Tale from the kitchen: lessons learned from a not-so-successful culinary experiment

This past Saturday was quite the eventful day. Between the photowalk in the morning, and an arts/music event in the evening, I had plenty of time to pass by. I took care of some personal business (okay, renewing and updating the address on my Houston Public Library card, which had been expired for a good 9 months and change), which still left me with a few hours. So, it was off to meet up with my friend Nick at a shared space he was a member of at the time, for my part in helping him out with culinary experiments in exchange for a share of the results.

Nick and I were attempting to reproduce this recipe for Enchiladas De Queso from cooks.com. After a quick trip to a nearby grocery store to get the ingredients, we start the process of getting everything ready.

A bit of a note here: despite the fact I don’t cook that often these days, I’m not a kitchen greenhorn by any sense of the imagination. Granted, most of what I have cooked is Hamburger Helper and simple stove-top concoctions, and of course untold numbers of frozen pizzas and TV dinners. (As a rule, since 2004 or so, I avoid consuming microwaved food whenever possible, to the point of improvising oven heating directions when I don’t notice an item is intended only for microwave oven preparationĀ  until after it’s been bought.) That said, when it comes to cooking, I am still probably the more experienced of the two of us. I wound up doing most of the things like chopping the onions and the actual removal of the dish from the oven. (I had done my fair share of onion chopping from helping my mom make prepackaged red beans and rice in the weeks prior.)

We get to the part where it’s time to dip the tortillas in the oil and salsa. I never found out what the reason was, but we kept having the tortillas rip and/or not dip properly. So after the first few failed attempts to make “proper” enchiladas, I make the command decision to salvage this mess that’s going to culinary hell in a handbasket, and switch to making a Tex-Mex casserole dish. Basically, we just made layers of tortilla, onions, cheese, salsa, and green onions. Twenty minutes later, dinner is served. (Okay, so I originally planned this as lunch and it’s now closer to dinnertime.) There’s definitely something sort of missing (it’s edible, it’s just there’s not much to it). I’d do it all over again knowing the result, though there were things I’d have changed given the opportunity.

I have to give Nick some credit here for being adventurous enough to try cooking of this sort. Of course it is not realistic to expect someone to do a Julia ChildĀ impression the very first time. I am out of practice from cooking, having depended on fast food restaurants to fill the gap more often than I’m proud of (brown bagging it doesn’t really work when spending the entire day out and about).

I’m still trying to figure out what went wrong when we followed the directions as advertised. My first guess is that the oil simply wasn’t hot enough, and even if it was, the sauce was probably not the type really intended for making enchiladas (we used a store brand picante sauce, which is what we thought the recipe called for), so it may not have even mattered if the sauce was hot enough. I’m open to ideas if anyone with more cooking experience has any.