Chicken Enchiladas with Crema and Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

Here at chez Krakberry, we LOVE Mexican food. It's our default when we can't think of what to eat for dinner or breakfast or lunch. And while we have our favorites (i'm a sucker for mole and carnitas, Doodler loves guiso and chilaquiles), we sometimes splash out and get something we don't usually order. Except sour cream chicken enchiladas. I'm not a big fan of sour cream; I'll eat it, but usually when it's on something at a restaurant they go insane with it and I end up having to scrape most of it off. So I tend to shy away from things that actually have those words in the name.

But yesterday I was craving tomatillos, and Doodler makes this awesome fresh tomatillo salsa that I thought would marry PERFECTLY with a little sour cream. I found the rotisserie chickens at my grocery store, et voilĂ . (You can cook the chicken yourself, but the ones at my store are awesome and actually cheaper than the raw chickens.)

These are not your typical super-saucy sour cream chicken enchiladas. These are chicken enchiladas that happen to be drizzled with crema (like sour cream, but thinner and not as strongly flavored) and a gorgeous fresh tomatillo salsa. You COULD use a jarred salsa, but this one literally takes 2 minutes and is so much better. (The salsa is also awesome by itself, with chips. Just saying.)

If you want to make these vegetarian, you could use zucchini and yellow squash, or mushrooms. or you could do a cheese version: cut a block of queso quesadilla or jack cheese into 1/2-inch strips and use those to fill the tortillas instead.

Chicken Enchiladas with Crema and Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

about 15 tortillas
3 cups Mexican table crema
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon cumin
1 chicken, cooked, meat shredded
1 white onion, diced, divided
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
4 tomatillos, husked and cut in half
2 serranos
1 garlic clove
4 tablespoons water
1 lime

Queso fresco, for serving

Heat the oven to 350. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a skillet until hot. Add the tortillas one at a time and heat, turning once, until they are pliable but not starting to brown (a little brown is OK, but you don't want them crisp). Set aside.

In a bowl, mix the crema, broth, and cumin. Season with a little salt (it's OK if it's a little salty; it will balance out the tortillas and cheese). Spoon about 1/2 cup of the mixture into the bottom of your baking pan. In a second bowl, mix the chicken, half of the onion, half of the cilantro, and 1/2 cup jack cheese.

Roll the enchiladas: scoop about 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture just to the right of the center of the tortilla and kind of shape it into a line. Fold the edge of the tortilla over, then roll it tightly and place in the baking pan. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling. Spoon about 1 cup of the crema mixture over the rolled enchiladas, then top evenly with the rest of the cheese.

Bake until the cheese is melted and has started to brown, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the salsa: In a blender, combine the tomatillos, remaining cilantro, serranos, garlic, and water. Blend until a coarse puree forms that is uniform in color. Pour into a bowl and add the remaining onion and season with salt and lime juice.

To serve, spoon about 1/4 cup of crema onto a plate top with a couple (or three) enchiladas, then a little more crema and the tomatillo salsa. Sprinkle with crumbled queso fresco.


Shepherd-ish Pie (Cottage Pie)

Oh, I love cold weather foods! Don't get me wrong--I can't get enough of the awesome summer fruits and vegetables, or the grilling. But I'm a baker at heart, so I love being able to turn on the oven and make something really cozy and comforting.

Shepherd's pie is one of those exotic-seeming recipes that no one makes, but is actually super easy to throw together, kind of. I make it with beef (which makes it a "cottage pie), because it's easier and cheaper, but "real" Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb. Or you can make "Shepherdess Pie," which is made with beans and vegetables.

I remember discovering shepherd's pie; I was hanging out at this English bar on Greenville Avenue a lot. My friend Smelly and I used to go there on Wednesdays to have a few beers (me) or a few Pimm's Cups (Smelly) and have pub food. I normally ordered bangers and mash, but Smelly has an English uncle who made shepherd's pie for her growing up, so she would order that sometimes. Then we would play loads of Tom Jones songs on the jukebox and flirt with the bartenders. (Just kidding, honey! I never did. It was Smelly.)

