Someone once asked pastry chef David Lebovitz, who lives in Paris, why he didn’t have any delicious bread recipes posted on his blog. His response was, “Since I’m surrounded by all these great bakeries, I’ll let them slave over a hot brick oven all day long.” In other words, when you can walk out your door and find a perfect baguette two minutes in any direction, what’s the point of making it yourself?
That’s kind of how I feel about Mexican food. I grew up in the Bay Area where there is no lack of yummy Mexican joints. In my early 20’s, I would head a few blocks up Ashby to College Ave in Berkeley and I’d have a Gordo’s burrito in my hand. On special occasions we’d go to Juan’s Place where they had flour tortilla chips that weren’t on the menu and you had to ask for them specially. Makes you feel cool when you’re in the know like that. I was absolutely addicted to those chips. After leaving the Bay Area for the South I tried to make those chips at home. Never got it quite right.
I lived in Austin, TX for five years, and well, let’s just say I was spoiled. Gueros, Maria’s Taco Xpress, Polvos, and I could go on. Tex-Mex is a different animal, but man is it good. Some say it’s the cheese that makes Tex-Mex different, but I think it’s the sauce. There’s definitely more heat when your food is made closer to the border, and I found Tex-Mex to be a bit more tangy and savory then the Mexican food I grew up with in California.
You have to search a little harder in Portland to find good Mexican. And, honestly, I lived here for two years before I found any. I had pretty much given up the search, but then, there was Fonda Rosa.
This post is not a review for Fonda Rosa, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway. Hugo and Terri own this little gem on NE 28th. The chips are made fresh to order (I won’t disclose their secret ingredient that makes them so nutty and unique) and all of the recipes on the menu come from Hugo’s village, and the surrounding villages, in the Monterrey area of Mexico. But I do have a confession to make; I haven’t tried much of the menu. There is something about their cornmeal dusted halibut tacos that I can’t move past. I THINK about ordering something else, but I rarely do. Adam always gets the Enchiladas de Pollo. Those are yummy too.
Fonda Rosa is an eight-minute walk from our house. That’s four blocks. You see where I’m going with this?
However, I’ve decided that this blog is also about challenges. I’ve never made enchiladas before. Never even considered trying, and I am so glad I did. These turned out amazing. The tortillas stayed doughy and the sauce had just the right amount of heat to it without killing any of the flavor. I ate these standing up in the kitchen.
I cooked the salmon the night before to eliminate a step.
I didn’t want the enchiladas to become crispy so I chose a fluffy corn tortilla made by Mi Abuelita Bonita.
About a pound of fresh salmon, cooked
8-10 corn tortillas
8-10 fresh tomatillos, husked and washed
1 very large shallot or small onion
1 bunch fresh cilantro
About 1/3 cup chicken stock
1 small tomato
6 whole garlic cloves, skin still on
About 1/2 oz dried green chilies, rehydrated or a few fresh serranos (I used Los Chileros green chilies from New Mexico)
About 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco, or to taste
Preheat your oven to broil
Coarsely chop the shallots and sauté in a hot skillet until caramelized. Set aside.
Coarsely chop tomatoes and cilantro and set aside.
Place whole tomatillos and garlic on cookie sheet and place in oven under broil. Broil for about 8-10 minutes using tongs to turn every couple of minutes. Remove from oven when the tomatillos look nice and charred-slightly blackened.
Once cool enough to handle, gently peel the skin off of the garlic.
Place garlic, tomatillos, tomato, avocado, shallot, cilantro, a tablespoon or two of crème fraice and chicken stock in a food processor or blender and pulse to desired consistency. You may add more or less stock and/or crème frache to your liking.
Use a fork to flake the salmon into chunks. Combine salmon and about 1/2 of the sauce with about a handful or so of crumbled queso fresco in a bowl. Stir well.
Preheat oven (or cool down oven) to 250. I had to leave my oven partially open to help it cool.
Heat up a tiny bit of oil in a skillet. Heat the corn tortillas one by one for about 10 seconds on each side. Stack on a plate.
Place a layer of enchilada sauce in the bottom of an 8 x 8 casserole or Pyrex. Or whatever size you have on hand that will fit all of the tortillas snugly.
Scoop a couple of tablespoons or so of salmon mixture into a corn tortilla, roll and place in casserole.
After all of the tortillas are stuffed, rolled and placed in the dish, drizzle the rest of the enchilada sauce and another small handful of crumbled queso fresco over the top enchiladas.
Bake at 250 for about 25 minutes.
After 25 minutes crank up the oven to broil and place enchiladas on broiler rack for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Just until the cheese on top starts to brown.
Place cooked enchiladas on plate, drizzle with crème fraiche, grab a fork and dig in.