I am torn. Should I first taunt you with a Valentine’s Meal Extraordinaire that The Beloved and I got to enjoy and you didn’t (although you were all There in Spirit, I can assure you), or should I begin with the cheesy-homey-this-is-what’s-in-the-house-what-can-I-make-with-it dish? Decisions, decisions. I think I shall go with the latter, since this is a Sunday Suppers post. If you care about our Valentine’s Dinner Extravaganza, you can keep reading. If not, stop. If you just want to hear about the Valentine’s Meal, skip ahead. I strive to Accommodate Everyone.
So, I bought some weird steak-type stuff the other day. I honestly don’t know what cut it was, but it had long muscle fibers a la flank steak, ‘cept it didn’t cost as much. I purchased about a pound and a half, and used half for this meal and am saving half for a vague vision of peanut buttery/orangy/beefy stir fry. We’ll see what happens.
I also came across some Ro-Tel that was supposedly seasoned for chili. Now, I’m not Overly Keen on convenience products, but I generally make an exception for Ro-Tel. For those of you not In the Know, Ro-Tel is basically diced tomatoes and green chiles living together in a yellow can. It comes in mild, spicy, chunky and the One I fell for: seasoned for chili. Other than a mention of a Calcium Chloride (billed suspiciously as a “firming agent”) towards the end of the ingredient list, the rest of the ingredients are pretty straightforward. Plus, it’s called Ro-Tel, but on the can the Ro and the Tel are smartly separated by a red star. I like that. See for yourself.
So, here’s what I did. As usual, please don’t get caught up in a “recipe” for this–think of it as a technique and just use whatever ingredients you have on hand that sound good.
Cook aromatics and season.
Add some liquid-type stuff.
Add some creaminess.
Roll filling up in tortillas and slap them in a baking dish.
Make a mornay-type sauce, thusly:
make a seasoned roux
pour in milk and bring to a boil. Reduce to desired thickness.
Off the heat, stir in shredded cheese, a bit at a time.
Taste for seasonings
Pour sauce over rolled tortillas
Bake Until Bubbly and Golden Brown
Plate and put in face
Now that you know the technique, here’s my list of ingredients:
- about 3/4 pounds mystery steak, cut into wee pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- salt, pepper, cumin and chile powder
- 1 can of Ro Star Tel for Chili (that was the liquidy ingredient)
- 2 Tablespoons cream cheese
- 8 8″ whole wheat flour tortillas (use any kind you like)
For the mornay:
- equal parts flour and vegetable oil–maybe 2 Tablespoons each
- salt, pepper, cumin, hot sauce
- about 1 1/2-2 cups whole milk
- shredded pepper jack cheese (plus a little cheddar thrown in for good measure)
Make and assemble according to La Technique. Perhaps it should be Les Techniques…
I think next time I’ll make them with pork, tomatillos and cilantro. Maybe I’ll make a traditional enchilada sauce, which is basically just dried-then-reconstituted chiles pureed in broth, stock or water. Who knows.
The vague inspiration for this dish was actually from a “creamy chicken enchilada” thing my friend Debbie used to make back in the late ’80s. It called for cream of chicken soup. I must admit, I used to like how creamy that dish was–that’s why I added a shot of cream cheese to this. And it was very good. Yeah, maybe not traditional–I made a type of French mother sauce for the topping for goodness’ sake, but I was able to turn 12 oz. of meat into a filling meal for four, or even 5-6, if there are children involved. You could always cut down on the fat some by topping the whole thing with enchilada sauce or salsa verde or even regular old salsa or picante sauce as opposed to the mornay.
Okay, so that’s that. And now, onto the Valentine’s Dinner Extravaganza. The Beloved got us reservations at J. Betski’s, a wonderful upscale German/Austrian restaurant in Raleigh. No buxom Frauleins with braids slinging mugs of lager here, folks–this is white tablecloth all the way, and their Valentine’s Price Fixe Menu did not disappoint.
Bread Service: thinly sliced sour rye bread with whipped salted butter
Amuse-Bouche: chicken liver mousse crostini with lingonberry jam and pumpkin seed oil
Me: Beef Cheek Pierogis with red wine reduction, sauteed mushrooms and a touch of sour cream; Venison Shank Goulash with braised red cabbage and a dumpling; Sachertorte
The Beloved: Oysters with fennel sauerkraut, bacon cream and Emmenthaler; Sirloin steak (medium-rare) with limburger butter, caramelized onions and spaetzle; cherry and cheese strudel
We also enjoyed a fabulous bottle of Austrian pinot noir with our meal. With dessert, we had Special Coffee. Mine had Vanilla Stoli, Godiva liqueur and something-else-that-I-can’t-remember. His contained Bailey’s, Frangelico and something-else-that-I-can’t-remember.
The meal was Ridiculously Good. The highlights were the texturally complex chicken liver mousse, my Beef Cheek pierogis (which was the whole reason I chose J. Betski’s in the first place. I mean, they’re pierogis. Filled with minced beef cheek. Awesomely Delicious), The Beloved’s steak-the limburger butter/caramelized onion pungent/sweet combination was Excellent, and the Sachertorte, which was as traditional in components and flavors as a Sachertorte made in Raleigh, NC could be.
And they even hand stretch their strudel dough! The wee crunchy looking things are the toasted bread crumbs that they sprinkle on the buttered dough before rolling it up.