Anyhoo. To the cooking part. If you have leftover mashed potatoes, use those. You could probably even make this with instant mashers if you're in a real time crunch.

And don't feel like you HAVE to use what's here. I've made them with corn, without peas, with celery, without mushrooms... use what you like. Also, substitute other potatoes if you want. And leave the skins on the potatoes, or peel them. Do what you like!

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup milk, or as needed
1/4 cup butter, or as needed

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 pound ground beef
2/3 cup frozen green peas
1 cup chicken or beef stock
1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 375°F.

Place the potatoes in a saucepot. Add water to cover and a generous pinch of salt. Heat to boiling, then reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and return to the saucepot. Whisk in the milk and butter and mash until smooth (or use an electric mixer).

Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat the oil then add the onion, garlic, carrots, and thyme. Saute until fragrant then add the mushrooms, and and saute until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the beef is browned. Add the peas and cook until heated through. Add the stock, then sprinkle with flour and stir until the liquid has thickened, about 6 minutes.

Spoon the meat mixture into a baking dish and spread into an even layer. Spoon the potatoes over the meat, spreading it into the edges. Use the back of a spoon to make swirls, or use the tines of a fork to make a crosshatch pattern.

Bake until the the potatoes are golden and browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.


tortilla soup

Last week we were both feeling a little under the weather here at chez Krakberry. Not sick, officially, but not 100%. As everybody knows, the best way to get immediate relief from a potential cold is a big pot of chicken soup. But I wasn't in the mood for regular soup; I needed something with a little more oomph. Checking my fridge I noticed a giant package of corn tortillas, then realized I had several chiles I needed to use... tortilla soup it is!

1 quart chicken stock
1 (3-pound) chicken
1 onion, chopped
1 lemon, cut in half
1 jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
3 cloves garlic
2 serranos
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 yellow squash, halved and cut into 1/2-inch slices

shredded queso quesadilla or monterey jack
fried tortilla strips

In a large pot, combine the chicken, chicken stock, half the onion, the lemon, and the jalapeno. Add water to cover and 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and let simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken and refrigerate it until it cool enough to handle. Pull the meat from the bones and return the bones to the stock pot. Continue to simmer.

In a second pot, heat a little oil just until hot. Add the remaining onion, the garlic, the serranos, and the spices; saute until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the squash, and 6 cups chicken
stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the chicken meat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is very tender and the flavors have blended, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the tortillas into strips. Heat a couple of inches of oil until hot and, working in batches, fry the strips until golden and crunchy.

Check for seasoning and ladle the soup into bowls. Let your peeps choose their own garnishes.


Fresh Gingerbread with Lemon Icing

    • Sweets like this gingerbread held no appeal for me as a child. In my opinion, if there wasn't chocolate, or at the very least, caramel, involved in a sweet, it was a waste of my time. Now, as a grownup (heh), I have expanded my tastes. This gingerbread is so good I don't really make it that often because I can't stop eating it. And it's beautiful too, with the snowy white icing contrasting against the dark cake. But I promise it will not be around to look at for very long. (Recipe based on one by Nigella in How to Be a Domestic Goddess.)

    • Gingerbread
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water

Lemon Icing
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon warm water (if needed)

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Measure the flour into a mixing bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup, molasses, and ginger. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted. Turn off the heat and add the milk, eggs, and baking soda mixture.

Add the liquid ingredients to the flour, stirring until completely mixed (the batter is thin), Pour it into the pan and bake for 45-55 minutes until risen and firm. Be careful not to overbake; it's better a little stickier. Let it cool completely before icing.

