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Sans Meal Plan: Shrimp Enchiladas, or Ode to the Food Processor

I’m not going to lie: cooking at home in a real kitchen with ample supplies, tools and an oven whose temperature gauge is spot on was incredible. Not that I don’t love my amazing apartment and roommates here on College Hill, but having a car to drive to the nearest Los Angeles farmers’ market and then bake your own bread is an undeniable pleasure that my current situation does not allow for. As a result, I took full advantage of cooking everything I possibly could from scratch while at home over winter break; from cornbread to salsa to key lime pie to lamb roast and beyond. But, now that I do not have such luxuries as a food processor and several pans of the same size in my possession (goodbye, triple layer Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Cake — you were the best thing to ever happen to me…), I have made it my mission to simplify some of the favorites I made while I was being spoiled by 80 degree Southern California weather.

While taking advantage of my kitchen at home, one of my absolute favorite dishes to make was Shrimp and Cotija Enchiladas with Chile Verde. Never having made salsa from scratch before, I decided to take the long route and do the entire dish as the recipe says, though whenever I reuse the recipe here at school, I’m sure I’ll use bottled chile verde due to my lack of food processor. I had made simple enchiladas before, a sort of Mexican-style lasagna with tortillas instead of pasta, red enchilada sauce instead of tomato sauce, and cheddar or jack cheese instead of ricotta and mozzarella. This style is a go-to favorite of mine, and I HIGHLY recommend it when cooking for a crowd (the Big Game, anyone?) because you can make a couple different enchilada lasagnas based on people’s meat versus non-meat preferences. That being said, if you want to class things up a bit, these shrimp enchiladas were light and flavorful, and could be made into a quick-prep meal should you decide to buy the bottled green stuff.

One of my favorite things about enchiladas is that, like burritos, you can literally throw in whatever protein and fillings you like, so long as you smother them in sauce and bake them. Whether you go with the more traditional cheese enchilada,spice it up with some chicken or go a bit more exotic and fill it with shredded beef and cover it with chocolate mole sauce (zounds!), enchiladas are always a crowd pleaser. Make them this weekend, please. Call me when you do.

When I was cooking this meal for my family, I noticed we had enough frozen shrimp to feed a small army (or me, apparently), so I decided to bypass the shredded chicken I was originally going to stuff my tortillas with and use shrimp instead. Despite being a bit less traditional, I tell myself that the choice was perhaps more fitting for Baja California to help me sleep better at night. Also, there were avocados involved. Enough said.

If you use store-bought salsa, your grocery list looks something like this:

  • tortillas (I used corn, but flour is a bit less stiff and work just as well, if not better)
  • cheese (I used cotija because I love Mexican cheese. I won’t tell if you use Kraft Mexican Blend.)
  • protein (beans, chicken, beef, grilled veggies, tongue, heart, brain, etc. I cannot vouch for the taste of enchiladas containing brain, but whatever floats your boat…)
  • jar of chile verde salsa (or typical red enchilada sauce)
  • oh, wait, that’s it!

The prep for enchiladas could not be easier, especially if you’re not making the salsa at home. Factoring in the extra time to shuck, wash, roast and purée the tomatillos and green chiles, plus the other ingredients for the salsa, it added on about an hour or so to my prep time. It was well worth it, but jar salsa will more than suffice if you’re looking for quick dinner and adoring fans begging you to cook for them more often. The result: absolutely delicious and light enchiladas with a citrusy zing that dance across the tongue! I like a hearty meal, so I garnished my enchiladas with cilantro, red onion and avocado (God’s gift to the world) and bulked up my plate with black beans and corn tomalitos (sweet corn cake). Feel free to buy a can of beans (I know I did!  Who has time to soak beans overnight?) and a bag of Tostitos and you cannot go wrong! My family thought this dish was easily something that could be served in a Baja California restaurant (though they could have been lying to preserve my feelings) and we all went back for seconds.

So, next time you feel you’ve reached a cooking plateau — or feel a deep malaise because you are without your kitchen at home — whip up these delicious enchiladas in no time at all and impress everyone with your major skills. ¡Viva el aguacate!

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