Of Green Tomatoes and Turkey Enchiladas

A couple of weeks ago, I sorted what was left of my slowly ripening tomatoes. The ones that were still very green, I decided to make into a green tomato jam. I had been enjoying slices of green tomato, fried simply (unbreaded) with my eggs in the morning, and then stacked all together on whole wheat toast. Yum. I imagined a savory jam which captured that fried green tomato flavor, and I could use it in the same toasty egg combination. I quartered them, roasted them at 350 for an hour (since I had the oven on anyway) then promptly forgot about them. Still in the oven, yes, days later when I remembered. They looked fine, it’s been cool here.

I chucked them into a pot, covered with water and boiled them for some long time, till they were falling apart soft, then rubbed them through a fine mesh strainer to puree them. Then I stopped for a moment and noticed they didn’t smell… that good. I mean, they smelled fine, but extremely vegetal. Not like anything I could imagine calling ‘jam,’ even of the savory variety. I shoved the pot to the back of the fridge to think more about later.

Or preferably to try to forget until rotten so I could dump it.

Yesterday I finally pulled the pot out, sure they had reached “dumpable” by now. I took the lid off and tentatively sniffed. Damn. Still fine. Still that sort of weird smell, but not remotely rotten. Guess I really have to figure out how to use these, I sighed to myself.

I kept ‘green tomato puree ideas’ in the background of my mind overnight, hoping for a brainstorm.

Eureka!

Green enchiladas!

That slightly weird smell was in fact quite a lot like a tomatillo smell. Hmmm, green enchiladas have chicken, but I didn’t have any chicken. If I got a whole chicken at the farmers market, it would have to thaw, then cook and wouldn’t be ready for enchiladas for days. Hmmmm…

Turkey!

I still had several packs of Thanksgiving turkey left in the freezer. It seemed like I’d even heard of turkey enchiladas with green sauce. It was brilliant!

Or rather, the idea was brilliant. I still had some trepidation as I committed lots of time and good ingredients to that slightly weird smelling sauce. I assembled it in the afternoon, so the suspense was at a fever pitch by 5 o’clock when I set it on the table, with a nice Mexican slaw alongside.

Yum! After all that neglect and weirdness, it came out sooooo good. It was like spinning straw into gold, without any fear of losing a first-born child to a tricky dwarf.

Most likely y’all are done using up green tomatoes in any way possible, but in case you have any still kicking around– fresh, jarred or frozen (I chucked some into a ziplock in the freezer back in my early December panic)– I can’t recommend this highly enough. Of course I don’t have any kind of real recipe to offer up, but here’s the basics.

Fry an onion. Add some garlic. Shake on not too much cumin, and whatever other mexican spices are your faves. I had a jar of chipotle sauce, so added a tablespoon of that and let it fry for a minute. Then I stirred in about 1/2 cup of dark beer. I love cooking with beer, not only does it give a great flavor, but then– oh darn, what am I gonna do with the rest of this beer?

I dumped in the green tomato puree (oh, something like 3 cups) and the juice of one blood orange. Hey, it needed to get used up. Think creatively, right? Then I added my defrosted turkey scraps and let the whole thing simmer for an hour or more. Salt to taste.

(If you had any green chiles they would be ever so appropriate here. I was actually concerned about the quality of green enchiladas without green chiles, but they turned out dandy.)

Grate plenty of cheese, I used a mix of cheddar and mozzarella.

Fry your corn tortillas. This is a must for really good enchiladas, whatever the color. I used about 12, I think.

Then I strained the sauce off of the turkey mixture (reserve sauce of course) and kind of mashed the turkey around to shred it, it was super tender by now. I mixed the turkey with a cup of cottage cheese– again, cuz I had it– and because I was adding the cottage cheese I thought I’d better throw in an egg. Then a big heap of cilantro from my garden. Check the salt.

I used a 7×11 inch pyrex. A smear of sauce in the bottom, then 3 tortillas, evenly spaced and overlapped. Lump a third of the turkey filling over the tortillas and spread it evenly, not to the edge of the pan, but just to the edge of the tortillas. Thin sprinkle of cheese, 3 more tortillas, and repeat for two more layers. Finish off with tortillas, the rest of the sauce, a bit of cilantro and cheese. If you have what seems like too much sauce, and it pools down into the space between the tortilla stack and the edges of the pan, don’t worry– it thickens right up into a nice extra tangy side spooge.

We’re big fans of coleslaw round these parts. Particularly, the 3YO who can shovel away a good pint of it all to herself if she hasn’t had it in awhile. And who am I to stop her? Whenever we eat Tex-Mex, I add a bit of cilantro to my regular slaw, and lime juice instead of vinegar if I have it. It adds just the right lift to the otherwise heavy Americanized Mexican food. Plus, well did you see the size of the cabbage in the last post? We’ve been at it for weeks already.

(Sorry I don’t have any photos, our camera is in a bad mood lately. But honestly, it wasn’t pretty food. Delicious, yes. Pretty, not so much.)

Here’s to green tomatoes and using up the harvest!

One thought on “Of Green Tomatoes and Turkey Enchiladas

  1. I just discovered a gallon bag of chopped green tomato in the freezer a few days ago! My reaction: “Oh, Lord, not more green tomatoes.” (Last summer was a rough year for heat lovers up here in Seattle. I was drowning in green tom’s, and I’m still drowning in green tomato products: pickles, jams, mincemeat…I even made green tomato pie in October, which was horrible.) This post was exactly the inspiration I needed for the inspiration to do something with the bag in the freezer.

    Relatedly, got any good ideas for 8 pints of green tomato mincemeat?

    By the way, nice to see you blogging more frequently again. I love your posts.

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