Italian Enchildas

Well, not really. A couple Italian dishes AND enchiladas is more accurate. It's been a while since we've enjoyed a nice weeknight dinner, and last night I was finally able to try out an enchilada recipe from Cooks Illustrated that caught my attention last week.

The menu:

  • Grilled Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto - Gourmet, June 2008
  • Chicken Enchiladas Verde (or Suiza) - Cooks Illustrated, June/July 2008
  • Straciatella Tortoni "cake" - or more accurately: Frozen Amaretto Chocolate Tortoni - Gourmet, June 2008
Grilled asparagus was a huge hit, especially with my daughters (age 5 & 13). Great combination that we'll return to frequently. Be sure to skewer 3-6 spears to simplify grilling, and use the smalled diameter skewers. Four 6" skewers are all you need, not the 12" indicated.

Overall, this is a simple, no fuss recipe - but it could easily be over cooked or even burnt if the grill temperature and cooking times are not carefully monitored. But even more importantly, the quality, thickness and saltiness of the prosciutto is critical to this dish. I used $13/lb grocery store caliber (Boars Head) - and the saltiness was almost unbearable. Maybe using half slices would have helped. But higher quality prosciutto would be a waste, and thinner slices would come close to burning or melting on the grill. So fine tune the prosciutto to get this dish just right.

OK - while pulling down the photo online, I see the recipe called for Pancetta, not Prosciutto. Well then. Though I feel stupid about that oversight, most of the comments above still apply. It just that you'll have to use pancetta sliced thinner than normal instead of prosciutto sliced thicker than normal.

The enchiladas were great. Though the recipe seemed to take along time to build, it really wasn't. Rather, I had three fairly labor intensive dished going at once. Key steps in this recipe were
  • Poaching chicken in stock infused with sauteed onion, garlic and cumin (I used both boneless breasts and thighs)
  • Simple roasted tomatillo's and poblanos combined with poaching liquid to make the salsa verde
  • Plenty of chopped cilantro mixed into the chicken and cheese filling
  • Minimal use of cheese - just enough to hold each enchilada together
I'd make this again, and we'll try to get the kids to try the leftovers tonight. I used less cheese than called for, which was a good approach, and added thighs for additional flavor. Next time I'd use the leftover poaching liquid as a simple soup to accompany this dish. Definitely a winner.

The dessert was fine of course. Well, much better than fine. It was awesome - light, not too rich, multiple textures. No guilt, plenty of pleasure.

Reviews on indicated that shaving chocolate peelings was too labor intensive, and it is. However, the texture of a peeling vs. grated chocolate is a key attraction in a dish as light and simple as this.

Adding ground toasted almonds to crushed amaretti cookies and butter was a great step above other simple amaretti crusts I've made. There was a definite taste of fresh almonds present.

In fact, this dish is a variation on the amaretti / coffee ice cream cake I've been making for 15 years, also from a Gourmet recipe. It is simplified in that it is just the cream filling with meringue, and not the additional ice cream layer. Definitely a simple and effective summer dessert.

Ignore the step of creating meringue with a double boiler - I suspect it's just fear of raw egg on the part of the editors. The crust quantity can be reduced a bit - as it created too thick a crust layer for the height and size of each serving. But overall, a solid, simple dessert.

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