Señor Verde’s Chicken Enchiladas

What do you do when you’ve arrived at home with an UNBELIEVABLE amount of affordable vegetables and a brand new Rachael Ray knife?  You get to work putting together a flavor-infused Mexican feast that serves six…  then you make sure you invite only one other person over to enjoy it with you!

Some of you out there know where I get my produce.  In the local area surrounding our production offices, the market I hit is famous not just for its jaw-droppingly low prices on everything from fresh produce, meats, alcohol and fresh breads, but for its war zone of a parking lot with a single entrance, a single exit, and a slew of locals who are either over the age of eighty or simply ignorant to common driver’s courtesy.  Plastic bags and runaway shopping carts dart around freely, as do at least three or four different languages and a healthy amount of honking and cursing.  It’s even worse inside.  It’s never anything but packed to the gills, and a mustering of patience is required along with extra-protective footwear and a heightened sense of self-preservation.

Yes, I very much have to be in a overwhelmingly composed, almost reverent state of mind to venture into the Super King Market at 2716 N. San Fernando Road in the Glassell Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.  I take a deep breath, purse my lips, tuck down my head, and concentrate on the finish line, much as I imagine I might if I were forced to walk across hot coals or experience a colonoscopy.

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Señor Verde’s Slow Cooked Montezuma Chicken (Music by Sergio Mendes and ‘Brasil 66!)

For those of you out there who’ve been looking for that perfect dish to serve alongside a healthy dose of Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 on your iPod, you’ve come to the right post.

Show of hands, please?

How many of you out there don’t even own any Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66? Another show of hands, please?

For shame.

What is the fun of a meal this colorful, vibrant and swimming in flavor if you don’t serve it up with music to match its rich, kaleidoscopic, south of the border beauty?

Fear not.  I’m not hear to pass judgment.  I’m here to help.

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Señor Verde’s Baked Chicken with Hot Pepper Gravy

Last Sunday afternoon was spent at the Farmer’s Market Sur La Table “Knife Cutting Essentials” class run by Martin Gilligan, former Executive Chef at the Kyoto Grand Hotel and Gardens in downtown Los Angeles.  It was an education long overdue for me as my chopping, slicing and dicing skills up to this point have been self-taught and rather inefficient by my own admission.
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Crab Tostadas

MG and I confronted two big questions today.

First… what do you make for dinner that will be satisfying and delicious, but super-easy because you started drinking champagne at four o’clock in the the afternoon and don’t have the energy to attempt anything even remotely ambitious?

Second… is it possible to eat a fantastic deep-fried tortilla loaded down with crab meat, jalapeño, avocado, tomato, onion, lime, and cotija cheese ONE-HANDED and NOT drop morsels onto the table?

The answer to the first question: Crab Tostadas.

The answer to the second question: No Fucking Way.

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Ancho Chile Salsa with Habanero

Summer isn’t exactly the season where people dive into spicy heated Mexican cooking. It seems most people sway towards pasta salads, fruity cocktails and grilling.

Fair enough.

But my Señor Verde’s Chicken Enchiladas went over big both in terms of web hits and compliments to the chef. Plus, my last trip to Super King’s produce section left me with an abundance of dried peppers, tomatoes and tomatillos looking to find their way into something, so here’s a spicy little salsa, slow-cooked to bring out every last hint of flavor.

Without the single habanero I added to the original recipe, this salsa is perfect to bring with you to a summer barbeque or picnic.

With the habanero, you might want to be a bit more selective about the people with whom you decide to share it.

And before we go any further, just to get our maracas off a bit, let’s all take a gander at a six-year-old Señor Verde, getting in touch with his Hispanic roots south of the border in San Felipe, Mexico, nineteen-seventy-bruh-huh bruh-huh. I’ll say this for myself. I know a good sombrero when I see it. I wonder if my family played checkers on me after I fell asleep.

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MG’s “Almost Famous” Tacos

If you can’t go more than a week without a taco, you need to come by my place sometime.

Tacos usually hit my table at least every seven days, packed with well-seasoned chicken or turkey simmered for at least ninety minutes in a bath of chopped onion, jalapeno and bell peppers, garlic and cayenne pepper (sprinkled in sparingly if guests are coming, generously if it’s just MG and me, and enough to turn the entire pan crimson if it’s me alone)

Apartment 402 was the place to be this past Tuesday night as MG made for me a celebratory “back from San Fran” mountain of crunchy-tender-succulent happiness that nearly made my eyes pop out of my head like a wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon!

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Scrambled Egg Towers

Breakfast can be served 24 hours a day as far as I’m concerned so long as it’s my MG doing the cooking.  He’s a master at creating spectacular morning dishes that are so impossible to resist and so totally satisfying, I usually want to crawl right back into bed when I’m done with them and hibernate for a week.

MG can create gold from any ingredients (and more importantly, any lack of ingredients) lying around.  I’ll catch him surveying the contents of my cabinets and fridge and ask, “what are you looking for?” and without even glancing over at me, he’ll simply reply, “I’m just looking.

Akin to the thrill of returning from a restaurant bathroom to find your food awaiting you at the table is the thrill I get from returning from picking up our morning coffees to find the most eye-popping breakfast coming together in the kitchen. This morning, he really outdid himself. I helped by having nearly every ingredient he went searching for on hand. Together, we are the perfect breakfast-making machine. All we need to do is throw in mimosas, Bloody Marys and maybe hire a Celtic harpist and we could open for business tomorrow!

Follow the link for more pics and the recipe.
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New Year’s Eve Tacos!

I beg of you… if there is ANYONE else out there who isn’t long sick of the holiday season once New Year’s Eve comes around, please… e-mail me! I hate feeling like I’m the only one out there who can’t (and even if I could I wouldn’t bother to) work up any amount of energy for the night of December 31st. I don’t want to go to a party, I don’t want to go to a bar, I don’t want to go to Catalina, I don’t want to go to the top of a building with a spectacular view of the city, I don’t want to go to a specially-catered dinner at a local restaurant that includes a bottle of champagne, hats and streamers for the reasonable ticket price of $150 when I can normally go there and order anything for at least $125 less.

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Tomatillo Sauce and Guacamole

Tomatillos are suddenly giving jalapeno peppers a run for the money as the primary Latin star of my kitchen. Lying in size somewhere between the cherry and the beefsteak, green and slightly sticky to the touch, they are strikingly appealing yet sadly hidden away by a curious and lackluster greenish-brown husk.  Also known as the “husk tomoato” or “jamberry,” the tomatillo has been a staple of Mexican and Guatemlan cuisine for centuries, both cooked and raw, primarily in sauces to amp up the flavor of the meal and to offset the flavor of any hot peppers included in a recipe.

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Homemade Guac and Salsa for Chicken Soft Tacos

There is a lot to be said for swinging around a knife.  Stabbing vegetables is a great method for chasing away the blahs.  The only thing better is chowing down on the delicious results.  I promised MG and Michael, our dinner guest to supply the homemade guac and the salsa, plus season up some chicken if MG agreed to employ his trademark secret for cooking the tortillas just long enough for sturdiness without burning.

I used to just chop the hell out of everything and mix it together, sweeping the excess mix into a single container for the fridge, but now I keep the ingredients separated by family – onion family, pepper family, and things that are green but not a pepper family member.  As I mix a little of each in and try the resulting flavor of the salsa and the guac, I’m starting to learn what combination produces the most kick.