The Whole Enchillada: Some people claim that there’s a waiter to blame, but I know it’s my own dang fault…
Last June, Adam and I hosted a television production crew for a show we were all working on and decided that for dinner, we’d take them to the new Mexican restaurant close to the hotel where they were overnighting. One that we had eaten at before…a place with nice enough atmosphere, pretty decent food and a reasonably priced menu. And, even with appetizers, drinks, entrées and two fried ice creams later, the bill for the entire table totaled eighty-four, twenty-five. It was almost laughable. Eighty-four American dollars! In this struggling economy, it was so refreshing to be able to feed seven adults for under a hundred bucks. Not bad! Not bad at all.
So, a few months later, on Date Night, Adam and I went back to our cheap little dining secret. Secret no more – because on that Friday, they were swamped, filled to the brim with diners now in the know…all lingering impatiently in the lobby. Folks, when it comes to eating out, there are few things, in the presence of my darling husband, that I dread more than these two words spoken by the greeter: Wait List. At least 40 minutes. As the young woman fiddled with her clipboard to take our name and add it to the bottom of the impossibly long line, I closed my eyes shut and bit my lip waiting for Adam’s response. It’s usually quite unpleasant under these circumstances, especially when The Bear is hungry. I squeezed his arm and butted in, almost pleading with the hostess, “..but it shouldn’t be that long for a two-top, right?” A ha! I shot some industry lingo her way and lo and behold, she said, “Actually, yes! I do have something. Right this way.” I winked Adam a small flirtation for my diverting a potential Date Night disaster and he flashed me his deeply, dimpled grin in return.
We wandered and twisted through the crowded rooms, glasses clinking and people chattering, until she led us to a wobbly table way in the back, next to a large family reunion with screaming children…AND right by the busy beverage station. Ladies and gentlemen, this “area” is known as Siberia in the restaurant world. The establishment’s dregs. We both raised an eyebrow as we sat down with a harrumph but were willing to forgo the lengthy wait for a good table that we didn’t have to steady with our hands and feet and take our dining exile with a grain of salt.
Or, in my case, a rim of salt.
Almost immediately, the Chips Dude dropped off a basket of warm fried tortilla wedges and we both mindlessly munched as we perused the menu. When the waiter finally showed up, I ordered a margarita. “What kind of tequila do you want?” the young dark-headed man asked with a very thick accent. “Oh. Well…ummm. Huh. Never been asked that here before. Well, uh, let’s see…,” I stuttered. He quickly suggested Patrón. Although I was more familiar with Jose Cuervo, I had seen the glossy advertisements for this spirit in the pages of my upscale food magazines, so I shrugged, bobbled my head and said, “Sure.” A few minutes later he plunked a heavy clear goblet with a cobalt blue ring around the top on the table. I pulled it in closer and took a sip. It was okay…not fabulous, like “Wow! Now that’s a really good, authentic margarita!” and, frankly, it consisted mostly of ice, but it slipped down easily enough to put out the fire from the spicy salsa. Adam and I didn’t mind the leisurely pace of the meal…we were enjoying our night out together and took our time in between an appetizer or two and another round of drinks. About an hour later, Adam decided to get some dessert. I declined but when the waiter, pointing with his pen to my now empty glass asked, “Another margarita?” Adam piped up and said, “Go ahead, babe. Have another.”
Several minutes went by before the waiter sauntered over and casually dropped off the check. Still nursing my cocktail, Adam turned the ticket over, jerked his head back and frowned, looking extremely confused. “What’s wrong, sweetheart?” I asked as I took a small sip from my straw. He kept studying the bill, shaking his head mumbling, “That can’t be right,” over and over.
“What in the world is it, honey?” I implored.
“Well, the bill is ninety dollars,” he said with a small chuckle.
“What?” I cried, shocked, remembering the lesser tally for the crew dinner. “That can’t possibly be right! Let me see that,” as I snatched the check from his hand. I went over the bill with a mental fine-tuned comb and landed on the bar tab. “This can’t be right! No way, there’s got to be some mistake.”
