COOKING ADVENTURE #93: Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas
This has quite possibly got to be the miracle of all Cooking Adventures I’ve ever done. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much go wrong with a recipe and yet…turn out to be edible in the end. Literally everything I touched during this managed to go terribly. And what’s more…I was dictating most of what happened to a friend whilst doing it. It was my first “Cooking Adventure Live” attempt…and it proves that any outside distraction can have disastrous consequences. Well, maybe not “disastrous”. After all, they were edible in the end, ha ha. And they lasted me practically a week! I shall now dictate to you absolutely everything that happened during the Great Enchilada Meltdown. Be Prepared.
It had been a very long day when I got home that Saturday evening, though it was also an epic one. I had ridden a tandem bike at my job…in the building during the last hour of the day, a feat that normally I would have passed up on entirely. There are many obstacles at my job: tables, display racks, random walls jutting up from out of nowhere…etc. It all went smoothly, mind you. No one was injured. It had been about 15 years since I’d been on a bike, too. I think it helped that I had also been given a strong cup of coffee around the same time which had the effect of jump starting my heart. I was squirrely when I got home from work, absolutely couldn’t sit still. I had absolutely nothing made up for dinner, and I’d have sooner ordered out than done anything that required tons of work that evening. But… my inability to stay on my butt ended up propelling me into the kitchen with the idea that I would finally tackle this enchilada recipe.
I also happened to be messaging with a friend at the same time, so the entire adventure became a dictation of my many pitfalls while attempting to make these pesky enchiladas. Not as easy as they might sound. Believe me. It was during the first part of my dictation that I noticed I had forgotten to buy several items off of the main ingredients list, mainly a 10 oz. can of tomatoes with green chilies. Convinced that the show could not go on without them, I embarked on a nighttime mission to the grocery store to pick them up and bring them home. I should have probably checked to see what other ingredients I didn’t have…
I got back to the apartment, tomatoes with chilies in hand and progressed with the recipe. I pulled a baking dish out from the cabinet, cracked open a can of enchilada sauce and poured a thin layer of it to coat the bottom of the dish. Next, I got the skillet going with my olive oil, chopped up an onion and added some garlic. As those began sizzling and releasing their amazing scents into the kitchen, I opened the freezer to grab my bag of butternut squash. Opening the freezer is almost like entering Heaven. It gives you this low “ahhhh” tone and a thick cloud of cold vapor rolls out and for a moment, you see whatever beautiful thing inside that has been waiting there for you, preserved and delicious. Mostly…that’s icecream or some such thing. That night, it was to be my butternut squash.
Except… not. There was no bag of squash waiting at the metaphorical pearly gates for me and even as I started flinging bags around looking for it, I came to the horrible realization that I had neglected to check before hand to see that I still had some…and I’d missed the opportunity to pick some up at the store when I was there. Drat. Butternut squash is one of those things that I am typically not without. Typically I have bags of it. This is the point where my friend called me a squash-stasher. I suppose that is true. Though not as much of a squash-stasher as I am a ham-hoarder. …Particularly in the way of bacon. Bacon is life. Just so long as you know.
At this point, I’d been having a mini meltdown about the loss of my butternut squash and realized that the entire apartment smelled like burnt onions. I’d forgotten all about the stuff cooking in the pan. In a frenzy, I tossed in the can of Rotel tomatoes and chilis, and the black beans. As I stirred them, it occurred to me that it’s just these things that will end up going in the enchiladas. Tomatoes and beans. Didn’t sound so satisfying to me. It was at this point that I decided “Oh yes! I have chicken.” Raw chicken. RAW chicken. Whether or not I was entirely on this plane of consciousness because of my coffee euphoria, I can’t recall. All I know is that somehow, I added the raw chicken to the bubbling tomato/black bean combo and then poked at it with a stick for a while. It didn’t take long for it to occur to me that this may have been the wrong decision. The chicken took a while to cook in the soup of items in the pan. While it was stewing, I mixed in the spices 1 tsp. cumin and 1/2 tsp. chili pepper. The pepper ends up adding just the right amount of kick to the steam wafting off the skillet, making my vision mist over. I also added water here. Because the recipe told me to.
