One would think, to hear me whine week after week about too spicy this, and hellishly hot that, that my favorite cuisine might be something famously bland.
Like Finnish food, or hospital cafeteria.
But one of my very favorite national cuisines is Mexican. It’s rich and comforting. Much of it is simple, but simple in the way a Chanel suit is simple; classically elegant. It’s full of fresh flavors, yet much of it is slowly cooked, “peasant” fare.But I still have the heat tolerance of a snow angel, so I’ve learned some self-protective hacks.
Dairy is my friend. The heat from chilis comes from an oily substance called capsaicin. Milk, or more commonly, sour cream contains something called casein. The casein is a fat-loving compound which binds to the fiery lipids and washes them away. Water only spreads the heat, and while alcohol also works, you’d have to drink about a fifth of tequilla to cool a couple of bites.And while some folks prove this doable on a daily basis, I’m the cheapest of cheap drunks who would be swinging from the chandelier or napping under a table after three or four swigs.
So, it’s sour cream for me.Green is usually (but not always, not by a long shot) milder than red. Green sauces normally contain tomatillos, a sour fruit that looks like a green tomato, and brings no heat to the party. And of course there is my very good, very green friend; avocado who feels to me like it cools thing down a bit.
One of my favorite dishes on a Mexican menu is chicken enchiladas Suizas. Suiza means Swiss, and connotes pale creamy cheeses and sauces.
Enchiladas are terrific in restaurants, where all you have to do is order them. But at home, not so much. You have to make the filling, stuff them, roll them, and lay them in the baking vessel. Then bake them off while hoping they don’t fall apart or end up with dry, burned tortilla parts that didn’t get sauced.
Years ago I found a spicy Mexican cornbread pie thing. I changed some ingredients and turned it into an easy family favorite with all the flavors and textures of those creamy green enchiladas.
Chicken enchilada Suiza casserole1-8 ½ oz. package Jiffy corn muffin mix
1-14 ¾ oz. can creamed-style corn
1-4 oz. can green chilis, drained
2 eggs lightly beaten
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Goya bitter orange adobo
2 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups green salsa (heat level of your choice)
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (I use half of a grocery store rotisserie bird)
Sour Cream, avocado slices, scallions, radish and limes wedges (garnish)Preheat oven to 400. Spray 13X9 pan with cooking spray.
In large bowl, mix first seven ingredients and 1 cup cheese. Pour into pan and bake 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, and pierce casserole 12-15 times with sharp knife. Pour and spread salsa all over. Scatter chicken on top and cover with rest of cheese. Bake 20 minutes. Let rest out of oven for 10 minutes, then slice and serve with garnishes.Makes 8 servings.
And it gets even easier. You can take it right up to the second bake, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours before finishing. Just leave off the top cheese then sprinkle it on right before baking.
And if you do choose tequila to quell spiciness and end up with a lampshade on your drunken head, that’s your choice—but please, send plenty of photos.Thanks for your time.