Trouble With Toast

Lazy Wednesday Food Meme

October 29, 2008
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It’s Wednesday, but it feels like it should be Friday (actually, it feels like it should be NEXT Friday).  I’m sans fiance this week, and being the sole caregiver of our pup is sucking every last bit of energy out of me.  I’m also eating like a bachelorette, so I don’t have any good recipes to post.  So, you get a meme!  At least it’s food-related…

Favorite food to crunch: Dill pickles, garlicky croutons, apples from the orchard of my childhood.
Favorite comfort food: It sounds crazy, but McDonald’s.  After EVERY one of my surgeries, as soon as I’m wheeled out the door, I want some McNuggets and fries.  I always regret the decision later (there’s a reason they tell you to eat light after anesthesia), but at the time, it is so good and makes me feel so much better.
Favorite picnic lunch: A killer sandwich with fresh fixins, my grandmother’s potato salad, and homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Favorite food scene in movie: Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm at the deli in “When Harry Met Sally.”
Favorite food lyrics: All I can think of right now is Zac Brown’s “Chicken Fried,” which I have heard at least half a dozen times over the past 24 hours.
Best food smell memory: Home fries in a hot skillet with onions and paprika, clam chowder simmering in a pot, and German pancakes browning on the stove.
Favorite summer snack: Sliced tomatoes with fresh cracked pepper, any kind of corn salad.
Food that reminds me of the ocean: My dad’s fried shrimp, and oysters on the halfshell.  Drool.
Favorite winter snack: Hot apple cider (or hot cocoa) and warm cookies.
Most likely to eat for lunch: A sandwich, or leftovers from the previous night’s dinner.
Least likely to eat for lunch: A salad.  I’d be hungry again in an hour!
Makes me gag: Olives and blue cheese, either together or separate. 
Food tradition I love: The fact that my family has prime rib instead of turkey for Thanksgiving, and that we always break out the pigs-in-blankets during fall football games.
Food tradition I loathe: Fruitcake.  And cheese balls/logs.
Favorite wild foods: I don’t know that I’ve ever just encountered something in the wild and then eaten it.  I guess the closest I’ve come is stealing home-grown tomatoes from my neighbor’s vines.
Favorite medicinal food: Matzo ball soup, hands down.
Food that reflects my heritage: See above, at least for my Jewish heritage.
Food most like me: Probably some sort of over the top, ridiculously decadent dessert.  You know, something that has to be the center of attention.
Favorite raw food smell: Cilantro.


Back to Basics: Brown Chicken Stock

October 27, 2008
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This weekend, I turned my previously made white chicken stock into a brown chicken stock, which will eventually be used in a fancy shmancy lamb dish.  Since I had started with the white, the brown was very easy, as most of the process is the same.  I also used Tom Colicchio’s recipe for this stock, since the previous one turned out so well.

The main difference: you brown the 4 pounds of chicken parts/bones before you add any liquid.  I did so, and then I covered the browned chicken (by about an inch) with the white chicken stock.  You could certainly use water, but obviously the flavors won’t be as rich.  I also added two teaspoons of tomato paste (which, consequently, is also a source of this stock’s darker color).  I let the liquid come to a boil, and then I simmered for about an hour.  Note that, this time, I did NOT do two boils!

After the simmer, I added pretty much the same veggie mixture as I used in the white stock (the peppercorns are the only obvious omission): a quartered onion, two chopped leeks (white part only), 1-2 chopped carrots, 2 stalks of chopped celery, and a bay leaf.  I continued to simmer for about 15 minutes, and then I added the herbs: 3-4 twigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1 twig of thyme, and 1 twig of rosemary (which was not a part of the white stock recipe).  Five more minutes of simmering, and voila!  Stock!

After straining, I let the stock come to room temperature and skimmed off the last layer of “scum.”  Then I froze it.  No pictures, sadly, but I am really happy with the result.  The color is right, the clarity is right, the flavor is right–and I think the homemade stock is going to make a huge difference in my braised lamb.

Moral of the story?  I’ll never buy canned stock again…and neither should you!


