Turkey enchilada casserole

Ix-nay on the turkey soup, it's time to cook something a little different to use up those leftovers.

With folks still hanging around over the weekend, turn your leftovers into a spicy casserole. Traditional enchiladas are made with corn tortillas that are first fried, then coated in sauce, filled, and rolled. I break only one rule, and that is to ‘oven fry’ the tortillas instead of frying them in oil on the stove, which is a deal breaker for most of us. The frying actually serves to keep the tortillas from cracking when filled, but with some experimentation, I found that a light coating of oil and a few minutes in the oven accomplish the same goal.

Green sauce goes well with any kind of poultry (you could substitute chicken), and here it is made with tomatillos, pale green, firm fruits that are covered with a papery husk and a slightly sticky residue that must be removed. Their flavor is lemony tart and they pair well with the mild spice of poblano peppers and the heat of jalapenos. As in many Mexican sauces, once pureed, the sauce is simmered in a pan for a few minutes to blend the flavors. The thick Mexican cream (crema) that would be used here is not easy to obtain, but easy enough to replicate with sour cream thinned with milk. You can find cotija, a salty, crumbly Mexican cheese in some markets, but Parmesan makes a fine substitute. All’s well that ends well, and this feisty casserole rounds out a weekend of feasting in an unexpected way.

p.s. I'm going to let you in on a secret. When I'm feeling lazy and want to make this in a hurry, I use tomatillo sauce from a jar (!) (Frontera Grill). That's it. Everything else is the same. 

Rest up my friends, and enjoy your weekend.

Turkey enchilada casserole
Serves 6

SAUCE

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and halved crosswise
1/2 white onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 poblano chiles, halved and seeded
2 jalapeno peppers, halved and seeded
1 large handful fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup turkey or chicken stock

1. In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Spread the tomatillos, cut side down, in the pan. Cook, turning with tongs, for 4 to 5 minutes on a side, or until lightly charred. Transfer to a blender jar.

2. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pan and return to the heat. Add the onion and garlic. Place the poblanos and jalapenos with the skin sides down. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until lightly charred. Transfer to the blender jar. Add the cilantro, salt, and stock to the jar, and puree until smooth.

3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the pureed sauce to the pan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add more water or stock, 2 tablespoons at a time, if sauce seems thick.

ENCHILADAS
3/4 cup sour cream
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
12 corn tortillas
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups shredded cooked turkey (from about 3 pounds uncooked turkey)
1 1/4 cups grated Monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup crumbled cotija, or grated Parmesan cheese (for garnish)
4 thinly sliced radishes (for garnish)
Cilantro leaves (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Lightly oil two 3-quart, shallow baking dishes. Have on hand a rimmed baking sheet and a dinner plate.

2. In a bowl, stir together the sour cream and enough milk to bring it to the consistency of thick cream.

3. In a separate bowl, toss the shredded turkey with 1/2 cup of the sauce.

4. On the baking sheet, spread the tortillas (they don’t have to be in one layer.) Drizzle with the oil, and with your hands, lightly rub to coat them in the oil. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes, or until softened. Remove.

5. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of each baking dish. Drizzle each with 2 tablespoons of the cream.

6. One at a time, dip, fill and roll the tortillas: Dip a tortilla in the sauce and set it on a plate. Spoon about 1/4 cup turkey filling on one side and roll it up like a cigar. Place in the baking dish with the seam side down. Repeat with remaining tortillas, leaving a small gap between each roll, six enchiladas per pan. Pour the remaining sauce over each baking dish, dividing it evenly between the two pans. Sprinkle each dish the grated Monterey jack, dividing it evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until brown and bubbly.

7.  To serve, drizzle each dish with more cream, and sprinkle with cotija. Top with radishes and cilantro.

©2009-2016 Sally Pasley Vargas. Writing and photography, all rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on November 25, 2016 .

