A major water-line ruptured a leak last Saturday, leaving the Boston area (and over 2 million homes) without potable water for three days. By some stroke of luck, Cambridge was spared from this fiasco as we have our own water supply. But Boston and 27 other communities were under order to boil water before using it for drinking, cooking and even washing dishes.
The next day, it was clear this “boil water order” might extend for several days… so I got on the phone and invited friends in affected areas over for dinner. With such short notice, I wanted to cook something simple and savory (and economical) that could easily scale up for a crowd.
At first blush, chicken enchiladas seemed like a great idea: a one dish casserole that would easily round out with a salad. But then I thought about how many steps actually go into enchiladas – making the sauce, cooking the filling, softening the tortillas and then rolling them. And, of course, serving enchiladas is really not an easy feat – unlike the restaurants that bake them in individual dishes, a casserole becomes very messy very quickly.
But I did like the idea of the mole sauce. The corn tortillas, with their distinctive lime flavor, and Monterey Jack cheese make a wonderful combination. I decided to reconstruct the dish is a way that’s easy to prepare and easy to serve.
There was no getting around making the mole sauce… and who would want to short-cut that anyway… with its rich, spicy complex flavors. And after making the same recipe for over 10 years, I’ve mastered making it in less than 30 minutes. Instead of using store bought tomatoes, I used a can of smoked tomatoes from last summer. I cooked chicken breasts, simply seasoned with salt and pepper, in the mole sauce.
If there’s one thing about mole I can say with conviction, it’s even better when paired with corn tortillas or other dish made with masa harina. Masa harina is corn meal that has been treated with lime and gives tortillas their distinctive flavor. It is also used in tamales and pupusas. I didn’t want to compromise the dish because I was too lazy to roll enchiladas. Instead, I made individual mounds of nachos – corn chips topped with melted jack cheese and scallions.
In the end it was a delicious, elegant meal, and a wonderful last minute, throw-together dinner that took less than an hour to prepare.
From the Garden: Tomatoes and Scallions
Chicken Mole6 chicken breasts, boneless skinless
monterey jack cheese
- Make the mole sauce.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper.
- Place chicken in a single layer in a casserole dish with a cover. Ladle mole sauce on top. Cover the dish.
- Bake chicken at 350F for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.
- Meanwhile, put corn tortillas on a cookie sheet in little piles. Top with grated jack cheese. Bake until cheese is melted.
- Serve chicken with nachos and guacamole. Garnish with scallions.