Let’s start with the food. (It has been awhile, hasn’t it?) I’ll try to weave in some back story as we go but #1 most important right now is that you know how to make these vegetarian enchiladas we had for dinner last night (and that I just had for lunch–they are even better the next day!).
I originally found this recipe in the April 2013 issue of Real Simple magazine, in a feature titled “What is Umami?” How could I resist? Umami is my favorite, duh. (If you aren’t familiar with this Japanese word it basically means “the flavor that is the most awesome.” What it actually means, I think, is “the 5th taste” as in: salty, spicy, sweet, bitter and umami. In scientific terms, umami refers to naturally occurring glutamates–often synthesized as MSG–which abound in salty/meaty foods like sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese, beef, etc.)
Side note: Am I “still” vegan? (“Still” is in “sarcastic quotes” because, let’s be honest, I LOVE BACON and was never truly vegan.) The answer is simply no. A lot has happened since I was last posting with any regularity and one of those things is that I’ve accepted the fact about myself that I need meat and dairy to be a part of my life. I am, however, making a really valiant effort to eat only organic, grass-fed/finished/pastured meat, poultry, and eggs that rank somewhere respectable on the animal welfare scale. (Do you know about this? It’s pretty cool. Click here to see simplified the Whole Foods version and here to read more from the Global Animal Partnership.) I (and Mark, we’re in this one together) also try to eat meat and dairy as seldom as possible. When I’m actually preparing the majority of our meals, this generally looks like vegan 75% of the time, vegetarian most of the time, meat with dinner or breakfast maybe 2-3 times a week. It feels right, we never feel deprived, it’s more affordable, and healthier.
With specific regards to eating meat, I care a lot about putting good things into my body and I also care a lot about treating animals with respect and dignity even if that means that I will eventually be eating them. I do believe that there is a dignified and respectful way to raise animals for food and I’m willing to spend more and eat less in order to be a part of a healthier, happier process. But more on all that some other time.
Back to the enchiladas.
What I like about these enchiladas is the balance: they are flavorful without being too spicy, satisfying but not overly filling, and there are a lot of interesting tastes and textures going on to keep your mouth happy. I made some additions and substitutions such as:
- They didn’t have dried, sliced shiitake mushrooms in stock at Whole Foods (I just can’t quit shopping there–it is so insanely pleasurable) so I went with 1 ounce of a sliced mushroom medley. It worked well although I think they could have soaked for a bit longer. The small package cost $5 which feels steep (you could probably do better at Costco–anybody want to add me to there membership? wink nudge) but I am ok with the price for the following reasons: 1) it’s cheaper than meat, 2) it’s cheaper or the same cost as fresh mushrooms (1 oz dry = roughly 1/2 lb fresh), 3) they are a lot easier to deal with (just soak in boiling water), and 4) the water you soak them in becomes DELICIOUS. If for some reason you want to use fresh mushrooms instead/can’t find dry you should be ok with slicing a half a pound of shiitakes and adding them in with the onion and potato. Substitute beef or beef-flavored broth for the mushroom water and DON’T SALT until you’re done or almost done cooking! (Broth tends to be salty.) Another option would be sliced, canned mushrooms which I find kind of gross but this might be an appropriate application for them if you don’t mind the texture. They certainly are affordable and easy to find.
- There were no herbs or spices in the original recipe. What’s up with that, Real Simple? So, I added some. I’m glad I did because I think it would have turned out bland without.
- I hate buying cilantro because I NEVER use the whole bunch. There are a couple of ways around this: wash, chop and freeze the extra with water in an ice cube tray. I’ve done this but it’s so soggy and wilted beyond recognition when it thaws that it kind of (for me, anyway) defeats the purpose. I forewent it here and you could too, or not, whatever you want. It would lend the dish a more attractive presentation so maybe consider it if you’re having guests over or something.
- I think I used more than the original amount of oil and I combined grapeseed and canola instead of using olive oil as the recipe indicated. You can do what you want, coconut or olive would be fine too I’m sure, I just don’t like the taste of coconut oil and I feel like I always burn olive oil.
- Are you vegan or dairy-free? Use Daiya or Follow Your Heart Monterey Jack cheese. Boom. Done.
Can I just tell you that it feels so good to be writing recipes for you again? Gosh. All school year I was like, “I can’t wait to blog again once school’s out!” And then school got out and I was all, “Crap, dude–I forgot how to cook!” and I literally haven’t cooked ANYTHING worth mentioning since, like, November. Maybe. I can’t remember. But this post has been fun to write and these enchiladas are really damn good so LET’S CALL THIS THE COMEBACK.
Mushroom and Potato Enchiladas
Time commitment: about an hourMakes: 8 enchiladas which is about 4 servingsIngredients
- 1 ounce dried and SLICED mushrooms
- 2-4 tablespoons grapeseed, canola, or olive oil
- 1 sweet onion, chopped
- 1 large or 2 small russet potatoes (about 3/4 lb) peeled and 1/4″ diced
- 1 cup frozen corn, thawed (fresh would probably work too)
- SALT N’ PEPPAH
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese (or fake cheese) grated
- 1 14 ounce can GREEN chili enchilada sauce (you’ll appreciate the tanginess–although red would probably not be horrible, it just wouldn’t be as good)
- 8 corn tortillas
- cilantro, if you feel like it
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the mushrooms in a bowl that will hold at least 4 cups and pour over 2 cups of boiling water. Make sure all the shrooms are submerged and let them hydrate for about 30 minutes.
- While your little shrooms are doin’ their thing chop up the tater and onion and assemble your mise en place*: veggies prepared, spices measured, cheese grated, sauce opened, tortillas ready to be filled (I laid mine out on a cookie sheet so I could measure an even amount of filling into each one before rolling and placing in the baking dish). If your mushrooms are rehydrated to your liking, go ahead and drain them but DO NOT throw out the liquid! Save it to add to your filling mixture.
- Heat a 12 inch skillet over medium heat (my cast iron one did great–I love the high sides). When hot, add enough oil to cover the bottom plus a smidge more. Add onions and potatoes (and mushrooms but ONLY if using fresh), stir to coat with oil, and cook for a minute or two. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a bunch of fresh ground black pepper, and the smoked paprika, cumin and oregano. Stir to coat the veggies evenly and then cook another 5 or so minutes, stirring occasionally, till the onions are pretty much translucent. Put a strainer over a measuring cup and drain the mushrooms. Add mushrooms and corn to onion/potato mixture with 1 1/2 cups of the mushroom liquid. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork-tender and most all the liquid has been absorbed. Taste and add more salt/pepper if you’d like. Then, dump into a big mixing bowl and toss with about half the cheese so everything is evenly distributed and ready to go into your tortillas.
- Get excited: you’re almost there. Pour enough enchilada sauce in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish to coat the bottom (no greasing required). Spoon potato and mushroom mixture evenly into tortillas (you’ll want to make a row down the middle) and then roll and place seam-side down in your dish. You’ll probably end up with two outliers along one long edge of your pan and that’s OK. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake uncovered for 15 minutes or so, till all bubble and lightly golden in places. Allow to cool for a few minutes before plating so they don’t fall apart. Enjoy.
*(Have we talked about “mise en place” yet? If not, read this and then stay tuned.)