Adam waved our server over and pointed out the problem. His reply, in broken English, was, “She ordered Patrón. It’s a $18.00 per shot.” I won’t go into detail what my husband said to this guy but even with the waiter’s shallow grasp of the English language, I’m absolutely sure he understood completely that my husband was not a happy Patrón patron. He then reinforced his message in Spanish. I was torn between being exceedingly impressed by Adam’s ability to calmly tell someone off in two languages (Yeah! Take that! What he said!) and feeling livid, duped. Taken for a ride.
To me, it was inexcusable. It felt like such a smarmy and completely irresponsible thing to do, suggesting such an outrageously priced margarita without saying something like, “It’s a costs $18.00, señora, si?” Grrr. I gave that guy major stink eye, leaned down to my straw dramatically and sucked the life outta that drink. Full from dinner or not, I wasn’t about to leave a drop in that glass. It was the whole enchilada or nothing. I have my principles, people.
We had a few words with the manager as we were leaving about their “upsale policy” and despite a half-hearted apology, we left with a really bad taste in our mouth. We really just don’t have good luck with the restaurant thing, do we?
So, now, every time we pass the joint, we both yell, “Boo! Hiss!” It took a while, but we can now laugh about the infamous “Cheap Date Night” when the bar tab exceeded the food bill. But you can rest assured that the next time a waiter makes a menu “suggestion,” I’ll be sure to ask how much his recommendation will cost me. And, if I don’t, well, it will be my own dang fault.
This is a quick, delicious and fun dinner to put on the table, with a little help from a few convenience products (I know, I know. Quite unlike me but I found an enchilada sauce to die for). Although it’s easy to make your own flour tortillas (not to mention a huge wow factor), organic store-bought tortillas are a nice shortcut.
Easy Chicken Enchiladas
- 4 cups cooked shredded chicken
- 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 16 ounces green chile enchilada sauce, such as Frontera, divided
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 soft taco size white flour tortillas
- 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, cream cheese, sour cream, cumin and ¼ cup enchilada sauce. Season with a little salt and pepper and mix until well combined. Spread ½ cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9-x-13 baking dish. Evenly divide the chicken mixture between the tortillas (about ½ cup on each), placing the filling in the center. Sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of cheese on each; fold the tortilla over the filling and roll like a cigar to enclose it. Place the enchilada seam-side down in the baking dish; repeat with remaining tortillas. Cover the enchiladas with the remaining sauce and cheese.
- Bake uncovered until the cheese is bubbling and the sauce has cracked slightly on top, about 25 to 30 minutes.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: I usually leave my cream cheese out overnight to soften, but to bring it to room temperature quickly, place the foil-wrapped block in a zip-loc bag and submerge in warm water for several minutes. You can make the filling one day in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before assembling the enchiladas.
Product Purity: Don’t forget that a rotisserie chicken from your deli is a goldmine of quick and easy dinners, like this recipe. Although I’m not one for many convenience products, I make an exception in this case. Frontera Green Chile Enchilada Sauce, from the brilliant award-winning chef, Rick Bayliss is so perfect in this dish. Mildly spiced with roasted tomatillos and garlic, one bite and I was hooked. Crafted from fresh, all-natural ingredients, you can find it at whole foods markets, like Earth Fare. The other El Paso-like brands of enchilada sauce contain a whole host of offenders. Now, about tortillas. Sigh. Please, I beg you, seek out organic tortillas. Or at least look at the ingredient list on most supermarket brands. They’re a science project. Serious UnFab Four alert here. Maria and Ricardo’s Tortilla Factory makes all natural, no artificial anything in their yummy tortillas. Also available at whole foods markets.
Presentation: Chopped, diced tomatoes, minced cilantro, lime wedges, guacamole and/or sour cream are the traditional garnishes. Serve with some confetti corn with peppers and black beans for a colorful side.
***You can’t serve enchiladas without a margarita! Well, you could, but why in the world would you want to go and do a thing like that? Here’s how to make a real, good one! I’m an On-the-Rocks kind of gal. Extra salt, please. In a large pitcher, combine: 2 cups fresh lime juice, 3 cups tequila and 1 cup triple sec or Gran Marnier. To prepare the traditional salt-rimmed glass: Put some kosher salt in a flat dish. Run a slice of lime around the rim of your serving glass, dip in the salt, pressing firmly. Slip cut lime slices over the lip of the glass as a garnish. Serve over ice.