WILD MUSHROOM ENCHILADAS have been on and off of the room service menu at Texas Health for nearly a decade, and “every time I take them off, returning patients ask for them,” says Gary Vorstenbosch, chef/manager.
Although Texas is beef country, this vegetarian item wows patients again and again. The 360-bed hospital in the Dallas suburbs has excelled in Press Ganey scores, proof of real healthcare excellence.
FEATURING BOLD Southwestern flavors wrapped up in a tortilla, the filling for the enchiladas consists of three different types of mushrooms (Vorstenbosch uses button, shiitake and portabello, but “you can use any combination,” he says.)
Dried-then-reconstituted ancho chiles bring a slight sweetness with a bit of heat. They're a “moderate” on the Scoville scale of heat (1,000 to 1,500 Scoville units. Hotter than a banana pepper, but not as hot as a jalapeno).
Cilantro adds that can't-live-without-it bright taste. Roasted garlic paste further deepens the flavor, and — bonus! — can be made ahead, saved and used in other dishes.
As with so many great dishes, the beginning is a little olive oil in a pan, heating up. Into the pan go some onions, sauteed until they're translucent. Then, mushrooms are added and they start to “give up” their liquid. The flavors begin melding together.
Next come tomatoes, dry herbs, some domestic cheeses and the roasted garlic paste. Simmering commences and the hospital kitchen smells amazing.
Now, ancho chile paste is prepared. Dried ancho chiles play an important part in this dish. When reconstituting dried chiles, you must take out the stems and seeds, break the chile up, wash it off, then submerge in water and boil, followed by simmering for about 20 minutes with a few cloves of garlic and a shallot. Then puree and strain. Why reconstitute dried chiles? Authenticity, plus hydration for the tortillas. “Ancho chile powder cannot be used for this recipe,” Vorstenbosch says. “My first job in the United States was at Stephen Pyles' Star Canyon restaurant,” he adds, by way of explanation. (Pyles pioneered the Southwestern food scene.)
Corn tortillas are now dipped in some chile puree that's been simmered with extra water or vegetable broth (so the dish remains vegetarian). Dipping the tortillas heats them up and makes them more pliable, a key element in great enchiladas. “When they're pliable, they don't break,” Vorstenbosch says.
A little of the ancho paste is added to mushroom mixture and rolled into the tortillas. Then they are held in a refrigerator before room service.
Now it's go time. “When a patient orders, we get a ticket, then warm up the enchiladas in a pie tin for a few minutes in the oven,” he says.
The plate is finished with pico de gallo or crema (sour cream with lime juice could be used) or queso fresco. “You can add a black bean and corn relish or salsa roja as well.”
Finally, the plate is delivered for the patient to enjoy.
See recipe on next page.
Yield: 40 enchiladas
For the filling:
3 oz. olive oil
1 ½ medium onion
3 lbs. button, shiitake and portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ cups Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese
4 oz. cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsps. roasted garlic puree
7 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
4 tsps. basil, dried
¾ cup red pepper, roasted, skinless
2 cups ancho chile puree, divided
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat oil in large skillet. Sautee onion and mushrooms over medium heat until onions are translucent, mushrooms are soft and liquid dissolved. Add garlic puree, cilantro, tomato, basil, oregano and roasted pepper, season with salt and pepper and heat through. Add cheese and 2 oz. of the chile puree. Stir gently until cheese is melted. Refrigerate.
2. Heat the remaining chile puree in a skillet until simmering. Place tortillas one at a time into the puree for 10 seconds to soften. Place mushroom mixture on tortilla evenly. Roll up tortilla, placing seam side down and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes at 350°F until heated through. If not serving immediately, cover enchiladas and refrigerate. Reheat 10-12 minutes at 350°F.
For the accompaniments:
Roasted Salsa Roja
12 ripe tomatoes, halved
4 Tbsps. olive oil
1 cup onion, sliced
5 jalapenos, seeded and sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup cilantro
½ cup fresh lime juice
4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ancho chile puree
Combine tomatoes, oil, onions, chiles and garlic. Roast in 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes, assuring internal temp of at least 145°F. Place mixture in meat grinder. Transfer to bowl and add cilantro, lime juice, salt and ancho chile puree.
8 avocados, large, very ripe
2 Roma tomatoes, large, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup finely diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
4 Tbsps. cilantro, chopped
2 limes, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
Mash avocados roughly. Combine with remaining ingredients.
Recipes: Gary Vorstenbosch, Texas Health