Chicken Spinach Enchiladas

I was at my chiropractor’s office today, and he looked concerned. My adjustments had been holding, so I wondered what else was on his mind. He confessed to me that he found the  Beef Wellington recipe I had posted to be a bit intimidating. It looked so detailed and  intricate that he was afraid to try it. It’s one thing to experiment with yellow versus vidalia onions, it’s another thing to experiment with a hundred dollars worth of beef tenderloin. He told me he’d never seen a Beef Wellington before. I told him it’s not something people usually bring to a potluck dinner.

Here’s a recipe for Chicken Spinach Enchiladas that Dr. Steve said was more his style.  I got it from one of my cousins and made it last night with leftover chicken.  I was too lazy to shave, or clean the kitchen so there is not an accompanying video, just some pictures I took with no great plan in mind.

The Enchiladas looked and smelled so good I had eaten one before I realized I had forgotten to take a photo. The 2 corn tortillas are on the right.

The great thing about this recipe is you can make and refrigerate the filling ahead of time. Gently reheat before assembling and baking the enchiladas. This recipe makes between 6 and 8 enchiladas depending on how big you roll them. I used all the sauce and cheese on 4 tortillas (2 corn and 2 flour) with some leftover filling that I used in an omelet.  I’ve made notes where I’ve made changes in the original recipe. And by original recipe I mean the recipe as it was given to me. They probably don’t use this recipe in Juárez.

FILLING

  • 1 Cup diced onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 small package of fresh mushrooms sliced (or 4 oz. can of mushrooms)
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper diced (or small jar of fire roasted red pepper)
  • 1/2  teaspoon ground cumin or 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 – 6 ounce bag of baby spinach
  • 2 cup shredded chicken
  • 2 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Mexican-style cheese
  • 1 can of corn, (8 oz.) or small package of frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup Philadelphia original cooking cream.

ENCHILADA SAUCE:

  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup minced scallion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder +
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour  +
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon each ground coriander, sugar and pepper of your choice
  • 2 cups chicken broth, stock, or chicken bouillon
  • 1 can tomato sauce (8 oz.)

Preheat the the oven to 400°. Cook the onion, garlic and red pepper over medium heat until soft approximately 5 minutes. Sprinkle the cumin over the onions and garlic and stir and cooking another minute. Add the spinach and cook until wilted approximately 1 minute. Add the cooked chicken 1 cup of the cheese and the cooking cream. Mix well and simmer 4-5 min. If using fresh mushrooms sautéed them separately making sure the water has been evaporated. Add to the filling mix. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper. The filling can be made in advance. Once the mixture has come to room temperature cover it in place in the refrigerator overnight.

Celebrity Chef Vinny Verelli - Enchiladas

A fabulous combination of texture and colors.

For the enchilada sauce.
Cook the onions and garlic in the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, tomato paste. flour, oregano, cumin, coriander, sugar and your pepper. Cook 2 min. Whisk in the broth and bring the sauce to a boil stirring continually. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 min. Add the tomato sauce simmer additional 5 min. and then adjust the seasoning.  The enchilada sauce also can be made in advance. Allow to cool, cover and place in refrigerator.

Assembling the enchiladas.

If you have prepared the filling and sauce in advance slowly reheat each before assembling the enchiladas. Spread half of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish that has been coated with nonstick spray. Fill each tortilla with the filling and roll, placing in the dish seam down. Top with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheese leaving the ends dry. Bake until cheese melts and turns a medium brown about 15-20 minutes.  Allowed to sit for 5 minutes before serving.  Garnish with fresh sprigs of  cilantro.

NOTES:
A pound bag of spinach cost $7 at Ingle’s. You can fill a container of spinach from the salad bar for $5 a pound.

Note on Chili Powder: The 1st time I made this, I looked at the recipe and saw 1/4 teaspoon chili powder when actually the measurement as written was 1/4 cup. The sauce tasted different, something was missing, then I realize what it was. It was the overwhelming taste of chili powder. Even when you’re making chili you don’t want the flavor of chili powder to overpower the other ingredients, that is unless you’re making opossum chili. And see now I’ve gone and offended the people up here who call opossum the other other white meat.   I guess what I mean to say is, “this is one of seasonings you add to taste.” I suggest starting with 2 Tablespoons and adjust.