Cranberry pear sorbet and other Thanksgiving stories

It's happening. Already. It always seems to sneak up on you. But let the eating season begin. And, since dessert is obviously the best part of the meal, let's start with that. You don't need an ice cream maker to make this sorbet, though if you have one, it's a bit easier. I have lots of recipes to share, so stay tuned. In the meantime: Cranberry pear sorbet Makes about 1 quart A subtle pear essence underlies the tangy cranberry flavor in this stunning-looking knockout dessert. The cranberries don’t overpower the pears and the color is spectacular. You could try other fruits with the cranberries, such as poached apples, or pink grapefruit, or quince that has been cooked until soft. The only limit is your imagination. The good news is that you can make this without an ice cream machine. 1 orange Water 2 cups (8 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries 3 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and cut into large dice 1 1/4 cups sugar 1/4 cup light corn syrup 1. With a vegetable peeler, remove 3 wide strips of orange zest from the orange. Halve the orange and extract the juice. Pour it into a measuring cup and add enough water to measure 1 1/2 cups.  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the orange juice and water mixture, the orange zest strips, cranberries, pears, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the cranberries soften and pop. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. 3. Remove the orange zest. In a food processor, puree half the cranberry and pear mixture until smooth. Repeat with the other half. 4. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Pour the sorbet mix into a gallon zipper bag, close the bag, and submerge it in the ice water. Leave for 30 minutes, or until the mixture is cold, adding ice as necessary. Alternatively, refrigerate overnight. 5. Pour the sorbet mix into an ice cream maker and churn until it looks like soft serve ice cream. Transfer to a container; press the top with a piece of parchment paper, and cover. Freeze for at least 4 hours. If the sorbet becomes too hard in the freezer, refrigerate it for about 15 minutes to soften it, or carefully soften it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time.  To make without an ice cream maker. Although this is a two-step method that takes longer than freezing in an ice cream maker, it is handy to know about if you don’t have a machine. When the sorbet mix has chilled, place the bag on a flat tray and freeze for 3 to 4 hours, or until hard. Remove from the freezer and leave at room temperature for about 10 minutes to soften slightly. Cut the bag open with scissors and peel back the top of the bag. With a heavy knife, cut the frozen slab into 1-inch chunks. One-third at a time, process in a food processor until the sorbet looks creamy and no chunks of ice remain. Pack in a container, and continue until all the sorbet is used. Press the top with a piece of parchment paper, and cover. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or until ready to serve.     

It's happening. Already. It always seems to sneak up on you. But let the eating season begin.

And, since dessert is obviously the best part of the meal, let's start with that. You don't need an ice cream maker to make this sorbet, though if you have one, it's a bit easier.

I have lots of recipes to share, so stay tuned. In the meantime:

Cranberry pear sorbet
Makes about 1 quart

A subtle pear essence underlies the tangy cranberry flavor in this stunning-looking knockout dessert. The cranberries don’t overpower the pears and the color is spectacular. You could try other fruits with the cranberries, such as poached apples, or pink grapefruit, or quince that has been cooked until soft. The only limit is your imagination. The good news is that you can make this without an ice cream machine.

1 orange
Water
2 cups (8 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
3 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and cut into large dice
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup

1. With a vegetable peeler, remove 3 wide strips of orange zest from the orange. Halve the orange and extract the juice. Pour it into a measuring cup and add enough water to measure 1 1/2 cups. 

2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the orange juice and water mixture, the orange zest strips, cranberries, pears, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the cranberries soften and pop. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

3. Remove the orange zest. In a food processor, puree half the cranberry and pear mixture until smooth. Repeat with the other half.

4. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Pour the sorbet mix into a gallon zipper bag, close the bag, and submerge it in the ice water. Leave for 30 minutes, or until the mixture is cold, adding ice as necessary. Alternatively, refrigerate overnight.

5. Pour the sorbet mix into an ice cream maker and churn until it looks like soft serve ice cream. Transfer to a container; press the top with a piece of parchment paper, and cover. Freeze for at least 4 hours. If the sorbet becomes too hard in the freezer, refrigerate it for about 15 minutes to soften it, or carefully soften it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time. 

To make without an ice cream maker.

Although this is a two-step method that takes longer than freezing in an ice cream maker, it is handy to know about if you don’t have a machine. When the sorbet mix has chilled, place the bag on a flat tray and freeze for 3 to 4 hours, or until hard. Remove from the freezer and leave at room temperature for about 10 minutes to soften slightly. Cut the bag open with scissors and peel back the top of the bag. With a heavy knife, cut the frozen slab into 1-inch chunks. One-third at a time, process in a food processor until the sorbet looks creamy and no chunks of ice remain. Pack in a container, and continue until all the sorbet is used. Press the top with a piece of parchment paper, and cover. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or until ready to serve. 

 

 

But wait! There's more.

 

I love this easy one pan chicken. I have neglected this blog so I can write for The Boston Globe and Simply Recipes (and a cookbook in between--more on that later). But in case you didn't see this, go here for the recipe. It's one of those throw it together and shove it in the oven dishes to make when you're really busy. Don't order out, make this! And happy Thanksgiving--I will be "talking" to you again soon.

Posted on November 19, 2016 .

Learn with the pros: Food styling workshop September 26, 2016

I'm excited to announce that Sheryl Julian and I are giving a food styling workshop for all levels on September 26. Come join us!

Join Sally Vargas and Sheryl Julian for a day-long food styling and photography workshop on Monday, Sept. 26 in Watertown.  

You'll style a three-course menu prepared on site and shoot it with your own camera – or camera phone -- with lots of close, one-on-one attention from Sheryl and Sally in a class limited to 12.  Best of all, you'll go home with beautiful photographs to share on your website or on social media and with a bagful of new talents, tips, tricks, and techniques that will elevate your skills as a stylist and photographer. The class is designed for all levels. You can come with some knowledge of food styling or none at all.  We'll get started at 10 a.m., break for lunch and discussion at noon, then go back to work until 4 p.m.  It's a full day of hands-on learning from two experienced pros.

