Or: the Trials and Tribulations of an Uptown Girl with a Boyfriend from Old Europe

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Location: Basel, Switzerland

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

When we lived in New York, we went to Señor Swanky’s, a tacky Mexican joint not too far from my apartment, more or less once a week. Aside from a high calories-per-dollar-spent ratio, it featured cheap plastic tables (although happily, they were outdoors), indifferent service, decent chips and salsa (when the servers remembered to bring them out), and gigantic burritos roughly the size and weight of a brick. The latter were the draw for Swissy Pie: he adored those burritos. But while I agreed that they were quite tasty, I generally avoided them, in favor of something that would leave me capable of walking home afterward.

Ususally, I ordered the enchiladas. Sometime during my childhood - very likely during a visit to Chi-Chi’s - I’d gotten the impression that I liked them. But at Señor Swanky’s, I always ended up disappointed. They were too heavy, too cheesy, too bland… Yet I kept getting them. Apparently, I’m a slow learner.

Now that we’re over 3000 miles from our old haunt, we don’t eat Mexican very much. But when we do, it’s prepared just the way I like it. (Not too surprising, since I’m the one who has to do the preparing!) At last, I can have enchiladas every bit as good as the ones in my memory.

As a general rule, I avoid using jarred sauces from the grocery store shelves. Although making mole sauce from scratch requires a bit of extra time, everything from the chicken to the sauce can be prepared in advance. To me, the results are worth the effort.

Enchiladas Un-Swiss Miss

for the mole sauce:
1 C. canned whole tomatoes
2 garlic cloves

2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. ground cumin

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp olive oil

2 C. chicken broth or water
1 Tbsp. molasses or brown sugar
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
pinch cinnamon
2 tsp. salt (reduce if using chicken broth)

for the enchiladas:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 C pitted green olives, diced
2 whole chicken breasts, poached and shredded

8 8-in corn or flour tortillas
8 oz finely shredded Emmentaler or Swiss cheese
1/4 C pitted green olives, sliced

Make the sauce:
Put the canned tomatoes and garlic in a blender and process until smooth. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, chili powder, cocoa, and cumin until blended.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter in the 2 Tbsp. olive oil. When the butter starts to foam, add the flour mixture and cook, stirring, 2-3 minutes.

Slowly pour in the chicken stock, whisking to ensure the sauce stays smooth and lump-free. Whisk in the tomato-garlic puree, molasses, tomato paste, cinnamon, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and glossy, approximately 5 minutes. Set aside. The sauce may be cooled and refrigerated, but bring to room temperature before assembling the enchiladas.

Assemble the enchiladas:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC, or if using a convection oven, 160ºC).

Set aside 1/2 C. of the diced tomatoes for garnish.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the diced olives, remaining tomatoes, and shredded chicken. Cook until just heated through. Divide into 8 equal portions.

Dip a tortilla in the mole sauce to cover. Place a portion of chicken and approximately 2 Tbsp. cheese down the center of the tortilla, roll up the tortilla, and place in a 9”x13” casserole.

When all the enchiladas are assembled, pour the remaining mole sauce over the casserole, sprinkle with the leftover cheese, and scatter the olive slices on top.

Bake the enchiladas for 30 minutes (20 minutes if using a convection oven). Garnish with the reserved diced tomatoes and serve.


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Blogger Greg said...

I made enchiladas for dinner tonight as well. We picked up some paprika in Budapest on monday, so I used it instead of the red chili powder in the enchilada sauce. It was a much different taste, but still really good.

I used the leftover corn tortillas to make baked tortilla chips. Almost as good as the ones from Trader Joe's

May 5, 2007 at 8:57 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

MMM!!! That sounds delicious.. maybe I will try it next weekend (too late to shop for ingredients this weekend)

May 5, 2007 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger Un-Swiss Miss said...

Greg - Mmm, that encourages me to experiment. I've been thinking about substituting some ancho chiles which I got at El Sol. Since they're not spicy, maybe I'll just substitute for half the chili powder...

I do miss TJ's. The one in New York was so popular that even months after opening, the checkout line wrapped all the way around the store.

Michelle - I can't decide whether I love or hate the fact that stores are closed Sundays. It's nice because it's mandatory family fun time, but all that planning ahead and rushing around Saturday drives me nuts! (Not that there was much else to do this Saturday besides shop - the weather was awful yesterday.)

May 6, 2007 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger naechstehaltestelle said...

Ack, I can't believe I missed Cinco de Mayo! I made breakfast burritos the other day...does that count as celebrating? I love enchiladas. They really just can't do Mexican food right here, can they? I went to a place in Hamburg and I'm still scarred.

May 7, 2007 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger Alexandra said...

just bought a fajita mix in the supermarket- coulnt believe they had it!! (imported from ITALY) though...?? we'll see...

May 9, 2007 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger Un-Swiss Miss said...

Naechstehaltestelle - I'm afraid to even try Mexican restaurants here! Unless I get a recommendation, the consumption of pretty much all ethnic food stays in the apartment.

Ale - Hope the fajitas turn out well. What's in the kit?

May 9, 2007 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

As far as mexican restaurants here in Basel, La Fonda is okay. Stick with things that would be expensive in the US, like Fajitas though. The Burritos at La Fonda cost only slightly less than the Fajitas.

There is another mexican restaurant near the train station, which is called Tapadera. I haven't been there yet, but I have heard really good things about it from a couple other folks.

There is a place in Interlaken that has really good mexican food. The had the best fresh-made salsa I've had here. It didn't taste like cocktail sauce at all! ;-)

As for paprika. The hot paprika I got I used in my potato curry the other night and it was a bit spicier, but nothing like cayenne pepper. It did add some nice body and color to the sauce. It would definitely go well with Zuerigeschnetzeltes.

BTW, did you know that Trader Joes is owned by the same company that owns Aldi? Now, if they'd just stock some Pirate's Booty and a few other nice TJ staples we'd have it made!

May 10, 2007 at 2:06 PM  
Anonymous jessica said...

Growing up in Indiana, my texan mother tried the very best she could to instill mexican food into our lifeblood. The best we could do was a few trips south a year, and the local chi chi's. Every single friday of my childhood: chips and salsa til I burst, cheese enchiladas no onions, fried ice cream or the sopapillas.but then they closed down for violating health codes. :)

May 10, 2007 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger My Brand New Swiss Life said...

Hi! Just got hiking item! sorry didn't send this earlier-
There is a good hike near Bern. Take the train to Langnau... and when you get off you will see yellow triangular "Wanderweg" signs...
(you can also always ask locals if they are not directly apparent - just ask where the wanderweg is).
Hike is about 3 hrs. - ends in Luderenalp. There's a restaurant with a website that is on the trail - www.luderenalp.ch - actually it is at the top of the hike. Very pretty!
If you go, let me know how it goes :)

May 11, 2007 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Un-Swiss Miss said...

Greg - Aldi and Trader Joe's? No kidding! I'm very curious what will happen once Aldi opens its store next to Migros in Claraplatz. It's the first one I've seen in Switzerland; the guys at Migros can't be happy about it. And perhaps if all of us expats start lobbying, they'll bring over some TJ loot, too!

Jessica - I completely forgot about sopapillas. Those were great! Our Chi-Chi's closed down too, but I'm not sure why. After a stint as another restaurant, the owners tore down the building and put a Target in its place.

MBNSL - We ended up going to Blauen for time reasons, but we'll try Langnau sometime. Thanks!

May 15, 2007 at 5:30 PM  

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