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Mi Excelente Aventura Enchilada en Isla Mujeres: 01/04/2008 and 01/05/2008

By: whozat
Date: 1/12/2008

Mi Excelente Aventura Enchilada: a recipe/travelogue/trip report

PART ONE: Friday January 4, 2008- The Prep

I have a dear old friend who owns a fabulously beautiful house on Isla Mujeres. I have long admired my friend's house and I had always wanted to cook in her amazing kitchen. We finally found the right time and right place, and there was only one thing I wanted to make for my Tex Mex BBQ Chicken Enchiladas.

I have made these enchiladas for my family and friends in Texas for a long long time, I have been tweaking this recipe for at least 25 is based on two simple things, rotisserie chicken and BBQ sauce, with a lot of Tex Mex and Mexican twists.

One time, I made 2 gross of these (that's 288 enchiladas!) for a Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl Party (when we beat Pittsburgh, sorry Steeler fans, but we owed you that one)

So, for Mi Excelente Aventura Enchilada on Isla Mujeres, I started bright and early, at the Mercado Municipal in El Centro, at my favorite veggie & fruit stall. There I bought fresh OJ plus really nice and firm white onions, a plump bright green bell pepper, some serrano peppers, a head of garlic and a couple of limes.

They didn't have any fresh jalapenos that day, but they did have some really great looking chiles anchos. A chile ancho is a dried and smoked poblano chile. They have a rich deep wonderful smoky taste, they are hot but not too hot.

After my visit to the Mercado Municipal, I went to Mirtita's for cheese and to pick up a couple of little kitchen tools to make the job a little easier. The folks at Mirtita's are so nice! They gave me different samples of cheeses, and I finally bought a kilo of a simple but tasty Manchego cheese. Manchego is originally from Spain, a rich semi soft cheese with a mild pleasant taste, that melts easily. This cheese was made in Mexico, and as it was already sliced, I presume it is used for sandwiches and tortas.

Next I went to the mercado in La Gloria and bought some healthy looking jalapenos and one tiny little habanero (just to keep it real) and then I went back to the apartment and the tiny kitchen to begin cooking (and taking photos!)

First, I took all the chiles and the bell pep and the chiles anchos and rinsed and soaked them in Microdyne...

I wanted to be sure that everything I used with a peel that would be eaten was purified in bottled water and Microdyne. Maybe I was being a little overcautious, but I figured "better safe than sorry"

The next step in this process is to take the chiles anchos and put them in a pot or skillet and cover with water and bring to a boil...

When the chiles anchos came to a boil, I let it simmer for a few minutes then let it steep and rest in the hot water until cooled enough to handle...I keep the water, I call that the "tea". I use this same technique when I make Cowboy Style Chile Con Carne...the chiles and the "tea" will be the beginning of a recodo, a base for the enchilada sauce.

While the chiles anchos cooled down, I peeled and chopped a white onion, a head of garlic, and the bell pepper plus the serranos, jalapenos and that tiny little habanero.

When the chiles anchos had cooled enough to handle, I cleaned them: this involves removing the seeds and membranes from the inside and scraping the delicious chile pulp away from the flimsy paper like outer skin. I usually do this with the point of a chef's knife, it is a little labor consuming but always worth the effort.

When the chiles anchos are cleaned and turned into chile pulp, I put that with the strained "tea" plus some of the garlic, onion, bell pepper and fresh chiles into a blender with a little of the fresh OJ and blend that into a thick liquid, which I consider my "recodo" for the enchilada sauce.

Finally, all the prep ready for the sauce, I had my "mise en place" ready to cook on the two burner electric hot plate...

So, using some 1-2-3 cooking oil I got from Mirtita's, I started by sauteeing the garlic and onions, followed by the bell peppers and fresh chiles...

When everything was nice and sauteed, I then added the recodo...

I kept a close eye on the simmering sauce while I straightened up the tiny kitchen. I let that simmer on medium high for about 20 minutes or so. Then I added a bottle of BBQ sauce I brought from Texas and brought it all back up to a bubbling simmer.

Next I turned it down to low and went across the street to the rostaceria for a chicken...

There is no "nice" or "polite" way to shred a chicken: I cleaned my hands super good (even used a little more Microdyne) and got to pickin chicken...which I then added to the sauce...

As an extra "kick" and to add local flavor to the chicken & sauce, I made a rum and fresh OJ reduction in a small skillet on the other burner. Since I had wonderful fresh OJ and that superb 7 year old Havana Club rum, I sort of took this opportunity to make a rum-and-fresh OJ for the cook...

After cooking down the rum and OJ reduction by about 2/3rds, I added it to the chicken & sauce, stirred it in good, and then turned the heat off. When the entire concoction was cooled, I put it in a big plastic container I bought from Mirtita's and put that in the fridge to sit overnight (while I went to Mininos for lunch and then on to the beach)

PART TWO: Saturday January 5, 2008-Lunch Time

I went over to my friend's house "about 11-ish" as planned to begin the assembly of the enchiladas for our 3pm lunch time. This was to be a very informal lunch for 6, a small group of friends gathered to visit and eat.

After hugs and handshakes, I got down to business in this wonderful kitchen for the assembly of the enchiladas and the preparations for our lunch. First, I got the chilled chicken & sauce made the day before and brought that to a slow simmer on the stovetop...

When everything had warmed up thoroughly, I then turned off the heat for a little while. Meanwhile, my friend started a cake for our dessert. We had a "rosca de reyes", or "kings cake" thoughtfully provided by the local PRI in a vain attempt to garner votes from gringos who couldn't vote anyway. These roscas de reyes were purchased by the PRI from the Wal Mart in Cancun and I gotta say it was pretty nasty. My friend's dogs liked it, though, so if those Mexican dogs could vote, they would probably vote PRI.

Along with the cake my friend was baking, she also made a very nice and simple salad to go with our lunch, and her friend made excellent home made guacamole and pico de gallo and salsa while the rest of our lunch party guests arrived slowly.

When the chicken & sauce had cooled enough to handle, I strained the chicken out of all the sauce and set the chicken aside, then put the sauce in a large skillet for making the enchiladas. I minced up another white onion, which I put into acidulated ice water (that's just ice water with fresh lime) Handling the onion this way takes some of the "bite" out of the onion and brings out the sweetness.

I also prepped the cheese and got the corn tortillas I bought at the tortilleria in La Gloria earlier Saturday morning ready. Finally, the mise en place for enchilada assembly was ready...

I used two of the fluffy but slightly fragile corn tortillas for each enchilada: about a tablespoon of chicken, some cheese and some of the minced onion, then roll and tuck the flaps under the enchilada

I made two pans, 16 enchiladas total. When the enchiladas had all been rolled, I topped them in the pans with some enchilada sauce, some more cheese and some more onions. Then we let these sit for a little while and heated up some black beans and some rice, and then all had a drink and a visit before the final finshes for our lunch.

When it was time to eat, we put the enchiladas in a 450 degree oven for about 7-10 minutes to warm everything through and melt the cheese...

The enchiladas ready, the side dishes prepared, my friend set a beautiful table and we were ready to eat...

And this is what my lunch looked like...

The company was warm and genial, the food was pretty darn good (if I do say so myself) and we spent several hours at the table, eating and talking and then enjoying my friend's cake (and laughing at the PRI/Wal Mart rosca de reyes) over coffee and lingering for a while as the sun began to set and evening came.

It was a wonderful day, one of the best I ever had on the island!

Thanks to my dear hosts, and thanks to our friends who shared this special lunch with us. I hope we will do it again sometime soon!

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