Back to Basics: White Chicken Stock

October 24, 2008
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About a year ago, I bought Tom Colicchio’s cookbook, Think Like a Chef.  When I got it home and started reading it, I realized that, in order to make many (if not most) of the recipes, I’d have to make stock.  And when I say “make stock,” I don’t mean “go to the grocery store and buy canned/boxed stock.”  After all, Chef Tom insisted over and over that store-bought stock was no better than water, and that only homemade stock would lend the appropriate flavors to whatever dish I was preparing.  I put the book back on my shelf, where it stayed, lonely and unused.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago, when I was menu planning for next weekend’s celebratory feast to commemorate my parents’ birthdays.  Miss Lemmonex helped me pick a great lamb recipe, but as I was reading it, I noticed that it called for chicken stock.  Needless to say, I was not about to celebrate the births of my parents with canned stock.  So, I decided to revisit Mr. Colicchio’s book and tackle a kitchen necessity that I should have mastered long ago.

In reality, stockmaking turned out to be pretty simple–though the flavors absolutely hinge on having good, fresh ingredients.  Also, stock will be a much cheaper proposition if you have a good butcher, as you will be able to buy chicken bones at a fraction of the cost of chicken legs, wings, and backs (which is what I ended up using).  Oh, and if you use bones, you will save yourself the annoyance of having to trim the skin and fat off of the various chicken parts (if you have to use parts, try to get them skinless but NOT boneless).  Though, I must say, my dog was really excited when I was trimming the chicken, as he was the beneficiary of any messed-up bits.

The result was a great white chicken stock and a kitchen that smelled REALLY good.  Upon tasting the finished product, I wondered how I had ever used boxed stock to make my risottos and soups.  For shame!  While I can use this stock for future dishes, my next step is to use it as a building block for the brown chicken stock that will eventually wind up in the birthday lamb.  To be continued…

  • 4 pounds chicken bones or 4 pounds chicken legs, wings, and backs
    1 onion, peeled and quartered
    1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
    2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
    2 leeks, white parts only, trimmed and chopped
    1 bay leaf
    Peppercorns
    3 to 4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
    3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme

Rinse chicken bones or chicken parts well. Remove the fat and skin if any, and place into a pot with just enough hot water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and let boil for about 2 minutes.

Drain the chicken and discard the water (note: Chef Tom says that pouring off the original water after the first boil will NOT pour off flavor; instead, it will remove all of the blood and a lot of the coagulated proteins, which form a gray scum on the surface).  Return the chicken to the pot, cover with fresh water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and gently simmer the stock for about 1 hour, skimming whenever fat or scum accumulates on the surface. Add more hot water if necessary to keep the level consistent.

Add the onion, carrot, celery, leeks, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the parsley and thyme and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and strain the stock. Cool, and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 4 months.


Parish gets it right

October 23, 2008
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The first time we visited Parish (another Concentrics restaurant), we didn’t eat.  I won’t get into the dirty details, but basically, their website was very misleading about their dog-friendliness, and the policy was communicated to us in such a way that we felt uncomfortable and unwelcome.  My fiance was so upset by the experience that he wrote an angry (but still polite) email to company management.

Well, management was prompt in getting back to us, apologizing, and inviting us back for brunch on the house.  So, we went in on a Sunday afternoon, and we sat on the back patio by the market with our pup.  Chris was our server, and he made great recommendations (since it was our first time dining there) and was incredibly friendly.  Beignets came out right away, and while they weren’t as light and airy as some I’ve had in New Orleans, they were tasty and a decadent start to the meal.

After we ordered a cup of the chicken and andouille gumbo (tangy, and served in cute little cast-iron pots), we let Chris bring us whatever he thought was best.  For Jason, he brought the crab sardou omelette, with crab, artichoke, spinach, hollandaise, and hashbrowns and fruit.  He loved it!  I got the chicken pontalba, which is a skin-on roasted chicken breast roll-up sort of thing with andouille hash and hollandaise.  Oh my gosh, it was so rich and delicious–and the chicken was cooked PERFECTLY.  We also split a half-order of pain perdu, which is basically Cajun-influenced French toast.  A nice sweet end to the meal.

We had a great breakfast cocktail, a Napa Sunrise–grapefuit juice mixed with rose brut.  Like a mimosa, but more tangy than sweet.  Delicious and refreshing.

We couldn’t eat another bite, so we didn’t have dessert–but Chris sent us home with a pear pastry that we heated up later, and it was quite good.  So, a MUCH better experience than our first one!  I’m sure there was special attention paid to us because we complained about our previous treatment, but it worked in turning our opinions around–and we’ll definitely be back!  Note to all restaurants: it is so simple (and relatively inexpensive) to turn a negative experience into a positive one for a guest.  Do yourselves a favor and invest in quality customer service!  Parish made things right, and it made us happy–and repeat–diners.