At this point it’s after nine and dinner is nowhere close to being finished. The coffee is also still making me wacky four hours after consuming it. Strong stuff. As I checked over the chicken stoup, I realized that there was just a little too much liquid in the pan. I started to think about how I needed to add something else to soak up some of it. I found a bag of rice up in the cabinet and poured that in, despite the fact that it doesn’t call for rice anywhere in the recipe. I decided to go back and check over the directions. Discovered here that I’d added about a cup of water instead of just a 1/4 a cup. Crap. As I sat wallowing about how the rice wasn’t doing anything and how I was going to have to put it through a strainer, the mixture began to overflow from the pot because of all the excess ingredients. Couldn’t find the paper towel roll for the life of me. I grabbed a new one from atop the fridge, tore the plastic off, and had the WORST time trying to find where the paper towels began.
I swear. I’m not this pathetic in the kitchen generally. It’s the coffee’s fault. It made me absolutely batshit crazy.
Finally. FINALLY. The rice started to cook and the bean/tomato/chicken/rice combination solidified slightly. I pulled my tortillas out of the fridge and opened up the package…again not without difficulty. This was due to the fact that my hands were shaking so hard because of the caffeine. I was suddenly 5 again on sugar overload, the kind where you start squirming in place because you just want to run from one end of the house to the other. Like my cat. Who was at this moment attempting to steal my tortillas. Even though I tried to explain to him that they were in no way, shape, or form the kind of thing he’d enjoy. So, I chased him away.
We were approaching 9:30 at this point and I practically threw the rest of the directions out the window because of how jittery and starving I was. I took up a knife and fork and started hacking at the chicken in the pan. In the pan. I know. I was too lazy to take it out first. Just…don’t even ask me. Had I not been typing it all up at the same time, I wouldn’t have remembered the events that transpired that night. Taking a spoonful of my strange skillet meal, I put a good helping into the middle of the tortilla and then rolled it up, placing it into the enchilada sauce in the pan. I got four done and sighed in sadness. I’d run out of horizontal room. I’d have to start stacking them. Stackable enchiladas. Pretty sure it’s never been done before. But it happened here.
I topped the first layer with more enchilada sauce and a good dose of a taco-seasoned cheese mixture and then proceeded to lay my next layer in. T’was here that I ran out of enchilada sauce and had to start spooning some from the middle layer up onto the top. I’d set my oven to preheat earlier at 400 degrees and opened the door in delightful expectation of getting these damn enchiladas onto the final step.
And made another horrifying discovery.
I’d shoved my pizza stone into the oven the previous night when I’d ordered out for pizza. I had used it to make a pizza a few days before that and…well…stoneware dishes don’t get done as fast as they should. Don’t judge me. Anyway, I always feel self-conscious when the pizza delivery person comes. I think that if they see the state of my apartment, they will silently judge me. And if they see a dirty pizza stone…same thing, even more judgmental though. So, I like to hide them in the oven just until the delivery is over. Except that I forgot to take it back out the night before. And so now I had a 400 degree pizza stone sitting inside and no room to toss it on the stove. I had absolutely no counter space left. As I scoured the counter top for something to move, I found the already open paper towel roll. Dag nabbit.
I ended up putting the pan on top of the pizza stone and calling it good.
Nearly twenty minutes later, I pulled out the pizza stone and inhaled the most amazing aroma on the planet. Or at least that’s what I called it that evening. I was so hungry that I barely had time to rip an enchilada from the pyramid in the pan, and slap it on a plate before I was digging into it like a lion into an antelope. It was awesome. After all of that ridiculousness and thinking that I’d wasted hours of my time for nothing, I was rewarded with a fantastic dinner that lasted me for the rest of the week. (Hint, hint: they freeze well!)
Ah. Finally. I did this over a MONTH ago and finally wrote it up. My apologies for it taking so long.
Next week, I’ll be making Ritz Crusted Fish Sticks with Herb Dipping Sauce and a cherry pie for dessert! Stay tuned!