Notes on Flour: Once again the recipe called for one tablespoon of flour, I ended up adding close to an additional tablespoon to get the sauce as thick as I like it. I’m from a family that likes our sauce is thick. It just holds on to everything better. So in addition to the 1 tablespoon of flour that you use initially, I dissolve another tablespoon in some cool chicken broth. If the sauce looks too thin I’ll whisk in some of the extra flour.  Don’t put the additional flour mixture into a simmering sauce. Let it sit for a few minutes.  Pour some of the flour mixture and whisk constantly as you bring the sauce back up to a simmer. Cook until desired thickness.

Additional Ingredients:  Aside from the corn and spinach there wasn’t much color in the chicken mixture. Adding the roasted red pepper provided some nice red color. The mushrooms were not in the recipe that was given to me but I love mushrooms and they add a different texture to the meal. I also love the taste of fresh cilantro. If you have fresh cilantro chop some up 1/4 – 1/2 cup and toss it into the mixture

PS: Although my chiropractor wasn’t going to try making the Beef Wellington, he did try the single barrel Jack Daniels.

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Salt to Taste

When a recipe says, “salt to taste,” they are referring to your taste. That is to say the taste of the person actually making the meal. And that’s what cooking is, making something to your taste. To the extent that other people agree with your taste, determines how popular your cooking is.

I had never made an enchilada sauce so I was following someone else’s recipe. I read 1/4 teaspoon chili powder when actually the measurement as written was 1/4 cup chili powder. I noticed that the sauce tasted different, something was missing, then I realize what it was. It was the overwhelming taste of chili powder.

Even when you’re making chili you don’t want the flavor of chili powder to overpower the other ingredients. There are subtle flavors that need to come out, that is unless you’re making opossum chili. And see, now I’ve offended the people up here in the mountains who call opossum the other other white meat.   I guess what I mean to say is, “this is one of those seasonings you want to add to taste.”

Some cooks treat their recipes as if they were carved in stone. Ask those cooks where they got their recipe.  Nobody just makes anything up. Every original recipe is based upon other recipes and procedures for doing certain things to certain foods. An original recipe is the amalgamation of everything that cook knows about cooking. And it’s all done to taste.

Posted by Vinny Verelli, humorous motivational speaker and celebrity chef. 

Beef Wellington for Special Occasions

Funny Speaker Vinny Verelli's Beef Wellington

Beautiful rare tenderloin of beef with duxelles encased in puff pastry

I can’t think of a more festive dish. It’s truly for special occasions as you don’t see it show up at a lot of potluck suppers here in the mountains.

Just like every recipe I make for the first time I do a lot of research into what other people are doing. And just like every recipe, Beef Wellington has no set method. However a Beef Wellington should have beef, duxelle and pastry. Everything else is up to you.

One guy I saw on YouTube put the puff pastry around the sides of the tenderloin and on top but not on the bottom. He said the puff pastry on the bottom gets soggy, acting as a sponge to soak up juices. Duh! That’s the whole purpose. I can think of few things in this world that are better than a buttery puff pastry soaked with tenderloin juices, smoke ham and duxelle. Frickin delicious!

The great thing about Beef Wellington is each step can be prepared in advance. When making something for the first time it nice not to have the added pressure of exact timing. The full recipe and notes follow the video.

THE RECIPE:

Ingredients for 6 servings

  • 2 to 2 ½- pound beef tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry, port or Madeira
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 4 ounces can duck foie gas or similar prepared pâté. (optional)
  • English mustard
  • 8 slices of prosciutto ham
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 pound frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten or one egg yolk with a dash of water.
  • Sea salt, or coarse salt, for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS:

