The fear of death follows from the fear of life.  A man who lives fully is prepared to die at anytime.
~Mark Twain

Just seems there should be little demand to visit venues in Santa Barbara or even Southern Cal, as a whole, where the in crowds frequent. You know, where people say “like” repetitively and thoughtlessly as if the word is a linguistic filler.

So many glorious campsites with scenery that is flat breathtaking, serenely overlooking the Big Blue where the plethora of marine mammals exist — pastoral stuff. There is a campus of radiantly hued tents, and above that are the parked RV’s usually hooked to electricity inlets/outlets (none of which can be seen from the cloth huts).

Almost each foggy or overcast morning, before she departed to the “glamping” joint across the way, we crawled out of our tent and after morning ablutions, promptly began the fire and heating the tortillas so the meal completo could be packed inside. Donned in aprons (I likely looked absurd) we grilled each tortilla feast on state-provided, round, grated, dug-in, barbeque pits after just barely scrambling the eggs and cooking the meat aside ever so assiduously on a pan. Rosemary sprigs from nearby plants were plucked and dropped into the fire when ready. Then, there were exquisite avocados plucked by friends from close sprawling ranches and, of course, tomatillo sauce, salsa verde, salsa rojo, queso fresco, crema, cilantro, radishes and rekindling the goods...with several cups of joe. Our grub for the day.

The skies cleared, it warmed as the sun shone through in mid-morning just slightly toasting the eucalypti leaves so their scents diffused, then she disappeared for work, and I tried to heal thyself (often by watching dolphins graze).

This post may prove trivial to some, but it was the boon of our existence every morning.

EGGS, BACON & AVOCADO TORTILLAS

3-4 T unsalted butter
3 T cream cheese
6 fresh, local, free range eggs
1 T whipping cream or creme fraiche
1/8 T sea salt
1/4 T freshly ground pepper

Small pinch of cayenne pepper
Small amount of herbes de provence and/or thyme

Melt the butter and cream cheese in a heavy nonstick skillet or a iron cast pan. Combine the eggs, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, white pepper, herbes de provence and/or thyme and a dollop of cream or creme fraiche in a glass bowl and whisk briskly.

Pour egg mixture into the skillet, with the heat on medium low. With a flat, wooden spatula, gently stir the eggs, lifting it up and over from the bottom as they thicken. Stir away from the sides and bottom of the pan toward the middle. Continue to stir until the desired texture (a mass of soft curds) is achieved. They thicken, dry out and toughen very quickly toward the end, so if you like them soft, fluffy and moist, remove them from the heat a little before they reach the desired texture — the eggs will continue to cook after being removed from the heat.

(As an alternative, try fried eggs covered in the skillet top cooked in a smearing of olive oil with salt and pepper only).

Gently cooked guanciale, pancetta, bacon, serrano or proscuitto

Avocado slices, alluringly fresh

Salsa verde and/or salsa rojo
Queso fresco and/or fine goat cheese
Crema

Radishes, sliced
Cilantro leaves, chopped

The Whole Enchilada

October 5, 2009

If God dwells inside us like some people say, I sure hope He likes enchiladas, because that’s what He’s getting.
~Jack Handy

Keeping in line with the Mexican theme—a cuisine seemingly and sometimes sadly overlooked. To outrightly dismiss, bastardize or usurp a sacrosanct ethnic gastronomy is troubling and almost a form of cultural cleansing. Entiende, comprende Taco Bell?

The word enchilada which loosely comes from the Spanish enchilar meaning “donned in chile.” Do not be fooled by the unadorned nomenclature as it belies this beloved, piquant fare, so despite misconceptions, one classic fine dining experience awaits me.

CHICKEN ENCHILADAS

2 28-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes, drained
2 poblano chiles, stemmed
2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed

2 T canola oil
1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped
2 C chicken broth
Sea salt
3/4 C crema or crème fraîche*
2-3 C grilled or roasted chicken dark meat, coarsely shredded
1 C asadero, chihuahua and/or monterey jack cheese, grated

12 corn tortillas
Canola oil, for brushing

Radishes, thinly sliced
Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Queso fresco, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375 F

In a heavy skillet, dry roast the chiles over medium heat, turning occasionally, until soft and blackened, about 5-7 minutes. Place in a blender or food processor along with the drained canned tomatoes. Blend to a smooth purée.

In a heavy bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until translucent but before fully caramelized, about 7-9 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high, and stir in the tomato purée. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened to a smooth paste, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the broth, and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. Taste and season with a pinch or so of salt. The sauce should be like a thick cream soup in consistency.

Stir the crema or crème fraiche into the sauce. Put the chicken in a bowl and stir 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce mixture into it. Season to taste with salt.

Lay the tortillas out on a baking sheet or two, and lightly brush both sides of the tortillas with oil. Bake just to warm through and soften, about 3 minutes. Stack the tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm.

Spread about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 13″ x 9″ baking dish. Lay some chicken filling into each tortilla, and then quickly yet gently roll each one up with your fingers. Arrange them in the baking dish in line, seam side down. Ladle evenly with more sauce, then sprinkle with the melting cheese. Allow the ends of the tortillas to be free of sauce. Slip in the oven and bake until the enchiladas are hot and the cheese just browned, about 10-15 minutes. Garnish with radish slices, cilantro, and queso fresco.

Serve promptly as enchiladas tend to turn mushy with time.

*Crème Fraîche

2 C heavy whipping cream
1/4 C buttermilk

In a medium heavy saucepan over low heat, warm the cream, but do not simmer or boil. Remove from heat and stir in the buttermilk. Transfer the to a medium bowl and allow to stand covered with plastic wrap until thickened but still of pouring consistency. Stir every 6 hours for one day. The crème fraîche is ready when it is thick with a slightly nutty sour taste. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours before using. Crème fraîche may be made and stored in a jar the refrigerator for up to one week.