— Poor art student, yes. Anyone seriously looking to sell body parts for rent money can generally be considered to be down on their luck.

Starving artist, though?
Definitely not.

It's been about a year and a half since I started living truly on my own. Not quite, "Never have so many illusions been shattered so fast," but close. After receiving my first utility bills, I took to wearing my jacket around the apartment and doing my homework by candlelight. I'm a cheap bastard and make no bones about it. When you have to set up a rotation to see which companies you can avoid paying this month and which ones are going to shut off vital utilities if you don't, you kind of have to be.

This isn't to say that I don't have fun. I just do it on a budget of thirty bucks every other month. See, when you're monetarily challenged, the trick is to make things.

I make yarn. I make squids. Occasionally, I make art. More often, I cook.
Cooking is an essential part of human life; we don't eat, we die. I spend a considerable portion of my time making and eating food, just like the rest of the world. But I like to think I get a little more out of it than fuel to keep my meat shell going though the day. I like to savor my meals, experiment with flavors and cooking styles, and (best of all) make enough food to last me a week for what a single meal would cost in a restaurant.

What follows is one of my favorite recipes. It makes six to nine servings, depending on how hungry you are, freezes well, and takes 20 minutes to cook once the original prep work is done. The best part, of course, is that it costs eight or nine bucks to make. Not quite as cost-efficient as chili or other stew-type dishes, but definitely manageable and worth the time. It's been served-- with great success, I hope-- at a recent nodermeet and is a dish frequently requested by the bottomless pit I call a boyfriend. (who gave them the awful nickname "Jenchiladas," a thing for which I have still not forgiven him.) It's also served, slightly modified, at Hot Damn 5, with hopefully all right success. With all that said, I present to you...


er... that is,

Chicken Enchiladas in Red Sauce


Part 1: The Chicken

First, lay out a sheet of tinfoil and place the chicken on top. Baste the breasts with the cooking oil (erotically or not, it's up to you.) and season them well with the salt, peppers, cumin, and oregano, making sure to rub the spices into both sides. Generously sprinkle the garlic on top. Quarter the onion and wedge the pieces in between and around the breasts.

It's probably a good idea to heat the oven to about 350F right now.

Top the chicken with another layer of tinfoil and roll the edges together, making sure you leave room for steam to form. Carefully place your meat envelope into a baking dish and bake it for about an hour and a half, or until the chicken is tender enough to shred.
Now for the fun part: remove the chicken from the foil, being sure to save the disgustingly soggy garlic and onions for the next part of the recipe. Using two forks, vigorously shred the chicken into tiny pieces.
(note: This is only fun for about five minutes, after which point you will be desperate to get someone else to do it for you. This is why this is a good recipe to make at nodermeets.)

Part 2: The Sauce

Depending on how soon you'd like to eat your enchiladas, you may want to start making the sauce while the chicken bakes.
The first thing to do is kill all the lawyers is heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the flour to the hot oil and stir. Congratulations, you're making a roux. Being careful not to let the mixture burn, cook it until it turns a light brown. At that point, remove it from the heat and add the tomatoes, stock, salsa, garlic, and onions into the pot, taking care to blend everything well. Once that's done, return the pot to the burner and add the various spices into the sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. Don't let the tomatoes burn, which they will do if you forget to stir the pot.
(Note-- the sauce has a tendency to be too watery. If this is the case, add more flour to the pot and simmer for a few more minutes until it reaches the right consistency.)

Part 3: The Big Shebang

You'll need:

Take a small portion of the chicken— that is, about enough to fill two soft-shell tortillas; probably around a cup— and put it into a small bowl. Add two or three tablespoons of the enchilada sauce— enough to coat all the pieces well— and mix thoroughly. If you're planning on cooking for more than one person, adjust the portions accordingly. You've now completed your enchilada filling.

Once the filling is ready, it's time to prepare the tortillas. Fill a largish frying pan with about half an inch of vegetable oil and heat to just-below-spattering. Using tongs, place a tortilla into the hot oil and let it cook for a few seconds, turning it over and cooking it for a few seconds more. Avoid letting the shells get too crispy, or you won't be able to fold them properly for the final steps.

Once cooked, blot the tortillas dry with paper towels and baste them lightly with the enchilada sauce. Fill each shell with about half the chicken-sauce mixture and fold, placing them seam-side down onto an oven-safe plate.

Once the enchiladas have been laid down, spoon some of the remaining sauce over the top and sides, making sure to cover them thoroughly. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Bake the finished wraps in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese gets melty.

If desired, you can serve these with sour cream on the side. Given their ability to leave the people eating them incapable of rapid movement, though, you probably won't be able to serve much else.

Bon apetit, qué aproveche!

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