  1. THE DUXELLE: Drop the shallot and garlic down the shut of your food processor. Then add the mushrooms and pulse until you have a fine mixture. Scrape the mixture into a pan with about a Tablespoon of butter. Add some salt and pepper and cook over a high heat for about 10 mins, mixing and turning frequently to cook out the moisture from the mushrooms. Add the, Sherry, Port or Madera stir and cook down. Add a tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme. If you don’t have fresh thyme just skip the spice. Dry thyme doesn’t really cut it. At this point you can mix in the optional foie gras. Taste and adjust seasoning. Turn mixture into a bowl and let cool. Once the duxelle comes to room temperature you can cover and keep in the refrigerator until you need it. Do not cover the duxelle while it is still hot. Condensation will collect and add moisture to the mixture that you spent so much time cooking to remove liquid.
  2. SEAR THE BEEF: Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan. Season the beef with coarse salt and pepper and sear in the hot pan for 45 seconds to one minute on each side. Remove from the pan and brush all over with the English mustard. The hot meat will absorb more of the mustard flavor. ** See the note below on searing.
  3. Lay overlapping sheets of cling wrap on a work surface and arrange the ham slices on it, in slightly overlapping rows. Spread the duxelles over the ham, then place the seared beef fillet just below center. Keeping a tight hold of the cling wrap from the edge, neatly roll the ham and mushrooms around the beef to form a tight barrel shape. Twist the ends of the cling film to secure. Chill for 20 minutes to allow the beef to set and keep its shape. Once again this can be done in advance.
  4. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface to a large rectangle, about a ¼ in thick. . If using store-bought pastry, it may be necessary to lay out 2 pieces side by side and pinch the seams to connect them. I measured the length and circumference of the beef roll to make sure I have enough pastry to cover the beef, ham and mushrooms. To make it easier to roll you should place the rolled pastry on top of another layer of cling wrap. Remove the beef from refrigerator, unwrap and lay in the center of the pastry. Brush the surrounding pastry with egg wash. (Egg yolk with a dash of water.) Fold the ends over wrapping the pastry around the beef. Cut away any excess pastry and pinch the ends to make a tight seal. Once again wrap the pastry in the cling wrap. The tighter you make the roll the more uniform the shape will be and the more evenly Wellington will cook. Place in the refrigerator to chill about 20 minutes.  This can even be done the night before. Then when you’re ready to bake proceed with step 5.
  5. Place the Wellington seam down on a baking sheet. Lightly score the pastry at ½ inch intervals. You are only marking the pastry for design effect. (You’ll notice in the photo of the one I made, that my scoring was too deep).  If you want, decorate with cut outs of puff pastry and glaze with egg wash.
  6. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake until pastry is golden brown and beef registers 120 – 130 degrees on an instant-read thermometer for rare, 130 -135 degrees for medium rare. Bake for about 35-45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving. I like to slice the Wellington down the middle then calculate the size of the individual slices based on how many people I’m serving.  Slices should be at least an inch thick.
  7. Drizzle some sauce on each slice and serve with roasted red potatoes and a green vegetable.

The Sauce
I started with Wagner’s “Demi-Glaze” mix that I picked up at the Ingles. The recipe on the back calls for one cup of water to be mixed in with the packet contents. I used ½ cup of water. ¼ cup of Jack Daniels and ¼ cup of homemade muscadine jelly. The muscadine grape is indigenous to the State of Georgia.

Combine the Demi-Glaze mix with water and Jack Daniels. Bring to a boil stirring often to dissolve all the mix. Reduce heat and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add ¼ cup of muscadine jelly. Muscadine is native to Georgia but you can substitute other jellies. A red currant jelly would work nice. If this sounds like it’s going to be too sweet for you, start off with 1/8 of a cup jelly. Taste and adjust by adding more jelly or additional water.

NOTES:
Using Ham: I heard one chef say that adding ham to the Wellington is like gilding the lily. My wife likes to say, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.” I like to use ham as it adds some more fat and flavor to the tenderloin as it’s not the most flavorful cut of beef.

Using foie gras: Some chefs cringe at the thought of adding foie gras or liver pâté in the duxelle. Those are the chefs that are using exotic mushrooms that are $20 to $30 a pound. When using simple button mushrooms the foie gras adds additional flavor and more cholesterol to the duxelle.

Scoring the pastry: Be careful not to score the pastry too deep on top. You do need to put a few tiny slits in the top to vent the steam. Adding decorative pastry cutouts adds a nice touch. You can see how scoring too deeply caused the pastry to open up in the photo. (photo of pastry cooling).  This didn’t effect the taste but it made it harder to slice.

Funny Speaker Vinny Verelli's Beef Wellington

Scoring the pastry too deeply can cause the loaf to split. Too much steam will escape and the meat won't stay as hot. But don't worry, no flavor is lost.

Searing the meat: There is only so long you can cook a Beef Wellington before you burn the pastry. You want the pastry to be crisp and a golden brown, so if you like your meat done on the medium side, you will want to sear the tenderloin a little longer.  Remember the beef is inside a layer of pastry, ham and duxelle. In 35 minutes the beef is only going to cook a little more than it was when you wrap it.

The Sauce: There is so much flavor with the beef Wellington that a sauce is not necessary. But as with everything else, if one uses a sauce there are no two recipes the same. Red wine sauces are the most frequent used. Keeping that in mind I live in the South, I took this English dish and added a touch of the South. Any top Chef would be appalled that I used a package sauce, but this is something that is done a lot in the South as well.

Posted by Funny Motivational Speaker Vinny Verelli