Briseida Rios: Enchiladas with (HOT! HOT! HOT!) Green Salsa
Last month Steve Fruchter shared his unique, deconstructed “stacked” enchilada. This month Briseida Rios, a member of Melissa’s Food Safety team, uses some of the same basic ingredients in her family’s version of this traditional dish—with a Rios very spicy twist and presentation.
“My sisters and I love to make this recipe at least once a month. This dish always reminds me of my grandma, who also makes it and invites the whole family over to catch up over some delicious food. It never fails for one of us sisters to mention how spicy the salsa came out or how our grandpa likes to say ‘not spicy enough,’ and we all have a great laugh. This step is where I get my dad’s stamp of approval to see if he wants me to add more chile peppers. I should warn you that we love spicy foods in my family, so if you are sensitive to spices, be careful with this recipe.”
Take Briseida’s warning about the heat content of her salsa seriously. Only those with a very high heat tolerance should even attempt to follow her recipe to the letter, as the flameless fire it creates on the palate is powerful. No wonder it is basically just three very spicy pepper varieties boiled and pureed into one very searing brew! So, if you have a strong constitution, cook this up just like Briseida and her family like to so that you can fully appreciate and celebrate their tradition. However, for those with a sensitive palate and tummy, the heat of each pepper can be taken down a few notches while still retaining the flavor of this tasty salsa. Do this by removing both stem and seeds, then lightly scrape the interior sides of each pepper before boiling to remove some of the capsaicin, which is the compound responsible for a pepper’s heat. This should take some of the “sting” out of the salsa. No doubt Papa Rios is showing two thumbs down at such an outlandish suggestion!
The treatment of the enchilada itself, as well as the plating of this dish, is also a bit different than being served at a Mexican restaurant in this country. That is, a cooked tortilla dipped in a red sauce, stuffed with a filling, then baked smothered in Monterey Jack cheese. Instead, Briseida’s filling starts with a store-bought, pre-cooked rotisserie chicken that is shredded and then flavor-enhanced with a blend of a few fresh ingredients: onion, garlic, tomato and, a personal favorite seasoning, cumin. She simply wraps a lightly fried tortilla around a generous portion of this cooked filling, plating three per plate, seam side down. Once Papa Rios has given his thumbs-up to the heat of the salsa, she pours it warm overall, topped with lots of crumbled queso fresco cheese plus the other assorted toppings she suggests in her notes. Spicy, yes, but I find the taste experience more defined as is the plating compared to the muddled cacophony of flavors in the traditional smothered-in-cheese version.
For a distributor like Melissa’s, who receives, handles and ships perishables to and from all parts of this country as well as growing regions around the globe, Food Safety is one of the company’s most important central focuses by necessity. Briseida is a member of the team who manages this critical aspect of the fresh produce industry.
“Requirements are constantly changing, and food safety compliance is different for each business depending on the size and purpose of the facility as well as what products it grows or manufactures,” explained Briseida. “So, my role at Melissa’s is making sure that our suppliers and growers stay in compliance with the most up-to-date Food Safety third-party audits to satisfy the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, Good Manufacturing Practices, as well as the Global Food Safety Initiative. The team works closely with our vendors and growers directly to ensure they are producing safe food year-round and obtaining the most current certifications required for the products and crops they are producing.”
When not dealing with the piles of certificates, updates in compliance and tracking down growers for the same, Briseida has a busy life away from the office. It starts and ends each day with “my round, spoiled little Frenchie named Zeus, who is the life of my household.” Besides the monthly brewing of her family’s lethal salsa, she also enjoys finding and trying new restaurants in her area with friends. Concerts, comedy shows and just about any kind of live entertainment is also a regular fun thing. In fact, when asked who she would like to invite to her own table for a meal, her choice was from her current long list of music favorites.
“This question could have many answers as I have many people on this list, lol. But, as of right now, I would jump at the opportunity to invite Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio, known professionally as Bad Bunny, for a meal at my dinner table. He is a Puerto Rican rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer. I play his music almost daily driving to and from the office. Great stuff— puts me in a good mood!”
Note to the chef: Puerto Rican cuisine is not known for having particularly spicy dishes, sauces or salsas compared to Mexican and other cuisines of the Caribbean—I googled this factoid. So, you might want to choose another dish for this guest for fear of turning Bad Bunny into a White Rabbit! Everyone else should enjoy this hot-hot-hot dish!
Chicken Enchiladas in Green Salsa
For the chicken:
2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
2 yellow onions, diced
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 whole rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 tablespoons ground cumin powder
Salt & pepper to taste
For the sauce:
2 cups water
2 hot Hatch chile peppers, stemmed, sliced in half crosswise (to fit in pan)
5 fresh jalapeños, stemmed
4 fresh serrano peppers, stemmed
¼ of a yellow onion, diced
1 ½ garlic cloves, minced
2 green tomatillos, chopped
1 whole bunch of cilantro with stems
Dash of chicken bouillon powder
Salt to taste
Thinly sliced Roma tomatoes
Crumbled queso fresco cheese
Mexican sour cream
Thinly sliced purple onion pickled in lemon juice (Briseida’s favorite)
Sauté the garlic and onion in a large pan with vegetable oil. Once it becomes aromatic, add in the diced tomatoes to soften up and release their juices. Once the veggies are cooked down, add in the shredded chicken, cumin, S & P to taste. Simmer for about 7 minutes over a medium flame. Set aside.
Combine all three peppers, onion, garlic and tomatillos in a saucepan, fill with water to cover and then boil until fork tender. Then cool in the pan so the water takes on the flavors.
When completely cooled, strain and transfer the contents from the pan into a blender. Retain the pan water to add to the salsa if needed. While the blender is running, add the cilantro a bit at a time until best flavor is achieved. Taste test during this process, tweaking the flavor with chicken bouillon powder and salt to personal preference. Use the water to thin out the texture as necessary.
When satisfied with the salsa, transfer the mixture back into the saucepan and reduce just a little to bring all the flavors together.
Now, the fun part begins! Lightly fry a corn tortilla on medium-high heat with some vegetable oil. Then lay each flat on cutting board, place a generous portion of the chicken mixture down the center of the tortilla; fold one side over, then the other side. Turn the enchilada over, seam side down, so the tortilla stays closed on the plate.
To plate, serve three enchiladas per plate with a side of rice. Pour the green sauce over the enchiladas. Chef Briseida’s note: I like mine topped with fresh Mexican sour cream, shredded lettuce, crumbles of queso fresco and thinly sliced Roma tomatoes to finish off the toppings.
Last step, enjoy this delicious dinner that you will for sure love to make again and again as one of my favorite dishes to make!