What a way to celebrate the equinox, looking heavenward to watch the Endeavor on its final flight to a spot in history. I have been a space aficionada ever since the ’50s, when I did my senior research paper on Project Mercury. It is almost as if I took ownership, though I know so many others did also.
I remember when I was later teaching, and my fourth graders were equally thrilled when we
launched Endeavor about the time we were studying Captain James Cook’s journey aboard the original Endeavor to the Sandwich Islands to observe the transit of Venus across the face of the sun. This year many people were there in the present-day Hawaiian Islands to watch the same transit, as we did here on the coast. I still run into former students, who report they continue a love for space and science!
Home science in the kitchen is also a continuing passion, with friends requesting my family recipe for enchilada sauce. Keep in mind that there are many regions and states in Mexico, all with their unique and delicious cuisine, and variations within families also. For instance, we always made our sauce from scratch with water, which will satisfy the vegetarians among us. Using chicken now puts it over the top for me.
6 chicken thighs
1/4 cup chili powder blend
1/4 cup unbleached flour
Garlic salt, pepper
1 quart chicken broth
Pat the chicken pieces dry, and clip off any yellow fat and any extraneous skin. Place skin side down in a hot large frying pan (I use a Teflon stewpot), season, and brown well. Turn over and brown the underside; remove from pan and set aside.
Using the drippings from the fried chicken, turn the heat to medium, stir in the flour then the chili powder and cook slightly as you would for gravy. Add half of the chicken broth, stirring vigorously. As it thickens add in the rest of the broth, then place the chicken back in to simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve the chicken as is, or use shredded as a filling for enchiladas, burritos, or tacos. Use the chili sauce for enchiladas.
Cook’s Notes: I make my chili powder a blend of equal parts California (mild) chili powder and New Mexico (hot), a goodly portion of cumin powder (which gives significant flavor), and a slight amount of garlic powder. You may choose your own proportions; I store mine in the fridge in recycled peanut butter jars. I always use unbleached flour when I want anything browned nicely; works better than all-purpose flour. Enchilada sauce continues to thicken as it sets, or while cooking further.
My friend Sue Stoner, from Texas, lived next to us at Dover AFB in the ’60s, and used to “get hongry” for good Mexican food. I’d prepare a big meal, and we’d enjoy the enchiladas with chiles rellenos, tacos and beans, no rice. She’d joke that she would set me up in business because there was not one for thousands of miles, and people would eat whatever I chose to prepare on a given day, since I protested that I could not provide a full-service menu.
Sue is still one of my biggest fans, and in her own words, obliged me with this recipe for “all-time wonderfully fantastic .…”
2 pounds Roma tomatoes,
diced into small bits
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
into small bits
3-4 large garlic cloves
12 stems of cilantro, leaves
only chopped, stems and
1 tsp. lemon juice
Garlic salt to taste
“Process the cilantro and jalapenos in a food processor, and mix all together with the other chopped vegetables for a bit of heaven. Or if you are in a hurry, use your processor for the whole batch, chopping one of the tomatoes for looks and texture. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips or crackers, or over scrambled eggs.
“This doesn’t list exact amounts of ingredients. You do the recipe to taste, and it always tastes better when it sits covered overnight in the refrigerator. It will serve about 12 people nicely if people would only share the bowl of salsa once it is placed on the table or spooned into individual serving cups.
“This is our family recipe, from my cousin, Donna Burkhart from Oklahoma. Yep, she is a native ‘Okie.’ This is the best salsa I have ever tasted or made. Kylee, our youngest granddaughter in Minnesota, insisted I show her how to make it. She remembered it from when we had been up earlier.”
Thus are family traditions conveyed.