In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice into the confectioners' sugar. If needed, add the water gradually. It should be thick-ish. Pour over the gingerbread and spread to an even layer with a butter knife or offset spatula. Let the icing set up before cutting the gingerbread.


happy thanksgiving!

i pondered what to post this week and sort of obsessed over which thanksgiving recipe i would dazzle all 9 of you with. then as time wore on, i realized that most people don't really experiment on thanksgiving. i mean, outside of frying the turkey or using fresh cranberries instead of the stuff in the can, most people have to have certain thanksgiving dishes. Mac and cheese is one. My Canadian sister-in-law couldn't believe we had Kraft dinner on Thanksgiving. I have to eat the pope's nose on the turkey (the tail). This will be the first year since 2000 I'll have to fight my brother for it. I make the best stuffing in the world, and my pies have garnered me more than one marriage proposal.

But y'all don't care about what I'm making for Thanksgiving, you're thinking about what YOU have to have. Your aunt's sweet potatoes. Your grandpa's turkey carving knife. Your weird cousin's awful ambrosia that nobody likes or eat but wouldn't DARE leave off the table.

So I'm not going to cook for you this week. This week I'm going express my thanks for some of the people and things that have made 2010 one of the best of my life so far...

this guy, for sure.

and these two, who are the parents of the next two.

these two.


and this.

and last but not least, this girl.


Steamed Buns with Pork Belly

When people find out that I used to cook for a living, they often say something like "Oh, you must eat so well!" And my response is usually to shrug and say "I guess." And we do, I guess. But just like everyone else, there are days when I'm exhausted or working late or just don't feel like going to a lot of trouble. Those days I ask Doodler to cook (he's no slouch, I'm here to tell you) or I kind of throw something together, like chili or mac and cheese.

But sometimes I want to play in the kitchen, and because I share my meals with a fellow adventurous eater, I know that if i create something out of the ordinary it's probably going to make him happy. And who wouldn't want to make this guy happy?

How cute is he? But I digress.

The food I miss most from my time in New York is good Chinese food. You can get pretty good Thai and Vietnamese close by, but to get good Chinese you have to drive kind of far. And while I'm not opposed to that, on a Tuesday night I'm not gonna get in the car and drive half an hour to eat dinner. So I make it myself.

Doodler has never really had food like you can get in Chinatown, so it's fun for me to get to introduce him to things like soy sauce chicken and char siu and steamed buns. It's one of the best things about Canal Street: you can walk into a bakery and get a delicious pork bun and a drink for like $3. It was a favorite lunch when I didn't have a whole lot of money but didn't have the wherewithal to pack a lunch.

I miss those buns, but I haven't had time lately to make them, because while they're not hard to make, you have to start them a few hours ahead so they can rise. And trying to work two jobs, start a business, and maintain relationships with friends and family (not to mention that dreamboat pictured above) kind of eats into your free time.

But for some reason today everything kind of fell into place. I was at Whole Foods early this morning and was able to procure a large piece of pork belly, which needed to brine for 6 hours. That was plenty of time to make the buns and also maybe do my job a little! Serendipity!

These are a little involved to make, I'm not gonna lie. But it's not difficult work; it just requires a little planning. And to get that smile on that face? It is so worth it.

Steamed Buns with Pork Belly*


1/4 cup coarse salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 (3-poundish) piece boneless pork belly


1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Heaping 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable shortening or rendered pork fat, plus more for shaping the buns

Hoisin sauce
Kim chee
Pickled cucumbers

Start the pork belly:
Mix the salt and sugar together. Place the pork belly in a roasting pan that just fits it, and pat the salt/sugar mixture all over it. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours, and up to 24 hours.

(Start the buns here.)

Heat the oven to 400F. Drain any liquid from the pan and roast the pork fat side up for 1 1/2 hours, or until the top has turned a beautiful mahogony color. Reduce the heat to 250 and roast about another hour until the meat is pillowy soft.

