If you’re ever lucky enough to be invited over to Yadira’s house, you will certainly have the opportunity to sample her cuisine. After raising three kids and having a house constantly full of their friends—some who even moved in for a while during those challenging teenage years, Yadira always keeps a pot full of goodness on the stove and a stocked fridge. In fact, if you leave her house without eating, you are a rare person indeed, for Yadira opens her home to all and is sure to delight the palate with her fresh ingredients and complex spices. No doubt Yadira’s guests salivate the moment they enter her home, as garlic and onion sizzle in tomato sauce, but what awaits them out back is where her true love lies. Step out into the backyard and wind around the corner; you are struck with the sight of lush trees dripping with fruit, vines meandering along a trellis, roses more startling than any cuts sold at your local florist. Succulents bubble up from pots below and the breeze tosses seeds from pot to pot, so unlikely blooms spring up next to cacti. Yadira’s garden is one you long to get lost in, one from which you can pluck a ripe peach, settle into the grass and dream those dreams that will not visit you indoors.
Yadira’s been creating this garden dream for nearly thirty years; her own children roamed with her as she deadheaded dried blooms, watered and potted—her magic touch bringing more life with every season. These days, her two toddling granddaughters follow her along, sucking up sweet juice as she feeds them right from the trees. One can’t help but feel a little envious of these sweet girls as they rest heads on Grandma’s shoulder and we wonder: might they have that magic touch as well one day?
Inevitably, the clock strikes the cooking hour, and Yadira returns to the house ready to make her famous enchiladas. It’s true enchiladas have been a major player in her repertoire for decades, but Yadira’s recipe has changed throughout the years—not without a little intrigue along the way. Originally, she made them with poblano chiles and mole from a jar. Her sister-in-law, though, made a scrumptious mole sauce, and when Yadira asked, she was given a roundabout idea of how to make it rather than the actual recipe. She took that idea of mole and then invited her mother-in-law over to make tamales because she loved her mother-in-law’s sauce. While her mother-in-law cooked and she and Yadira chatted, Tío Lupe stood just outside the kitchen and jotted down the recipe for his sister. Yadira then combined her mother and sister-in-laws’ recipes and created her famous mole.
Your mouth is watering, certainly, but beware; once you taste Yadira’s chicken enchiladas with a mole that leaves a cinnamon tingle on your tongue, you will never (and I do mean never) find another chicken enchilada that pleases your palate more. These enchiladas are comfort food; they show up at every family party and on cool autumn evenings when the belly needs a little extra love. Yadira pours her heart into her garden and her soul into her cooking, and should you ever be blessed enough to bite into her enchiladas, you’ll finally taste magic.
YADIRA'S ASTONISHING CHICKEN ENCHILADAS WITH RICE
Chicken step 1: Use either a whole chicken or chicken breasts (skin removed) salt-to-taste green onion 3 garlic cloves 3-5 whole peppercorns 2-3 bay leaves
In a large stock pot, put in chicken, green onion, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, salt to taste and and add enough water to cover Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30-40 minutes until chicken is tender and cooked through Let cool and shred by hand (save the broth)
Chicken step 2:
1/2 chopped onion (if making more than one chicken, increase onion amount) 1 tb oil 2-3 garlic cloves 1 tsp fresh cracked pepper 1 tsp salt 1 16 ounce canned tomato (whole, diced or fresh diced) 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro (stems removed)
Heat pan and add oil, sauté onion. Once onion is soft, crush the garlic cloves into the pan garlic cloves. Add pepper, salt, tomatoes, cilantro and shredded chicken. Let ingredients combine over low heat.
Yadira’s Famous Mole: aka Mole Ranchero (can be made ahead and frozen, excellent for a variety of dishes)
3 large cooking spoons full of oil: olive, canola or grape-seed 3-5 Dried CA chiles 8 Dried Ancho chiles 2 cloves of garlic 1 tsp pepper 2 tsp oregano 1 tsp cumin 1 tsp salt 16 oz can of diced tomato
Heat oil in a wide, shallow pan. In the meantime Cut chiles with scissors to protect your fingers from getting burned by the seeds. Boil chiles in a small pot of water until soft about 30 mins. (remove chiles). Scoop chiles into blender; add garlic, cumin, oregano and pepper and 1/2 of the can of tomato. Blend until it liquifies then add 1/2 cup chile liquid and other half of tomato to chicken broth (to use later when you need to thin out the mole). Strain remaining liquid into a medium sized bowl. Add more salt to taste, if needed.
Return to pan with heated oil, lower the heat (very important!). Add 2 cooking spoons full of flour (wheat) into hot oil, using a large spoon with holes, stir flour into oil. Slowly add tomato/chile mixture, pushing out flour lumps with back of spoon. Slowly add chicken broth until you reach desired thickness (should neither be too watery or too thick). Stir out the lumps and add broth until smooth. Always stir in the same direction or mole will be watery! Add 1 can tomato sauce and more broth as needed. Turn up the heat until it boils and then reduce heat to low (mole will thicken, so add broth to thin as needed)
Creating the Enchilada: Shred 1 lb of monterey jack cheese Regular corn tortillas (be sure they’re not too thin) In a cast iron pan, add 1/2 c. oil over med. high heat (be sure to add enough oil now, so you don’t have to add oil later; the tortillas will taste like oil. Once you heat oil, you can remove some and add it back later.) Use a spatula with holes Add one tortilla at a time once oil is ready Fry both sides quickly, shake off excess oil Dip tortilla in mole (not too long or tortilla will fall apart, but if you over-fried tortilla, leave in mole a little longer to soften it) Lay mole tortillas flat on a plate and let cool (do about 5 at a time) Lower heat of oil while stuffing tortillas (Add more broth for each round of tortillas as needed to thin mole)
Add cheese and shredded chicken to tortilla Fill as much as you like Roll so opening is on the bottom Toss a little cheese on top (pop in micro or warm oven to melt cheese) Garnish with romaine lettuce, tomato, sour cream
Yadira’s Phenomenal Rice: (this is an added bonus, and Bridget wagers you’ll be hard pressed to even find a comparable rice at any restaurant. She’s been looking for years!)
3 c. long grain white rice & 5 chicken bullion cubes Large soup pot 1 cooking spoon of oil 2 fresh roma tomatoes 1/2 bunch cilantro 2 green onions 3 whole garlic cloves
Heat oil on medium heat, (toss in a garlic clove until it browns; then add rice). Toast rice to a light brown by flicking it around until kernels burst. Add 2 c. water and bullion cubes. In the meantime, blend tomato in blender on pulse/chop until it becomes chunky. In your pot add tomato, green onion (whole), garlic, and cilantro (no need to remove stems). Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on low heat. Once rice is done, remove onion, garlic and cilantro before serving.