I’m full of beans this week, having made enchiladas — the third meal I’ve cooked, I think, in the past 27 years.
My mother-in-law still remembers fondly the flounder in orange sauce I did in ’85 or so, and then there was “the green meal” for one of Mary’s birthdays — artichokes, asparagus with hollandaise, pistachio ice cream, brandy Alexanders. . . . After which I, a self-described “wokaholic” as a bachelor, dropped the ball big time cuisine-wise as Mary began to hit the ball repeatedly out of the gastronomic park.
As the flavor and zest of her dishes increased, the more spoiled rotten I became, unto the point where I was ready for composting. And so, my conscience having been pricked by my failure to step up to the plate, I recently went to Georgie, our daughter, who knows a thing or two about cooking herself, and asked if she could run me through that enchilada recipe she had mentioned. As she did so one evening, I paid rapt attention, and even made notes — don’t burn tortillas, take stems and seeds out of ancho chiles, don’t drown enchiladas in sauce . . . that kind of thing. After which I put the recipe and my notes in the table beside my side of the bed — for safekeeping.
“Don’t think I’ve forgotten,” Mary said out of the blue a couple of weeks later.
“Forgotten what?” I said.
“Ah, yes! Well, I’ll do them this Saturday, I promise.”
I even insisted that I do the shopping.
As it turned out, the Amagansett I.G.A. had everything except the anchos, which I got at Chiquita Latina. I borrowed Georgie’s blender and began. Mary’s mother was to come over for dinner — this being such a momentous occasion.
The sauce takes the longest, and when I dipped a spoon into the full blender of tawny purée — I was doubling the recipe — I found it a tad more pungent than Georgie’s had been. “Dios mio!” I said when I could speak, and asked Mary what she thought. She took a sip and ran for a glass of milk and a Zantac.
She was appreciative though, very appreciative. I phoned Georgie and asked her what I could cut it with. More limes, advised her husband, Gavin, a chef in his own right. Georgie said I should mix it with the bottle of sauce left over from the cooking session that she’d given me.
I took great care once I’d made the filling (black beans, sautéed onions and zucchini, and Mexican cheese) to put just the right amount into each of the lightly fried corn tortillas, flipping them over with the seams facing down in the baking dish. And I took care as well not to pour over them too much of the sauce.
Long story short, the enchiladas and accompanying salad were a great triumph. “The best meal I think I’ve ever had,” said Mary after we’d all fallen to. “Can you think of anything I’ve ever cooked that’s been better?”
“You’re just buttering me up,” I said. (Though I did feel as if I had at last attained a state of grace.) Enchiladas para siempre!
To which Mary added, “A reporter is only as good as his sauces.”