The start of the semester for me and kindergarten for Leandro has me in a tizzy.
One month in, the days seem never-ending and yet never long enough. I am up at 5:30 a.m. every day. Eighteen hours later, I still find myself vertical, eyes open, preparing food, washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom (!), folding clothes, laying out everything for the morning in a semi-headachy fog, wrinkling my nose and wondering, in the words of David Byrne, “How Did I Get Here?”
So when — oh s**t! — the Restoration Farm End-of-Summer-Potluck came roaring up, I was sort of astonished, and not a little dismayed.
What to make!?! You cannot go empty-handed, no matter how empty-headed you may be. And I’d already said I’d go – I vaguely remembered doing that at some strange hour in the middle of something else. And of course it’s a really good time, on the grounds of a restored old village with like-minded friends, a folksy band, and plenty of grounds for the children to run around on and not bother me while I am eating!
Salvation came in the form of stuff I’d prepared and frozen just before Labor Day! Hurray for me! I defrosted pollo guisado (Puerto Rican stewed chicken), whipped up some 5-minute black beans (I actually made them from beans I had soaked, but the prep is seriously five minutes), shredded some cheese, layered it all and low and behold, I had a worthy baking dish of homemade Mexican lasagne goodness that I was not at all ashamed of. In fact, my mom thought it was the best dish on a very amply and generously laid buffet table. Okay, so she’s my mom, but she is very honest, so believe it!
I give you the chicken version, but it can easily be made with Latin Seasoned Ground Beef. I ended up making pretty much the same thing, only with Flex-Mex Shredded Chicken, for a get together of The So-Called Book Club (meaning we haven’t read a book together in a year, but we still get together for drinks and conversation on occasion). Along with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and my now legendary Guacamole…it was a fiesta!
Vegetable oil or cooking spray to just grease a baking dish
4-5 medium or large flour tortillas (whole wheat works fine)
1 pint/2 Cups Five Minute Black Beans (recipe below)
1.5 Cups shredded cheese (Monterey Jack or Cheddar-types) – more if you’re living large
Heat oven to 350°F.
Lightly grease a 3 qt. (8″x13″x 2″) baking dish. Lay down a layer of tortillas (trimming if necessary) follwoed by a layer of chicken, then beans. Lay down another layer of tortillas, followed by cheese, chicken, beans, tortilla, and top with cheese.
If cooking with still-warm ingredients, then cook for 15 minutes under foil and an additional five minutes without foil. If cooking with pre-made ingredients from the fridge, bake for an additional ten minutes before taking off the foil. Watch the cheese for excessive browning.
Allow to cool slightly before slicing.
For complete recipes, see below. For a beautiful round-up of the potluck, visit T.W. Barritt’s blog post at Culinary Types!
Flex-Mex Shredded Chicken
½ Cup onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stock cube and four cups of water OR four cups of your favorite chicken stock
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced, seeds removed (1 pepper was not very spicy; play with this proportion according to your taste)
Place all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for at least 20 minutes until chicken is thoroughly cooked. If you have time, you can cook it longer for more tenderness. Remove from heat and remove chicken from any remaining liquid. Allow to cool, shred, and serve – hot or cold — in your favorite Mexican-style recipes (quesadillas, tacos, with rice, on salads). Flavor affinities include avocado, lime, cilantro, kidney beans.
Pollo Guisado II
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Cup chopped onion
1 Cup chopped green peppers (the long pale green cubanelles are preferred, but I use whatever I have around, including red peppers or roasted red peppers from a jar)
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Cup tomato puree, diced/chopped or peeled whole tomatoes
2 lbs boneless chicken breast
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
12 oz can beer
2 Tbs red wine
15 pimiento stuffed olives
In a saucepan, heat oil until fragrant and liquid.
Add onion, peppers and garlic, coat and lower heat, sauteing until wilted.
Add tomatoes and allow to thicken at medium heat. Add chicken and stir to coat then add salt. Add wine and beer and bring to boil, simmer 15 minutes and then add stuffed olives.
Simmer another 15-20 minutes to let the flavors develop and the chicken to tenderize. I let it cook as long as I have time for so the chicken begins to fall apart. Serve over rice or as part of a quesadilla or over tortillas with melted cheese. Serves four big appetites. Or divide up into four freezeable portions and defrost as needed.
Five-Minute Black Beans
1/2 Tbs olive oil
One small onion, chopped
(optional – chopped red or green pepper; if I have end bits that need to be used, I chop ’em up and put them in too)
one 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
half a chicken bouillion cube (the whole thing, if the beans are low sodium)
Heat oil in a small pot on medium high. Add onions, stir, then lower heat to allow to soften. Add beans, 1/4 can water and stock cube and simmer up until the rice is ready. Serve over rice. Or roll up in your favorite wrap with some cheese.