soft and pliable, 2 to 4 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.

    6. Place tortillas on countertop and spread 1/3 cup filling down center of each tortilla. Roll each tortilla tightly and place in baking dish, seam-side down. Pour remaining tomatillo sauce over top of enchiladas. Use back of spoon to spread sauce so that it coats top of each tortilla. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and cover baking dish with foil.

    7. Bake enchiladas on middle rack until heated through and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with scallions, and serve immediately, passing lettuce and sour cream separately.

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