I was so eager to dive into my new copy of Viva Vegan! this weekend and try out a new recipe. It was really hard to decide what to make first, there were so many tantalizing ones. I finally chose this enchilada dish because, well, who doesn't like enchiladas?
A couple things to note: the recipe is actually for Potato-Chickpea Enchiladas, but my husband can't stand chickpeas unless they're in hummus or falafel. It's the whole chickpeas he doesn't like. So I substituted pinto beans but I think black beans or black-eyed peas could also be really good in this dish.
The other note is that this recipe, like many others in the book, was very time-consuming to make, hence my designation as "weekend cooking." I made the tomatillo sauce and the pine nut crema yesterday, then did the filling and assembly today. As a matter of fact, Romero even gives a make-ahead tip to make the components over the course of three weeknights, then put them all together the next day. I'm not saying they weren't worth the effort - we really enjoyed them - but they were definitely a lot of work. So don't think you can just whip these up in a flash if you, like me, usually get home from work around 7:00pm ready to gnaw your own arm off and need something quick, like Rachel Ray quick, or else you're going to have a situation.
This was my first experience cooking anything with tomatillos. I was somewhat concerned to discover that they have kind of an odd smell and a sticky surface after you peel off the papery husks, but this went away after I washed them. After boiling the tomatillos about 10 minutes, then letting them cool, I pulsed them in a food processor with garlic, a couple jalapeno peppers, onion and cilantro leaves. (I know I recently commented on hating cilantro... so maybe calling them "vile" was too strong. I'm not a big fan, but they seemed an integral part of this recipe, and I really didn't mind them in it. The cilantro taste was not overwhelming.) Then you boil the mixture with vegetable broth until it thickens.
The pine nut crema was very quick easy to make. You pretty much just blend some soft silken tofu, pine nuts, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, and cornstarch until it's smooth and creamy. It had a nice garlicky punch and citric tang to it that I liked a lot.
The filling mixture is where it gets a little more involved. First, it requires roasted jalapeno or serrano peppers. I discovered that it's actually pretty fun to roast peppers directly on my stove burner. It's kind of like sticking marshmallows into the camp fire and waiting for them to get all black and charred. Or maybe it just appeals to the inner pyromaniac in me. If your burners have wide spaces, it helps to have one of these diffusers, which we actually use for our stovetop espresso maker. It was the perfect size for holding the jalapeno while they roasted. After they are charred on all sides, you put them in a covered dish or paper bag, and wait for them to cool. As they cool, the moisture will loosen up the skin so you can easily rub it off. After you remove the skin, split them open and clean out the seeds, then they are ready to be prepared as directed by the recipe.
The filling is a combination of diced potatoes that have been boiled until soft, chickpeas (or beans of your choice), garlic, onion, the roasted jalapenos, spices, and vegetable broth. You cook it down until the broth has reduced, and then I used a potato masher to make a chunky texture.
The assembly is fun in a messy way, and definitely helps to have two people working together. You need: a cast iron skillet to warm the corn tortillas, a pie pan filled with some of the tomatillo sauce, and then a casserole dish with some of the sauce spread on the bottom. Making one at a time, my husband would warm a tortilla, then I coated both sides in the sauce, then put it in the casserole dish, then scooped about 3 heaping Tbsp. of the filling down the middle, rolled it up tightly, and then started on the next one. I ended up with enough filling for 10 enchiladas. You could probably stretch it to 12 if you used a little less filling than I did.
I felt like these enchiladas had many layers of interesting flavors to them. They weren't very spicy to my taste, but the roasted jalapeno added good flavor (they probably would have been spicier if I had left some seeds in them). I liked how all the elements complemented each other, but if I have any critique I would have to say that I would have preferred to have some contrasting textures in there. They needed something crunchy, or chewy, to give them some bite. As they were, they were somewhat mono-textural (is that a word?), with that texture being soft and somewhat mushy. But I think that the tomatillo sauce and the pine nut crema are very versatile and would work with all kinds of different fillings. I will definitely make this recipe again and try some variations on the filling, next time I have a weekend to dedicate to the project!