This is what the sky looked like every day when we were in Utah visiting friends last week. EVERY DAY. The photo above was taken at the top of Brighton, but we hit a few other mountains in the area — Canyons and Solitude — and no matter where we went, that sky followed us. Like it knew something. Like it saw the New-Yorkers-Who-Always-Question-New-York coming and decided to launch an all-out campaign to convince us to just move out West already. I mean, really guys, that sky said, is it even a contest?
New York, true to form, was two degrees when we landed on Thursday at midnight. And though I really try my hardest to keep this space free of bad-weather-whining (that seems to be what my Facebook feed is for) I can’t take it anymore. The permanent slate-gray sky; the pile of salt-crusted boots choking up the front entrance; the girls’ stir-craziness that results from not having access to the backyard; the screen times rules that have completely broken down because of the backyard situation; the instagram-envy I feel every time I see the sun shining in someone else’s picture; the cry-for-help texts from Andy that are becoming more and more frequent (“I’m not strong enough” and, just minutes ago, presumably on his walk through Midtown: “Not sure I can do this today.”)
I realize I’m being ridiculous. And ungrateful. We are lucky to have friends who live in beautiful places so we can visit them and then…maybe…contemplate…staying…forever. And we are lucky that it’s almost March, which is the first month of spring (in name, at least) and that the sun is setting later and later, which means that I can take my dinner pictures in natural light instead of under flat countertop bulbs. (What? You hadn’t considered this perk?) And we are SO INCREDIBLY LUCKY that we were down to our last teaspoon of chili powder on Saturday night — mood-lifting enchiladas were on the menu — forcing us to dig deep in our pantry to uncover a jar of red mole paste that had been sent to me from Guelaguetza, an LA-based Oaxacan restaurant. I swear I do not know the owner and I am not being paid, but I will say that the resulting dinner was one of those meals, which, mid-first-bite, I was thinking: When can we make this again? Who can we make it for? Will the mole freeze? Will I be able to get more? Andy has made enchiladas before and they have always been good, but the paste added an entirely new rich — dare I say, authentic — dimension to them. I am no Rick Bayless, but something tells me this has to do with the 50+ ingredients listed on the jar’s label — not additive-type ingredients. Ingredient-type ingredients: chocolate, bread, walnuts, sesame seeds, raisins, cinnamon, salt, garlic, cilantro seeds, pine nuts, ginger, avocado leaves, cumin, peanuts, and dozens of chiles in every possible form. We smothered those enchiladas with mole and grated cheddar, finished with red onion and cilantro, and had ourselves a feast. If ever there was a cure for New York Winter Vacation Re-Entry — and I’m not saying there is one — I’m pretty sure this would be it.
So the light on this photo doesn’t exactly make for the most appetizing looking enchilada, but don’t let that fool you. It might just be the tastiest dinner we’ve had all year.
Here’s a shot of the Mole Rojo. It looks a little different on the website because they just redesigned the label. The Mole paste keeps in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. After that point, you can freeze it for up to six more months.
3 boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
few plugs of olive oil
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
juice from 1/2 lime
1 14-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder (we used a teaspoon because it was all we had, but a little more would be good)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 cup Mole Rojo paste (we used Guelaguetza brand, but you can find mole paste in Mexican groceries or better supermarkets)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup queso fresco (or cotija) plus more for serving
Preheat oven to 375°F. Marinate chicken in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and lime juice. Set aside. In a saucepan, heat tomato sauce, 1/2 cup water, oregano, chili powder, bay leaf, garlic and onion powder. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then add mole paste and chicken broth and stir until dissolved. Simmer another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, grill chicken over medium-high heat (outside or on a cast-iron grill pan), about 10 minutes. (The chicken doesn’t have to be totally cooked through.) Lay out tortillas on a cutting board or countertop. Cut the chicken into strips. and place into the center of each tortilla, roll from both sides, and set into baking dish, seam-side down (as shown below). Smother with mole sauce (to taste) and shower with cheddar and 1/2 cup queso fresco. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is golden and bubbly.