Sally Vargas is an author, food stylist, and photographer who contributes to The Boston Globe and Simply Recipes. She is the author of “Food for Friends” and “The Tao of Cooking.” She has extensive experience as a restaurant chef and recipe developer. She is working on a new book about New England cranberries, scheduled to be published in the spring of 2017.

Sheryl Julian is the award-winning former food editor of The Boston Globe.  Her long-running column in the Boston Globe magazine was required reading for the city's best home cooks; she remains a regular contributor to the Globe's Food section.  Sheryl's work can also be found on Simply Recipes. She is the co-author of “The Way We Cook” and the editor of “The New Boston Globe Cookbook.”  Her Twitter stream (@sheryljulian) is a daily diet of wit, wisdom, and watercress.

The venue is Seta's Cafe at 271 Belmont St, Belmont, Massachusetts.  Tuition is $250 per person, which includes lunch.  CONTACT ME at sally.p.vargas@gmail.com to register. Deadline to register is Sept. 12, 2016.

 

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Posted on August 24, 2016 .

If you can't stand the heat 2.0: Recipe for chilled corn and avocado soup

I know. Two posts in the space of two weeks. A record.

Corn season is hitting its stride right now, and I don’t want you to miss out. Its sweet goodness needs to be savored as much and as often as possible. Now.

You can use leftover corn or just cook up some extra ears to make this cold and creamy soup. A jalapeno pepper adds a nice bit of spice. Note that the pepper’s heat is in the seeds, so add or subtract them as you see fit according to taste.

As a general rule, I don’t usually add cream to soups because, well, you know, ladies and gents. But rules are made to be broken. And when it’s just too damn hot, this is a whole meal and thereby justifies the indulgence.

Spicy chilled corn and avocado soup recipe
Serves 6

7 ears corn, shucked
Salt, to taste
6 cups chicken stock
2 avocadoes, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup lime juice
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced with or without seeds
Pepper, to taste
1 cup heavy cream
A few pinches of ancho chile powder (for garnish)
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish)
2 limes, cut into wedges (for garnish)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the corn, cover the pot, and return the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and let rest for 5 minutes. With tongs, transfer corn to a platter and let cool.

2. With a sharp knife, scrape the kernels from the cob. Set aside 1/3 cup kernels for the garnish and transfer the remaining kernels to a bowl. Add the chicken stock, avocadoes, lime juice, jalapeño pepper, salt, and pepper.

3. In a blender in 2-cup batches, puree the soup until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the cream and taste. Add more salt and pepper, if you like. Chill until cold.4. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle each with chili powder, cilantro leaves, and corn kernels. Serve a lime wedge with each bowl.

 

Tip #1: The sticky problem of scraping kernels off the cob without sending them to kingdom come in the process is solved with the use of a bundt pan or a smaller bowl set inside a larger one. Stand the base of the cob in the center hole of the bundt pan or upright in a small bowl set it in a larger one. Saw from top down. The kernels fall into the larger bowl without flying into every corner of your kitchen.

Tip #2 Warning! Hot soup! To puree hot liquid in a blender, only fill it 1/3 full. Cover the lid with a folded dishtowel and hold it down with your hand. Start on low speed, and increase the speed gradually.

I almost forgot! I have two more recipes to share. I recently started writing for Simply Recipes, a fantastic food blog  with at least 1600 recipes for you to choose from. More coming! and these two from me should round out your cooking for a hot summer weekend. (Copyright for photos and text belongs to Simply Recipes, all rights reserved 2016. Please respect.)

This BLT salad for a porch supper:

And a favorite easy pantry meal of mine: Spaghetti with poached eggs, tomatoes, and bacon

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Posted on August 19, 2016 .

If you can't stand the heat: Recipe for cold beet soup (Chlodnik)

The dog days of summer are upon us. It's too damn hot, but I'll take it.  I'd rather put on a pair of flip flops than a pair of boots any day. 

This soup with tangy buttermilk, crunchy cucumbers, and sweet and sour pickled beets hits the spot when you crave something refreshing and don’t feel like making much of an effort. The soup turns from pale pink to deep fuschia as the beets mingle with the buttermilk.

Serve it with a slice or two of buttered rye bread and some cold, roast chicken, or a hunk of cheese.  Stove not required.

 

Polish beet and buttermilk soup (Chlodnik)
Serves 4

1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt if you want low-fat)
1 quart buttermilk
1 unpeeled English cucumber, cut into small cubes
2 (14 ounces each) cans sliced pickled beets, cut into small cubes
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 sprigs of fresh dill, snipped with scissors (for garnish)
Thinly sliced radishes (for garnish)

1. Into a large bowl, spoon the  sour cream. Gradually whisk in the buttermilk until the mixture is smooth.

2. Add the cucumber and beets to the bowl. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper, stir, and taste. Add more salt and pepper, if you like. Chill until cold in the refrigerator, or stir in a couple of ice cubes if you are in a hurry.

3. Ladle the cold soup into bowls. Sprinkle with the dill and radishes.

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Posted on August 12, 2016 .