Friday, May 2, 2008

enchiladas, spanish rice and refried beans

Dinner last night was quite an adventure. It started the day before, when I first tried to make enchiladas, rice and beans for dinner. I got home very early, at 5, and our balboa lesson wasn't until 7 -- so I had plenty of time, right?? And so I lounged around while William cleaned dishes, and read the paper, and made tortillas (with more jumping on the cast-iron pan, oh yes) and then -- and then it was 6:15! I spazzed and freaked out and moaned at my stupidity, and we had sandwiches for dinner.

So last night, I had plenty of time... and a good thing, too, because it wound up taking me well over two hours to make dinner. The drama started when I was researching enchilada sauces, and couldn't decide between Homesick Texan's chile gravy, or a tomato-based sauce. There was much wibblage.

So then I decided on Homesick Texan's, except I didn't have chile powder. No big, right? And I had fresh cayenne peppers, so I just tossed those in with the oil (chopped up real little) and then made the roux and added the spices (eyeballing most of them, no big, right?) and a little cayenne pepper powder, just in case it wasn't spicy enough (taste it first? are you crazy?), and then a little bit more. And THEN I tasted it, and, well...

Yup, absolutely dreadful. CRAZY hot, but with absolutely no middle tones. Is that what fancy professional tasting-people call it? It was hot, but it had no flavor, if that makes sense. I tried looking online for ways to save my super-hot sauce, and added lime juice and sugar and even cocoa powder, but then I had lime-flavored, sweet, darker-colored super-spiciness without any depth. So that got chucked.

This all took at least forty-five minutes, by the way. It involved the flinging of shoes, much cursing, more spazzage... After I calmed down a bit, with William trying to say soothing things, my second sauce was: 1 can diced tomatoes, pureed; a splat or two of salsa; extra cumin and oregano. I threw up my hands in despair, and declared it done.

I started the spanish rice (Steve's mom's recipe -- how cool is that?) and reheated the tortillas in oil. The tortillas were too thick, and some of them were falling apart, and as I reheated them I could see my future failure unfolding before me. What a disaster. I persevered, filling the tortillas with colby jack and onions like Homesick Texan recommends. Topping the whole thing off with more sauce and cheese, I threw it in the oven and felt like crying.

At the eleventh minute, as it were, I started the beans. Recipe:

1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bell pepper, diced (or 1/2 a green bell pepper and 1/2 a red bell pepper)
1 carrot, chopped
1 can black beans, drained, with liquid reserved
1 can kidney beans, drained
Cumin -- maybe 2 teaspoons?

Saute the onion, garlic, bell pepper and carrot. (I put the carrot in first, because it seems to me to take longer than the onion, but that might not be necessary.) When the onion is just starting to turn translucent, add the beans, cumin and about 1/3 cup of the reserved black bean liquid. Cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the beans are softened; mash with a potato masher, adding more of the bean liquid to achieve the right consistency.

So for dinner we had enchiladas, which caused me a great deal of mental suffering, and rice, which took considerable effort, because I wanted to get it right, and the beans, which I threw together -- and of those three, guess what was the highlight? (I also had some corn that I heated up with lime juice and paprika; it was a nice sort of garnish.) That's right. It was the least-effort, least-worry, last-minute side dish. Why do I even try?

Fortunately, even those poor, sad enchiladas turned out okay. I think the rice suffered a little from the absence of chicken that the recipe called for; I'll have to find some way to properly vegetarian-ize it. But those beans -- I'll go ahead and say it -- were pretty fantastic.

Is it because I have more practice making refried beans? Because I worried less about it? I haven't a clue. But after a stressful night of nearly-disastrous cooking, having at least one really excellent dish cheered me up incredibly. Perhaps I will add a side dish of refried beans to every meal I make, no matter how incongruous it may seem -- just in case.

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