The Vortex…of Deliciousness

October 20, 2008
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Unfortunately, I moved away from DC before the “burger revolution.”  I’ve never eaten one of Spike’s creations at Good Stuff Eatery, and I missed the culinary revelation that is a Ray’s Hell Burger.  Considering my love of all things between two buns (watch it, now), I was very disappointed about the timing of my relocation.

Good thing there’s the Vortex.  One of my favorite restaurants from my original stint in Atlanta, the Vortex has two intown locations and, in my humble (read: expert) opinion, the best burgers in the city.

I always bring out-of-town guests to the Vortex, not only because it’s an interesting vibe (think indie-goth-biker-pinup), but because I will take ANY excuse to go have one of their burgers.  So, when the esteemed Mr. Hammer was in town last week, we made our way over to the Little Five Points location (where you enter through a giant skull) and chowed down.

Jason ordered the Tex Melt with a bison patty, which was served on Texas toast with cheddar cheese, barbeque sauce, and fried jalapenos.  Yum.  I opted for the Yokohama Mama burger (bison, of course–it’s low fat!  Which makes burgers TOTALLY count as health food!), which boasted a tangy teriyaki glaze, jack cheese, and a ring of grilled pineapple.  Salty and sweet, it really hit the spot.

Now Hammer, he’s a bad mutha.  So he couldn’t order just any burger.  No, he had to prove his vast manliness by ordering the Coronary Bypass Burger (with COW, baby).  This massive half-pound specimen came with a fried egg, three slices of cheese, four strips of bacon, and mayo.  Here it is, in all of its pre-scarfing glory:

It may LOOK small, when cradled in Hammer’s big, strong hands.  But oh no, this is not a burger for the faint of heart.

After burgers, tots (which are essential at the Vortex), and many beers (there is an impressive selection), this residual condiment goo was all that remained:

Take that, DC burger joints.  Take that.

* Note: Hammer’s one criticism of the Bypass burger?  “It needs another egg.”  I salute you, my friend.  Next time, the Double Bypass (which substitutes grilled cheese sandwiches for the buns).


Recipe: Falafel

October 17, 2008
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After a burgerrific get-together with one of my favorite DC bloggers at the Vortex on Tuesday night (post and pics to follow shortly), I decided that Wednesday’s dinner should be of the vegetarian variety.  I also really wanted to use my Cool Daddy deep fryer, which was a housewarming present from my parents and had been collecting dust in the cabinet since early summer.  Hey, I never said I wanted to make a HEALTHY vegetarian meal.

Falafel was the obvious choice, and it really hit the spot.  The deep fryer worked well, but it would have worked even better if I had allowed the chickpea mixture to chill for 3-4 hours instead of 30-40 minutes.  You could certainly fry the falafel in a pan with oil, too, though I might suggest investing in a splatter guard (ANY moisture in the falafel will result in a little spitting).  In any case, this was an easy and affordable meal that gave my body a much-needed break from meat.  Hope you enjoy!

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and patted dry
  • 1/2 small onion, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil, for frying

Combine all falafel ingredients expect oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse mixture until coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.  Form the falafel mixture into balls about the size of walnuts and press to flatten.  Heat 4 inches of oil to 375 degrees F in a deep pot or deep fryer. Fry about 6 balls at once for about 4 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Stuff pitas with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, and tahini.


Recipe: Tortilla with Chorizo

October 15, 2008
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NOTE: Before you attempt this recipe, make absolutely certain that you have an OVEN-SAFE 12-inch skillet.  Disaster will result and familial relations may be severely jeopardized if you do not heed this advice.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  But when I volunteered to make this breakfast while at my parents’ mountain vacation home last weekend, I assumed that I would have the proper tools to cook with.  And we all know what happens when you assume.

After giving my mom a hard time and beating myself up a bit, I did manage to salvage the idea of this dish.  The flavors are all there, and it is incredibly hearty, but you really need to finish it in the oven to get that great frittata/tortilla browning while cooking the middle of the eggs and not burning the bottom.  I would also note, I cubed the potatoes pretty roughly, and I might suggest dicing them a little smaller.  Otherwise, as long as you’ve got a pan that can handle the heat, get in the kitchen and make this dish!

