Monday, May 17, 2010

Salsalicious! (Meal #6)

Once again, I've fallen behind on updating this blog—so that we actually completed Meal #7 before I finished writing this report on Meal #6...

Following as it did upon "the great lasagna undertaking" (i.e., Meal #5), I tried to put together a menu that would offer us enough of a challenge to make things interesting without postponing gratification until late in the evening! So having decided on enchiladas, I chose a layered version—instead of individually rolled ones—which made the assembly considerably easier. Of course, we did make the salsa verde from scratch, but that also was a fairly simple matter—though I did buy almost all the tomatillos that Lucky had to offer!

Date: Sunday, April 11th (served at BFWC the next evening)
Host: Jenny Michael
Menu: layered chicken enchiladas with tomatillo-cilantro salsa, spicy slaw, chocolate-cherry bread pudding
Participants: Sandy Cate, Cole Chabon, Bob Fagan, Maria Massolo, Jenny Michael, Sara Miller, Lisa Sherman, Rita Shuster.
Photos: Cole Chabon, Rita Shuster
Aside: This was not a meal for cilantro haters, of which there seem to be more than one might think. But as the New York Times recently reported, Cilantro Haters, It’s Not Your Fault!
Making the salsa was the first order of business, requiring the peeling of many tomatillos and onions and garlic. But once it was boiling away in my great iron cauldron, Sara Miller and I dug into the greasy task of boning and shredding six of Costco's wonderful rotisserie chickens. There was plenty of meat, so we packaged up the wings, skin, and bones for later stock-making. (Reports are that they yielded a particularly rich and flavorful broth!) The only other preparation was sauteing the pasilla peppers and grating the cheese, after which we assembled the casseroles.

Ours went into the oven, but the larger pans destined for the shelter were set aside to cool, then tightly covered with foil for Bob Fagan to deliver to the shelter. We sent along cooking instructions, so the staff could bake them on the following evening.

I had made the bread pudding before the rest of the crew arrived, so it would have ample time to bake. Even so, the three large pans spent much longer than their projected time in the oven.

The only remaining task was to cut up the vegetables for the slaw. Radishes proved a nice touch, and the corn and black beans gave the salad additional heartiness. We dressed our slaw with a light lime-and-cumin-scented vinaigrette—and sent along a jar of the same dressing for the shelter staff to use on theirs. The cool crispness of the slaw made a very nice counterpart to the rich, cheesy enchiladas.

Best practices: This day reaffirmed several of the things we had already learned about how to make these cooking events work well. First, preparing baked goods in advance ensures that they have adequate time to cook! Second, having the shelter staff cook the entree the next day also means that we're not waiting for untold hours for my overworked oven to do this job. Third, thinking in advance through the whole menu and the preparation needed for each recipe lets me organize our work more efficiently.

Cost: Like the lasagna dinner, this was one of our more expensive meals (around $200): cheese, in particular, seems to add up. But thanks to everyone's generous donations, we are still in the black. Many thanks to everyone for your contributions to this project of money and time and labor and—above all— of good will and good energy.

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