Oh, late lamented Chi-Chi's, bastion of Amerexican chain restaurant dining! I really miss eating there. I know, I know....many people turn up their noses at chain restaurants, but when you live in central Indiana and you have a small budget for dining out, you can develop a fondness for places like Chi-Chi's, the Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse. I know that the food served in those places is inauthentic and mass produced, but my philosophy is "who cares, if it tastes good?"
And some of it is very good indeed, such as these seafood enchiladas, known as the Cancun. This is what I ordered nearly every time we went to Chi-Chi's and I have missed them wistfully. Until now, that is, because these are the real thing.
I made these enchiladas for dinner the other night (after finding the recipe on the internet) and my entire family swooned. But be warned - these are very, very rich. Next time, I'll cut the recipe in half, so you may want to take that into account if you want to prepare it yourself.
Seafood Enchiladas à la Chi-Chi's
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons lobster base*
3 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1 cup white wine (use a sweeter white table wine or white zin, not a dry white)
8 ounces Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
3 ounces frozen salad-style shrimp, thawed
1 lb flake-style crab meat or 2 8-ounce packages imitation flake-style crab meat
10 6-inch flour tortillas
To prepare the enchilada sauce
Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and add the flour to make a roux. Reduce heat to low; cook and stir for 4-5 minutes. Add white pepper and lobster base, cooking and stirring for another minute. Turn the heat back up to medium and add the wine. Allow the wine to simmer gently for about five minutes so that the alcohol can burn off, leaving only the taste. Add the milk and 2 ounces of the cheese and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened. Once thickened, remove from heat so that the sauce won't scorch. Set it aside so that it will stay warm because you're almost ready to use it.
To prepare the seafood mixture
Chop the crab meat into small chunks place in a medium mixing bowl with the thawed shrimp. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the sauce and set aside.
To prepare the enchiladas
Preheat the oven to 4250F and spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. While the oven heats, gently warm the tortillas in the microwave on a microwave-safe plate between sheets of paper towel, about 90 seconds or so (although microwaves differ; these need to be warm but not hot.)
Once the tortillas are warm and flexible, start by placing one tortilla on a flat surface in front of you, such as a large cutting board or pastry slab. Place about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the seafood mixture in a vertical line on the tortilla; flip the upper and lower ends inward and then roll the tortilla from left to right. This takes a little practice, so don't think badly of yourself if you're all thumbs. I certainly was. My enchiladas looked like they'd been rolled by a chimpanzee. Who'd been smoking funny cigarettes.
Proceed in the same manner with the rest of the tortillas, placing them side by side in the baking dish. When all ten have been rolled (I had some seafood mixture left over), cover with the warm sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for 13-15 minutes; remove from oven and serve on warm plates; sprinkle with paprika and serve.
This recipe, in my family's opinion, serves ten. That was a lotta enchilada, hahahaha. *ahem* Sorry.
*Lobster base can be bought at many grocery stores in the aisle with the soup and bouillon. The brand I bought was called "Better Than Bouillon" and it was soooo ugly in the jar -- it looked like used motor oil with a red crayon melted in it -- but it smelled like absolute heaven. And when you stir it into the roux and add the wine....blissful!!!!
If you can't find lobster base at your grocery store, you can purchase the Better Than Bouillon (Superior Quality Foods) for $5.95 plus shipping at Amazon.com. It really is necessary to achieve the authentic taste of the dish, so it would be a worthy purchase. Plus, there's a recipe for Lobster Bisque on the label that sounds divine.
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