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 (7-ounce) package pre-cooked chorizo, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound red potatoes, cubed, boiled until tender and drained
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1 pinch
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 eggs

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Heat canola oil in a 12-inch nonstick or cast iron saute pan over medium high heat. Add onions and peppers, cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add chorizo, potatoes, garlic, and cilantro stirring carefully as to not break up the potatoes, cook 1 more minute. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl whisk eggs with a pinch of salt until well blended. Add eggs to the pan with the chorizo mixture. Stir gently with a heatproof spatula, allowing the bottom to cook, pulling away at the sides to allow the egg on top to run underneath as if cooking an omelet.

When eggs are mostly set but still a little runny place pan in oven for about 5 minutes until set and slightly puffed and brown on top.

Remove from oven. Cut into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Recipe: Three-Cheese Lasagna with Italian Sausage

October 14, 2008
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When I get a hankering for lasagna, I usually do one of two things: 1) go to an Italian restaurant, or 2) pick up a box of Stouffer’s.  Last week, however, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and do the whole lasagna shebang (minus the noodles and the cheese–because seriously, I don’t have time for that shit) from scratch.  The ultimate question: will the payoff at the end justify the significant amount of extra work?

This recipe is from Bon Appetit magazine.  The sauce made my kitchen smell divine while it was simmering, and the dish was pretty simple to assemble once all of the components were mixed.  A nice bonus is that it can all be put together a day in advance and then just covered and refrigerated until ready for the oven.

But, doggone it, I just didn’t think it was THAT much better than Stouffer’s.  I know.  Shameful.  The men in dark suits will be along any minute to confiscate my foodie card, I’m sure.

Seriously, it was tasty and filling, and it was actually better leftover (as many tomato-based pastas are, in my opinion).  But yeah, for the 2-3 hours it took (and that doesn’t include the 1.5 hours of cooking time), I’m just not sure it was worth it.  For this busy girl, the frozen foods section will still come through in the clutch for lasagna cravings.

Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 cup chopped onion
    3/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrots
    2 tablespoons minced garlic
    8 ounces lean ground beef
    6 ounces spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
    1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
    1/4 cup tomato paste
    1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
    1 tablespoon golden brown sugar
    1 tablespoon dried oregano
    1 bay leaf
    1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Lasagna:

  • 15 lasagna noodles
  • 2 15-ounce containers part-skim ricotta cheese
    1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained,
    squeezed dry
    2 large eggs
  • 4 3/4 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and garlic; sauté until softened, about 12 minutes. Add beef and sausages to pan; sauté until cooked through, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until flavors blend and sauce measures about 5 cups, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain; cover with cold water.

Combine ricotta and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Mix in spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs.

Drain pasta and pat dry. Spread 1/2 cup sauce over bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish. Place 5 noodles over sauce, overlapping to fit. Spread half of ricotta-spinach mixture evenly over noodles. Sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella cheese evenly over ricotta-spinach mixture. Spoon 1 1/2 cups sauce over cheese, spreading with spatula to cover (sauce will be thick). Repeat layering with 5 noodles, remaining ricotta-spinach mixture, 2 cups mozzarella and 1 1/2 cups sauce. Arrange remaining 5 noodles over sauce. Spread remaining sauce over noodles. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese evenly over lasagna. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake lasagna 40 minutes; uncover and bake until hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Let lasagna stand 15 minutes before serving.


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Date Night at Wisteria

October 6, 2008
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A lot of people complain about Open Table, claiming that they’ve been treated poorly (as compared to call-in reservations), that their reservations have been cancelled without notice, and that points were not awarded when they should have been.  In my personal experience, Open Table is an invaluable tool, and a rewarding one–in fact, a $20 Open Table reward certificate is what brought us to Wisteria on Friday night.  And thank goodness!  We are so happy to have discovered such a gem within walking distance of our apartment.

Located on North Higland Avenue in the Inman Park neighborhood, Wisteria has a very warm and inviting decor–there’s some great exposed brick, and lots of cool artwork on the wall.  The space is big enough to feel hip and happening, but it’s not so big that it becomes deafeningly loud at full capacity.  There is a small bar where (I believe) you can order from the full menu.  My fiance ordered a gimlet at the bar, and he said it was very well-made, but it harkened us back to DC with its $12 pricetag.

We asked our lovely server to bring us a dry white wine in the $30-$40 range, and she did just that–I just wish I could remember what it was!  In any case, it played very well with the food and was reasonably priced.

