Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Crack Cocaine Enchiladas (Beer Braised Pork Enchiladas in Salsa Verde Crema)

A lot of dear, well meaning friends and family often say to me - "You should try out for the next Food Network Star!" While I sometimes have fantasies of being in the spot light, preaching my cooking philosophies to my eager, adoring fans looking like I've be shelacked by a MAC makeup artist, the truth is that's not in the cards for me.

Having worked on a reality show before, I know the formula too well to subject myself to the calculated pitfalls and shenanigans. (Now if someone wanted to GIVE me my own show that I could design and control myself...well, that's a horse of a different color.)

Anyway, in those brief moments of fantasy, I like to debate what my 'signature' recipe would be if asked. And after years of various possibilities floating through my brain, I finally have the answer: Crack Cocaine Enchiladas.

These darling, precious flour tortilla bundles were born a couple of Saturdays ago when company was coming over and rain thwarted my plans for grilling tequila chicken on the rooftop. You'll need to start them a day ahead, roasting the pork in either a crock pot or a dutch oven for several hours along with an onion and some other things, cooling the mixture, then shredding it mercilessly with two forks, separating every last nugget of meat into fine shreds. The point is to create a smooth, soft texture that will later be accented by crunchy cheese and tortilla, so no lumps please. (And don't be alarmed when the onion disappears, actually caramelizing to the point that it dissolves into the rich, spice-scented sauce the pork bathes in. Delicious!) After shredding, cool the mixture in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, skim off the white patches off of the top (this is fat and will make your mixture greasy/heavy in the oven - there shouldn't be more than a spoonful or two.) DO NOT skim or spoon off the brownish, gelatanous substance - this is your beloved onion, metamorphasized into something better and is the star of you sauce.

I admit - this recipe is a tricky one to share as it makes a boatload of enchiladas - I got 30 out of them, but this may fluctuate depending on how much cheese and/or chilis you decided to add to the pork filling. If you're making them for a large dinner you will need 3 large (14 1/2" x 11.75" lasagna pans) and you should be able to fit 10 in each.

I always hesitate to give adjustments as I am horrible at math, but if you don't want to feed an army or keep any for freezing, I'd be willing to bet you could easily substitute a smaller pork loin, say 4 lbs for the giant 6-pounder I used, while keeping the beer and onion ratios the same. The rest of the filling mixture, can be adjusted to your own tastes. You might not like any cheese in the filling at all or even more than I added. I just like a little bit as to not drown out the subtle, caramely flavors of the braised pork. In short - think of this recipe as more of a roadmap versus hard science (after all - I failed science, remember?)

However, I would reccommend making the full amount if time and money allows, assembling them but not adding the hard cheese over the top, covering thoroughly in plastic wrap, then aluminum and freezing an extra tray or two. You'll have dinner in 45 minutes when company surprises you or on a night when you need a big batch of comfort food.

Do not skip out on the nutmeg for the filling mixture - I think this might be what puts these over the edge from gold star to legendary.

Crack Cocaine Enchiladas (Beer Braised Pork Enchiladas in Salsa Verde Crema)

* Makes 30 enchiladas - but you can adjust to your own serving desires.
* The beauty of using flour tortillas versus corn is that you don't have to do the messy step of softening them in oil first. Room temp flour tortillas are already pliable and easy going.
* Special tools: a crock pot or large dutch oven.
* I like to make the pork and shred it the day before, then add the rest of the filling ingredients the next morning, assemble the enchiladas, and let them sit in the fridge until I'm ready to bake them off for company.

1 (6 lb) pork loin
1 bottle of Sierra Nevada Kelerweis, or other flavorful beer
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
black pepper
1 Vidalia or Spanish onion, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, minced

Additions to pork filling:
* Again - you can adjust this according to how much cheese and/or green chilis you like.
3-4 cups shredded monteray jack cheese
3 (4 oz) cans of diced green chilis
1 1/2 tablespoon KOSHER salt
good grating fresh nutmeg

For the Crema, mix together:
• 1 lb (16 oz) Sour Cream (do not use low fat - it will become too watery when it bakes and make your enchiladas soggy.)
• 1 lb (16 oz best quality, store bought salsa verde (I used Frontera brand, by Rick Bayless - medium Tomatillo)
• 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
* This makes enough sauce for each large (roughly 14.5"x11.75") pan holding 10 enchiladas a piece, so you'll need to triple it if you're making all 30 enchiladas at once.

30 (6 inch) flour tortillas
2 1/2 cups Cotija, Queso Fresco, or Ricotta Salata cheese for topping
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Start the pork the day before by seasoning a six pound pork loin with cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper, and placing it in a crock pot with the sliced onion, bay leaf, beer and garlic. Give a good stir with a wooden spoon to see that all the ingredients are well-dispersed, place the crock pot on high and cook for 4 hours, then on low for 1 hour or to the point that the meat is easily pulled apart with two forks.)

Let cool for 30 to 45 minutes, then shred thoroughly using two forks and refrigerate until ready to assemble, preferably the morning of your dinner party. After you remove it from the fridge, you'll need to skim off the solidified, white fat that has gathered around the edges of the pork and disgard. Again - the clearish brown jelly is NOT fat and is actually the caramelized onion, broken all the way down into a lovely sauce by the slow cooking process. This is liquid gold - don't be alarmed by its ugliness. Mix the pork filling with green chilis, cheese, salt a good grating of nutmeg, and set aside.

Meanwhile, spray each of your baking trays with pam, then spread a thin layer of the sour cream mixture - about 1/4 inch thick - on the bottom of each of your baking trays.

You can now begin to assemble your enchiladas . I like to use about a half cup of filling per tortilla - getting them nice and full from end to end but not so full that you can't shut them by folding them over length wise. Lay each one seem-side down and tightly side by side in the pan. Once all assembled, drizzle the rest of the sour cream mixture over the tops (I like a drizzle versus drowning them - but this is individual) then season lightly with salt and pepper

At this point you can sprinkle over the hard cheese and bake off or cover each tray with plastic wrap and put them back in the fridge until guests arrived. (I also like to sprinkle LIGHTLY with salt before baking, but I'm an addict.)

Bake them at 375 for 30-35 minutes just until the tops begin to brown, while drinking a frosty Corona. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro before serving.


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