Make the buns! Combine the yeast and the water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitting with the dough hook. Add the remaining ingredients and mix on the lowest speed possible (just above "stir") until a smooth, slightly tacky dough forms. Lightly oil another bowl, place the dough in it, cover, and let stand in a warm place (like the oven with just the pilot light lit) for about an hour and a half or until the dough doubles in size.

(Put your pork in the oven at this point.)

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a work surface. Using a bench scraper, cut the dough in half, then divide each half into 5 balls. Roll each of those into logs, then cut off ping-pong ball-sized pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then place on a baking sheet. Cover the balls loosely with plastic wrap and let them rest 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut squares of parchment, one for each ball. Grease a chopstick with whatever fat you're using.

Flatten a ball with your hand into an oval, then fold it over the chopstick to form the bun. Remove the chopstick and place the bun on a square of parchment. Return to the plastic wrap and let them rest for about 40 minutes. They will rise a little more.

Set up a steamer on the stove (I used an upside-down cake pan set in the middle of my wok). Fill the bottom with about an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil, then working in batches, steam the buns for about 10 minutes each. Remove the parchment as the steam. You can hold them at room temp and reheat them in the steamer if necessary.

Remove the pork from the oven and slice it crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. To build a bun, open one up (you may need to cut it), slather it with hoisin sauce, then top with pork, scallions, kim chee, pickles, and sriracha.

Eat many of them. Bask in the glow of happy people at your table.

*If I didn't already have The Best Boyfriend in the World, I would totally ask David Chang if he wanted the job. This recipe is based on his from the Momofuku cookbook.


Just-Woke-Up-Must-Make-Dinner-with-What's-in-The-House Chili

I love a nap. it seems so decadent to SLEEP in the middle of the day. I rarely take them, though, because when I wake up I feel weird and groggy and am generally useless for several hours. (I used to take a nap after work so I could go out and drink at the State Bar. That was a loooong time ago.)


This morning I made a list, like I always do, of things that I wanted to accomplish today. Cut to 2 pm when I can barely keep my eyes open (did I mention I got up at 3:45 this morning for work?) so I decide, even though my list is not anywhere NEAR being checked off, to take a nap.

I wake up at 3:30 and realize that I'm not going to do anything else on the list, including going to the store to get food for dinner. A quick rifle through the pantry reveals spices, a can of diced tomatoes, and a can of hominy. The fridge contains a package of ground beef. Chili it is!

OK. I have to get something off my chest. Lately there's been all this blather about with-beans, no beans, is it real chili if you use (insert ingredient here) but leave out (insert ingredient here), blah blah blah.... and to this I would like to say:


here's the thing: I think my chili is the best, just like my mom thinks hers is the best, just like a million bazillion other people think theirs is the best. Just make it how you frigging like it, people, and stop worrying so much about this stupid debate. You can bet the men on the cattle drives or whatever didn't whine about beans or no beans or what kind of mean or adding coffee or any of that crap. They ate it, and were happy to have a hot meal after a long day.

To paraphrase a wiser person than myself: if it tastes good, just eat it.

Rant over .Thank you.

Now to the good part. I'm not going to say this is how i ALWAYS make chili. It ain't. this is how i made it TODAY. And if I made it tomorrow, it would be different again. (And I don't want any guff about using onion powder. It was what was in the house. Don't use it if you don't like it.) I'm not saying this should the ONLY chili you make, but it's a good one to add to your repertoire.

Just-Woke-Up-Must-Make-Dinner-with-What's-in-The-House Chili

Oil (or bacon fat)
1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder.
1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
1 jalapeno
1/4 cup unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 can hominy (you can substitute beans if you want, or use both)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the beef, season with salt, and brown. Add the spices, cilantro, and garlic and onion and cook until the spices are fragrant. Add the jalapeno and tomatoes and stir to mix. Add the chocolate and season with salt again.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the liquid is thickened and the flavors have blended, about an hour. Stir in the cornmeal and then the hominy and cook 5 minutes more.