Casserole-Style Burritos: Everything.

The primary components of these burritos are: chicken and onions, Spanish rice, cheese, tortillas (using yesterday’s recipe and method), spicy sauce, and cheese sauce (covered in another post).

Burrito Filling (adapted from Don Miguel’s “Black Bean Chicken Burrito Recipe“)
1 T oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
10 oz pulled chicken in bite-sized pieces
1 C diced tomato or canned tomato
salt and pepper to taste
1 C jack cheese, shredded

1.    Lightly saute the onion in the oil until it is translucent and add the garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes. 
2.    Add the chicken and cook until heated through.
3.    Add the tomatoes and season, then heat through again.
4.    Use the chicken and cheese when assembling the burritos.

Spanish Rice (my personal recipe)
2 C white rice
1/2 diced sweet onion
2 T olive oil
1-2 t each dried oregano, dried basil, chili powder, paprika, cumin, optional red pepper flakes
1/2 C canned crushed tomatoes
2 C water

1.    Place the oil and spices in a deep saucepan or rice pot.
2.    Saute the onions in the oil and spices.
3.    Place one cup of rice in the water and add the other cup to the pot.
4.    After the rice has been heated through in the oil, add the rice, water, and tomatoes. Cook until most, but not all, of the water has boiled off, then cover and simmer over very low heat for 10-15 minutes.
5.    Use when assembling the burritos.

Note: this is a lot of rice and you will probably have some left over.

Spicy Sauce (adapted from Cooks.Com “BAKED BURRITOS WITH SPICY SAUCE“)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 C water
1/3 C canned green chilies
2 T chili powder
1 t cumin
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
2 C water

1.    Cook the onion and garlic in the 1/2 C water for about 5 minutes and add the spices.
2.    Add the chilies, tomato, and water, then simmer for about 15 minutes.
3.    Use when assembling the burritos and over top of the burritos before baking.

Final Casserole Assembly
Chicken filling and cheese
Spanish rice
Spicy and/or cheese sauce
8+ tortillas, depending on size

1.    Oil one or two pans big enough to hold all the burritos. You will want separate pans for each sauce.
2.    Place a tortilla on a large plate, then fill with chicken, cheese, rice, and a little sauce.
3.    Roll the burrito and place in a pan, then repeat for all the burritos.


4.    Top the burritos with their respective sauces, adding more cheese to the top, if desired.


5.    Bake the casserole(s) until they are heated through, then serve.

After getting fresh basil from the cafeteria because everything in the greenhouse had been picked, we ran into our first major problem. Since our knife choices were butter, steak, and 10-inch chef’s, cutting the bone out of chicken thighs was very difficult. So, rather than continuing to fight the raw chicken, Alex suggested that we bake the chicken. Baking the chicken reminded me that making the burrito filling works very well with any leftover cooked chicken; you don’t need to cook your chicken specifically for this meal.

For our sauces, we used canned tomato sauce and canned diced tomatoes. I blended the diced tomatoes a little to remove the large lumps of tomatoes and we used them in just about everything. To avoid opening more cans, I improvised some on the spicy sauce. I’m not sure how the sauce would turn out if I used the exact ingredients specified, but I think it would be good. I think both casseroles would have turned out better if they had both had the correct amount of sauce and spare space in the pan. While there was a good amount of cheese sauce, there was too much space in the pan and the spicy casserole was lacking both sauce and space.

Cheesy Sauce

Spicy Sauce

Personally, I prefer plain wrapped burritos to a casserole, but there are reasons to make one instead of the other. In significant support of the casserole is the awkward shapes of the tortillas. Since we weren’t cutting the dough after rolling it, no two tortillas were the same size or shape. Since the burrito only needs to hold together long enough to be put in the pan for a casserole, the tortilla only has to be strong, not carefully shaped. However, the casserole took a long time to bake in comparison to assembling burritos from hot ingredients and serving immediately.

Overall, both burrito casseroles were successful. Everyone in our class and other classes who came in to eat some of the burritos appeared to like them. However, in addition to getting the amount of sauce correct, Alex thought the burritos could use more chicken and I thought the burritos could use more rice. When we make more burritos, we can see how we want to do the filling ratios.

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Chicken and Dumpling Soup

Basic Chicken Soup
2 T oil
1 onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
2 quarts chicken stalk
2 C diced chicken
1 T poultry seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

1.    Saute the onions in the oil until they are translucent.
2.    Add the remaining vegetables and saute for anther 2-3 minutes. Add the poultry seasoning and about a teaspoon of salt to the vegetables.
3.    Add the chicken stock and bring the soup to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for half an hour.
4.    Add the chicken to the soup and stir well. Let the soup continue to simmer for ten minutes.
5.    Add the dumplings from the following recipe and cook accordingly.

Dumplings

(adapted from “Mom’s Simple Dumplings“)

1 1/2 C flour
2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
3 T shortening
3/4 C milk

1.    Whisk together the dry ingredients and cut in the shortening
2.    Slowly add the milk into the mixture. Be sure not to overmix the dough.
3.    Drop lumps of dough into boiling soup or stew. The dumplings should remain on top of the soup. Cook covered for ten minutes.

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Twice Baked Potatoes (and that last bit of panic while cooking a whole meal)

Twice Baked Potatoes (adapted from Simply Recipes)

4 large potatoes
1/2 C milk
2 T butter

Additions to mashed potatoes (optional)
1/2 C sour cream
1 T cream
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
salt and pepper to taste

Toppings (optional)
grated cheese
green onion
ham or bacon
chives
sour cream

Baking Potatoes (oven at 400°F)
1.    Wash the potatoes and pierce the skins with a fork.
2.    Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until they are cooked through. You can prepare additional toppings during this time, if desired.
3.    When the potatoes are finished, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool.

