Thursday, September 18, 2008

Seafood Enchiladas

I started cooking seriously while I was in college. Sure, I did my share of playing with ramen noodles and making boxed macaroni and cheese... but, most of the time I was trying to come up with good food that met a couple of basic criteria:
  1. It was something I could afford.
  2. It didn't take too terribly long to make.
If I could accomplish both of the above, and make something that was also a bit inventive, I felt like I'd really accomplished something. So, I made that a primary goal.

Some of the staples I always seemed to keep around my tiny apartment kitchen were milk, tortillas, and mushrooms (I happened to really LIKE mushrooms. They were relatively affordable, and they subbed in for meat fairly easily in most recipes.) I also kept a bag of flour around, just in case I had the urge to bake cookies or brownies or something. But, I also had a tendency to keep a box of imitation crab meat around.

I'm not really sure where I acquired my affinity for imitation crab. But, it seemed to elevate my cooking (at the time) to a level not previously achieved. So, I started to stockpile packages of it when it went on sale. Suddenly, I had a box of "crab" in the freezer at almost any given moment... and it led me to a bit of new-found inspiration.

Combining a bit of the "crab" meat with a few mushrooms, some corn, and a few select seasonings, I found that it made a decent filling for enchiladas.
So, I started wrapping a bit of the filling in flour tortillas.
Cloaking the delicious bundles in a bit of spicy bechemel sauce seemed intuitive, so I tried that.
And adding a bit of cheese (and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper) as a topping, and baking the whole mess in the oven for 20-25 minutes granted me a dish that was rich, creamy, and satisfying.
I started making my "seafood" enchiladas on a fairly regular basis. They were a dish that "christened" every new apartment into which I moved... and I started making them regularly for friends when they moved into THEIR apartments. And soon, the dish caught on and became a bit like a signature dish.
These days, making seafood enchiladas is a practice that not only takes me WAY back... but it also fulfills one of my most basic comfort food cravings as the autumn weather begins to encroach. I've started adding embellishments here and there -- a bit of cilantro, a few salad shrimp, and often some sweet bell peppers to add a bit of additional flavor and some color. This particular version happened to contain a couple of Holy Mole peppers from the garden, which added a nice bit of depth. But, no matter how much the dish evolves, it always carries with it a bit of that original inventive spirit.

I can't possibly package up all the good memories that this dish brings with it. But, I am more than willing to share the recipe that made them all possible. So, here goes.

Seafood Enchiladas

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  1. Thank you for the lovely story. Food ties us to memories, to friends, to memories of friends, and to our own experiences.

    The seafood enchilada looks delicious! I can't wait to try my hand at making my own enchilada.

  2. Oh that looks delicious and INVENTIVE!

  3. Lol - my signature dish throughout college and early 20s was chile con carne... which seems incredibly prosaic compared with seafood enchiladas!

  4. JS - I love the connection between food/memory, as well as the way a meal seems to bring people together. Kind of like blogging!

    Cathy - At least for a college kid :)

    Kitty - I dunno. Chile con carne sounds pretty darned good to me!


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