Food & Drink | March 2020

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

Lessons in Lent

We were a mixed marriage starting out. Abby grew up Catholic; I grew up Southern Baptist. We were both attending First Baptist Woodway when we got married, so we continued there for a while, then left to help start the now-defunct Stonegate Community Church. After a few years and some church-hopping in Arkansas, we moved back to Waco in 2005 and began the search for a new church.

We eventually ended up at Calvary Baptist Church, a moderate congregation that observes things such as the season of Lent, leading into Good Friday and Easter. Abby was familiar with those traditions. I was not, so the notion of giving up something as a sacrifice for Lent was new to me.

A few years ago, Calvary’s then-pastor Jim Coston said that instead of giving up something, parishioners could begin something new for Lent, the 40-day period. We haven’t embraced that philosophy until this year. Our goal is to take a family walk — even if it’s only for 15 minutes — every evening. It might be before dinner, it might be after. It might be cold or rainy. It might be late by the time we’re all through with the things that need to be done, but then it’ll be time to put on walking shoes and head out the door.

In addition, we also intend to spend time at dinner each night talking about something we’re thankful for that we encountered during that day. We’ve already kind of been doing that. Ever since the kids have been in school, I ask them two questions sometime after we all get home every day: Did anything make you happy at school today? Did anything make you sad?

Over the years, we’ve taken part in the normal Lent practice of giving up something we enjoy as a sign of sacrifice. During those seasons, we’ve given up soda, sweets and video games (that one applies to the two younger members of the family) for the traditional 40 days.

Last year, over dinner one night, shortly before Lent, our family was discussing what we might do in observation that time around. We settled on not eating out. No quick drive-through meals when we were rushed. No lunch trips to Baris or El Charro Cafe after church on Sundays. No take-out pizza for a lazy Friday night.

That meant we were cooking a lot more, which meant we had more leftovers. Some of us in the house are fine with simply reheating and eating the same meal a couple of nights in a row; a couple of teenagers who-shall-remain-nameless are not. So we had to get creative. Instead of having, say, roasted chicken and vegetables two consecutive nights, we’d use leftovers to make quesadillas or, as in the recipes below, enchiladas, soup or pizza.

Roasting a chicken is a pretty simple task, and recipes for that abound online. If you’re going to the (minimal) trouble of roasting a chicken, you might as well go ahead and roast two. (Or you could buy an already-cooked rotisserie chicken or two at the grocery store. Even though you’re buying prepared food, you’re not technically eating out, so you’ll be sticking to your Lenten vow.)

The Corn Confetti is one of our all-time favorite side dishes. It pairs well with the Chicken Enchiladas Verde but works fine alongside hamburgers or barbecue, and it’s great as a dip with tortilla chips. If there’s any left over, it heats up well, but it’s also just fine cold or at room temperature. Add more jalapeno if you want more heat.

The Recipes

Chicken Enchiladas Verde

For the chicken:

  • 1 1/2 pounds leftover or store-bought roasted chicken

For the salsa verde:

  • 1 pound fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut into quarters
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 serrano chiles, or more to taste, seeds removed for less spice; stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 4 to 5 stems fresh cilantro, with leaves, roughly chopped
  • Salt to taste

For the enchiladas:

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 12 yellow corn tortillas
  • 1 cup crumbled queso fresco
  • 1 cup Mexican crema, creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped (optional)

Heat oven to 375 F.

Shred the chicken and set aside.

To make the salsa verde, combine tomatillos, onion, garlic, chiles and cilantro in a food processor and puree until smooth. Add water if it needs to be thinned out a bit. Add salt to taste.

To prepare the tortillas, place a medium saute pan over medium-high heat and heat oil until it begins to shimmer. Place a tortilla in the hot oil; it should start to bubble immediately. Heat for about 10 seconds on each side until it’s soft and lightly browned. Remove tortilla and set on a rack set over a baking pan or a dinner plate. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, working quickly.

To assemble the enchiladas, spoon about 1/2 cup of salsa verde in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and spread it out. On a tortilla, place a few tablespoons of shredded chicken and about a teaspoon of salsa verde and roll it up. Place seam-side down in the baking dish and repeat with the remaining tortillas, chicken and salsa. Pour more salsa verde over the top of the tortillas and sprinkle with about half the crumbled queso fresco.

Place the dish in the oven and bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with crema and remaining cheese. Add chopped onion, if using. Drizzle Lime Sour Cream or Chipotle Sour Cream — or both — over the enchiladas. Serve while still hot.

Makes about 6 servings.


Lime Sour Cream

  • Zest and juice of 1 small lime
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

In a small bowl, combine the lime zest, juice and the sour cream. Mix well. Use with the Chicken Enchiladas Verde and refrigerate any remaining sour cream.

Makes about 1/2 cup.


Chipotle Sour Cream

  • 1 teaspoon chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Dice the pepper and mix with the sour cream in a small bowl. Use with the Chicken Enchiladas Verde and refrigerate any remaining sour cream.

Makes about 1/2 cup.


Corn Confetti

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, to taste; chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 can (15 ounces) corn
  • 2 cans (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

In a skillet set over medium-high heat, place 2 tablespoons butter and allow it to melt. Add the green onions, garlic, jalapeno and bell pepper. Sauté until the pepper is tender.

Add the corn and black beans and continue cooking until heated through. Just before serving, add the remaining butter and stir until it’s melted. Season to serve with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 6 servings.


Smothered Chicken and Mushrooms

  • 1 roasted chicken
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper

Pull apart the chicken and place it on a plate.

To prepare the mushrooms, heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the butter and olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Then add the mushrooms.

Cook until mushrooms are tender and slightly golden around the edges, stirring often, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside in a bowl.

If the mushrooms have absorbed most of the butter and oil, add another tablespoon of butter and allow it to melt. Add the flour and stir until it turns into a thick paste. Add the chicken stock, a little at a time, while constantly stirring until you’ve added all the stock. Return the mushrooms to the skillet and add the thyme. Allow to simmer over low heat about 30 minutes.

Serve the chicken and mushroom gravy over mashed potatoes or rice.

Makes about 4 servings.


Cilantro Chicken Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 64 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 jar (16 ounces) salsa
  • 2 zucchinis, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 cups leftover roasted chicken, chopped
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese or queso fresco, for garnish

In a large pot set over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook until it’s fragrant. Add the broth, salsa, zucchinis, carrots and chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

To serve, place a couple of avocado slices and sprinkle of cilantro in soup bowls. Spoon the soup over and top with cheese.

Makes about 8 servings.


Ranch Chicken Pizza

  • 1 can (10 ounces) refrigerated pizza crust
  • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups leftover roast chicken, coarsely chopped

Heat oven to 425 F. Spray a pizza pan or medium baking sheet with nonstick spray.

Unroll the pizza dough and press it into the prepared pan. Bake for 7 minutes or until it’s golden brown. Remove from oven.

Spread the ranch dressing over the crust and sprinkle on the mozzarella. Add the tomatoes, onion and chicken. Sprinkle on the cheddar cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and melted.

Makes about 8 servings.