Making the Filling and Twice-Baking (oven at 350°F)
1.    After the potatoes are cooled, there are two options for cutting them open. For large and well stuffed potatoes, cut the top third of the potato off. For more individual servings, cut each potato in half.
2.    Spoon out the inside of each potato piece for the mashed potato filling, being sure to leave a layer of potato inside the pieces that will be used as the base later.
3.    Mix the potatoes, milk, butter, and other mashed potato additions. You can use an electric mixer if you want fluffier potatoes.
4.    Spoon the mashed potatoes into the potato bases on a baking sheet and layer the toppings on the mashed potatoes.
5.    Bake the potatoes for 15-20 minutes until warmed through and the tops or toppings are lightly browned.

The potatoes turned out excellently. We didn’t follow this recipe exactly, substituting more smaller potatoes (which I forgot to oil before baking) and opting for Greek yoghurt in place of sour cream. Alex and Luke got everything nicely topped in a variety of combinations using cheese, green onion, and ham. The second baking took about 25 minutes and produced nice potatoes covered in browned cheese and more.

Impromptu Gravy
Pan drippings from two chickens
1-3 T flour
1/2 C milk

1.    Place pan drippings in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.
2.    Add the flour and whisk like crazy.
3.    Slowly add milk, whisking continuously.
4.    Bring back to a simmer and serve.

This was the very last thing to get cooked for our meal because I realized the potential for gravy only after the chickens came out of their ovens. My method was rather ineffective and required a massive amount of whisking (with help from a spatula) to get rid of flour lumps. The gravy came together very nicely as I added the milk to the strange combination of roux and the water component of pan drippings as the remaining flour lumps quickly vanished. Despite whipping it up at the last moment, the gravy came out very well without the need for additional salt or pepper.

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A Tale of Two Chickens

Group 1:   Today, we are cooking two different chickens with completely different origins. One, short-legged, fat , and slightly square, comes from an unknown factory in America. The other, long-legged and lean, comes from the backyard of our instructor, Ms.Baker. These chickens have nothing in common except for the fact the they are chickens.  The differences between a homegrown chicken and the industrialized one are great.

Local, Free Range Chicken (Left) vs. Industrial Chicken (Right)

The home-bred one has been allowed to roam in a large area, and has been fed healthily with grass and chicken-feed, and also corn on cold winter nights. This makes the chicken leaner and long-legged.

The factory chicken had only eaten corn for two months before it was slaughtered for its tender meat. It has rarely been allowed to move to maximize the amount of meat on the bird. The lack of movement gives the chicken a larger breast and shorter legs.

There is a large difference between the taste and texture of the two chickens. The home-bred chicken, though leaner, was much less stringy and had a lot more taste to it. That is probably because of the healthy diet it ate with grass and a few different types of grain. The home-bred chicken also had some juices still in it. The store-bought chicken was much more stringy, and was pretty bland and tasteless, but there was also more of it.

This would bring up the question of what type of chicken should a person buy if they wanted chicken. Well, if you wanted more chicken to feed a larger group, you might want to buy one, maybe even two, store-bought chickens. But if you are a party of two or three, a home-bred chicken would do you just fine, and you would also get the delicious flavor. All in all, I liked both chickens, though I did like the home-bred chicken a little more.

Group 2:  There were many differences between the two chickens set before us on the counter. Firstly, one was free-range, and the other was an industrial chicken. You would almost have thought that they were two different species of birds. What people don’t know is that they practically are. The ways that industrial chickens are processed before they are put into stores seem disgusting. Firstly, chickens are bred and fed to grow so fat and weak that they no longer will be able to walk and barely move. By the time they are taken to the slaughter houses, the chickens would not be able to last much longer if they were left to live.

     The visual differences included the fact that the free-range chickens had longer, more muscular legs, versus the industrial chicken, which had perfectly poised stubby legs that folded right into the breast of the bird. The color of the two different birds were also very different; the industrial chicken had almost a yellow tint to it while the free-ranged chicken was white. The holes in the skin are still left on the free-range chicken where the feathers had previously been, but on the the other chicken, the skin is very smooth and appears to not have had any feathers whatsoever.
     The industrial chick had much different proportions: the breast was much fatter and full, by far surpassing the size of the free-range chick breast, though the actual sizes of the bird revealed that the free-range was larger as a whole. The free-range chicken was much more shapely: it had more angles and more points, and was more proportional in terms of the breast and legs.
     The free-range chicken had been slaughtered and had been left with the internal organs still inside and the neck, which is used for stock, still attached. Since the industrial bird had all of these parts in a small little bag, included in the chicken package, we also assumed that it had been drained of blood before being wrapped up and sent out. The difference between the amount of blood produced by the two birds was surprising, yet most Americans think nothing of the processing that their chicken must go through before it hits their table.
Group 3:
 

The previous question regarding chickens was related to which came first, the chicken or the egg. Technological advances have allowed the human race to directly manipulate the chicken to increase yield drastically. When juxtaposing a factory chicken with a homegrown chicken, the differences are drastic. The size and shape of the differing birds is the most obvious. The homegrown bird appears skinny, with long, well developed legs. It also has small breasts and wings, the more meat around the legs. The factory chicken is almost boxed shaped, with a large amount of meat everywhere. The bird is obese, only able to be living for two months before the overfed and caged birds become so large that their legs break under the weight of their own bodies. when comparing and contrasting the two birds, one begins to wonder if the new, more important question regarding the chicken is centered around the treatment of the birds, and which is healthier for human consumption.

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stock made from each chicken.