Thursday, November 17, 2011

Enchiladas Verde

This week I followed up the roast chicken from my previous blog by picking the carcass and turning he leftovers into Enchiladas Verde. Verde is, of course, Spanish for green and the green for the enchiladas refers to the sauce and the sauce comes from tomatillos. Tomatillos, oddly, are not at all related to tomatoes, but are, rather, in the gooseberry family as their little husks may indicate. And, as luck and seasonality will have it, this is harvest time, at least in this area, for tomatillos.

The tomatillo has a bright, slightly acidic flavor and is a wonderful foil for the richness of the melted cheese, sour cream, avocado and all the things that make enchiladas a wonderful and perfect winter meal. And while I made these particular enchiladas with chicken as the main part of the filling, I absolutely LOVE this sauce with Dungeness crab enchiladas, a seasonal treat in my family for years.

My friend Lynda Lee Wieland, who used to pick me up hitchhiking in Costa Rica while she was VERY pregnant has been kind enough to ask for this recipe. So, Lynda, here we go.


For The Sauce
12-15 Ripe Tomatillos
1 Jalapeno Chile
1 White Onion
3 Cloves peeled Garlic
1 Anaheim or Poblano Chile (optional)
1/2 bunch cilantro

Husk the tomatillos, and rough chop the other vegetables. Cover all of them with water (except the cilantro) and bring to a low boil. Cook for about ten minutes or until the tomatillos are tender. Using a slotted spoon transfer the cooked vegetables to a blender, add the cilantro, and pulse (careful, this is hot) until you have a smooth sauce. Save the cooking liquid in case the sauce seems too thick. Pour 1/4 of the sauce into a baking dish or casserole large enough to hold 12 enchiladas

For The Filling

2 Cups Cooked Chicken
1 Large White Onion, cut in strips or half moons
2 Large Anaheim Chiles cut in strips
1 Poblano (Ancho) Chile cut in strips
1 Oz. Canola oil
1/2 Cup Chicken Broth
1/2 Bunch of Cilantro, rough chopped
2 Ripe Avocados, cut in strips
1# + 1/2# Grated Monterey Jack Cheese
4 Oz. Softened Goat Cheese (this is my secret ingredient and is, of course, optional)
12 Corn Tortillas

Preheat your oven to 350.
Heat a skillet with the oil and saute the onions and chile strips until just soft. Add the cooked chicken and toss to mix. Pour in the chicken broth and allow to come to a simmer. Heat the chicken and vegetables just through and add the cilantro.
Heat a second heavy skillet and heat on tortilla on both sides until it softens. Put in two tablespoons of the chicken filling, a sprinkling of grated jack cheese, a little dollop of the goat cheese and two avocado slices. Carefully roll the tortilla around the fillings and place it in the casserole. Do this with the remaining tortillas and filling taking care to make sure you have just enough of everything left at the end. Pour the remainder of the Salsa Verde over the rolled enchiladas and top with the second part of the grated jack cheese.
Bake the enchiladas for 30 minutes covered with aluminum foil. Remove the foil and bake for another ten minutes. Serve carefully and with love, topped with sour cream and more avocado.

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Wednesday May 13, 2009 La Cusinga and Me

This words below are from our website describing La Cusinga.  The story, however is much deeper and much richer than these introductory words can describe.  La Cusinga represents a noble and successful effort to preserve this section of unspoiled coast and to keep it alive as a model of what true ecology can accomplish.  The dreams and visions of John Tresemer, the owner of La Cusinga and the Finca Tres Hermanas that surrounds it, have been realized here in what is a true example for all who would preserve and protect what remains of this, or any natural wonder. 

La Cusinga 
La Cusinga Lodge is a coastal rainforest eco lodge dedicated to marine and terrestrial conservation and environmental education. Its location on the southern Pacific coast provides guests with sweeping ocean views and a relaxing beach vacation. In addition La Cusinga is part of a private nature reserve that supplies the visitor with an unparalleled look at Costa Rican wildlife and rainforest. The reserve consists primarily of 250 hectares of virgin rainforest that borders thousands of more acres of privately protected forest. On Costa Rica’s still wild south-western Pacific coast, La Cusinga Lodge borders Ballena Marine National Park which was developed to protect the humpback whales that frequent the coast. La Cusinga Lodge was established in order to share the unique site with Costa Ricans as well as international visitors. Besides getting exposure to rural Costa Rican culture and beautiful vistas, visitors have access to highly prolific areas of primary tropical rainforest and unspoiled coast, all conveniently accessible. 

i returned to La Cusinga this past January, 2009, with a dream in mind.  I wanted to create a cuisine for our guests that would bridge the gap between what La Cusinga offered physically and spiritually, and what they were putting in their bodies when they ate here.  I knew from having previously lived in Costa Rica for over two years that there were organic farmers and that sustainable agriculture was being practiced, but at that time it had been limited in its scope as well as its distribution.  

My first steps upon returning were toward the local Feria to seek out and communicate my ideas with the growers and vendors who could provide me with a local, organic and sustainable product.  The fertile valleys of San Isidro that lie over the coastal mountains and to the Northeast of our Pacific location are rich and productive but are only now exploring the potential that they hold.  

I had in mind a vision that would support local farmers, fishermen and food artisans and one that would recreate (or perhaps, create) a new cuisine of Coastal Costa Rica.  I visit the markets each week to talk with growers and to develop the  relationships that I believe will be mutually beneficial as Costa Rica experiences its rapid growth on an international level
Organic farming is a new and not heavily supported concept in our part of Costa Rica.  It is a brave step for farmers to make, as local communities of both growers and consumers have never placed, or not known to place, an importance on farming organically and sustainably.  I feel a responsibility as a Chef here to be at the forefront of those encouraging and supporting these pioneers  

I came to La Cusinga almost three years ago not knowing what to expect.  My first time through here was characterized by a lack of understanding and appreciation on my part as well as an inability to recognize or connect with the local "flavor" that would make for a coherent package for out guests.  I now feel as if I have made a "connect" with the property and the vision.  I am not completely satisfied and hopefully, never will be, until we are able to produce, right here at La Cusinga, the greater share of the produce we serve.  However, the groundwork has been laid with local farmers and the availability and quality of organic produce is impressive.

Now at La Cusinga I serve a variety of organic lettuces and braising greens.  My salads include wedges or slices of rich red tomatoes as well as sweet !00 and yellow pear cherry tomatoes.  I roast organic beets and marinate them in balsamic vinegar to be served alongside the lettuces and topped with a locally made organic goat cheese.

My soups are made from roasted and steamed local organic vegetables and tiny organic yellow creamer potatoes have found their way onto my plates, nestled against filets of locally caught fish.
I am now using a local organic cocoa powder that still contains the nuggets of cocoa butter unlike the fined cocoa powder in the markets.

And better still, I am able to use palmito (hearts of palm), ginger, cilantro and its sawtooth leafed cousin culantro coyote, mangoes, hot and sweet chiles, mandarina limes and yucca root from our own Finca Tres Hermanas to serve in my dining room at La Cusinga.   The connection from jungle and farm to table is evolving.  May it continue to grow.