For appetizers, I couldn’t resist the Kumamoto oysters flown in from the Pacific coast, and they were as briny and delicious as I expected.  They were served with some sort of cocktail/mignonette hybrid, but to be honest, I didn’t use a drop of it because the oysters were so tasty.  Fiance ordered the seared sea scallops over braised pork belly, radicchio, and a bourbon-molasses reduction.  Yum!  The scallops were just underdone, which is exactly how we like them, and the pork belly gave the dish some salty, slightly crispy contrast.

For entrees, fiance went with the pan-seared skate wing, which was served with lemon brown butter, stone-ground grits, and asparagus.  The fish was delicious and perfectly cooked, and the accompaniments suited the dish very well (though the asparagus were a little scrawny, and I was surprised to see them on the plate out of season).  I opted for the roasted half duck–and I probably shouldn’t have.  Don’t get me wrong, the flavors were spot-on (it was glazed with an orange ginger sauce and served with a Napa cabbage and julienne pepper saute), and it was prepared exactly as it was described.  However, I really prefer my duck cooked rare, and roasting forced the bird to be more like medium.  The good news was, the skin was perfectly crispy, and it was a delicious treat.

Desserts are more like tastes, and the idea is to mix and match and try a number of them.  We opted for three for $10, and we chose the carrot cake (which I don’t like, but which Jason thought was very good), the pecan pie (a good, solid rendition), and the balsamic strawberry and mascarpone tart (stellar–I could have eaten three more).  I like the concept of dessert “tapas,” so you can sample a bunch without feeling totally bloated.

Service was excellent–friendly and attentive, but not annoying and overbearing.  Our waitress really knew the menu, and she made excellent suggestions.  With a bottle of wine, two apps, two entrees, three dessert “tastes,” a glass of port, tax, our Open Table certificate, and tip (on the pre-discounted amount, of course), we walked out for less than $150.  For what we received, we both felt that Wisteria was a good value–and certainly a wonderful neighborhood destination.


Recipe: Cheese-a-rific, Cilantro-tastic Enchiladas

October 3, 2008
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Yes, that recipe name is a Trouble With Toast original, thankyouverymuch (but I got the inspiration from a Bon Appetit recipe).  When it comes to Tex-Mex, I’m either steadfastly opposed to it or madly craving it.  This week, I found myself in the latter situation, but I decided to veer from my usual “throw a bunch of stuff in a flour tortilla and call it a taco” method and stretch into enchilada territory.

Warning: if you are one of those unfortunate souls who cannot stomach the flavor of cilantro, AVOID THIS RECIPE.  It is very prevalent, and it is intended to be, so another version of enchiladas might be better for you (as opposed to omitting the ingredient and having to reconfigure the entire shebang).

The dish is incredibly rich, but it has tons of great flavor, so a small portion goes a long way.  You could certainly shred some cooked meat into the tortillas (perhaps some store-bought rotisserie chicken or leftover pulled pork), but again, this is a very filling dish, so it probably works best as a vegetarian entree.  I wish I had some pictures to share, but they didn’t come out very well–and come on, we all know what enchiladas look like, right?  Anyway, cilantro-lovers, rejoice and enjoy!

  • 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 tablespoon all purpose flour
    1 cup whipping cream
    1 cup milk (I used skim)
    6 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    3 green onions, minced
    4-ounce can diced green chilies, drained
    1 3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
    1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper (cut this down if you’re spice-sensitive)
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    12 6-inch corn tortillas
    3 cups grated mild cheddar cheese (I used reduced fat)
    1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese (reduced fat here as well)
    1/2 cup finely chopped onion
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
    1/2 cup sour cream (I used fat free)

Cook spinach according to package instructions. Drain well. Set aside. Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add flour and stir mixture 2 minutes; do not brown. Gradually whisk in whipping cream and milk. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in spinach, cilantro, green onion, chilies, cumin, coriander and red pepper. Puree in batches in processor until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in heavy small skillet over medium-high heat. Using tongs, briefly dip each tortilla in oil to soften, about 15 seconds per side. Transfer to paper towels and drain. Combine cheeses in large bowl; set aside
1 1/2 cups for topping. Combine onion and cilantro in small bowl. Place 1/4 cup cheese mixture in center of 1 tortilla. Spoon 2 teaspoons onion mixture over. Roll up tortilla. Place seam side down in large glass baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas, cheese and onion, using 1/4 cup cheese for each.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Stir sour cream into sauce; pour over enchiladas. Sprinkle with reserved 1 1/2 cups cheese. Bake until cheese melts and enchiladas are heated through, about 25-30 minutes.


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