It’s been said previously, and on more than one occasion, that I’m from the South. I look forward to our visits back ‘home’ for a whole bunch of reasons. Sure, seeing friends and family are top on that list. I also like it because my accent gets more Southern-like after a couple of days (maybe even a couple of minutes if I’m around my mom or Kris).
Hitting up all of our favorite food joints ranks pretty high as well. And we’re not just talking Southern classics, people. Don’t get me wrong, I am most excited about Aunt Faye’s Sunday Dinners (chicken pastry included, of course), and I do love a Bojangles biscuit and dirty rice. CookOut milkshake? Yes, please. Sammy’s chicken wings w/ Sammy’s Sauce? Come to mama. And then there’s Mexican food. Oh si chicos y chicas! Sea todavía mi corazón!
So yes, it’s safe to say, “Yo adoro” Mexican food. Oh yeah. And in NC, there really isn’t a bad Mexican restaurant. And believe you me, there are thousands of ‘em – Mexican restaurants in NC are like liquor stores in the projects, or Starbucks in downtown Chicago. You get the point, right? I had my go-to when I lived in Raleigh, El Rodeo (and they had a few locations). My all-time favorite in Durham near our old apartment, Bandidos. There was one near my work too that had the best specials and addicting salsa. And let’s not forget my first “date” with Chris: Baja Burrito (we’re so classy…).
But, it’s just not quite the same here in the Big City. Yes, there are still thousands, and I’ve found some gems, that’s for sure:
Pricey but Tasty: Que Rico!, 2814 N Southport in Lakeview. Great margaritas.
Bar Scene: Bar Celona & Grill, 3473 N Clark in Wrigleyville. Spanish/Mexican. In grad school, this was a great happy hour spot. $3 sangria can’t be beat. Blocks from the Cubbies.
Bar Scene w/ Outdoor Seating: Angels & Mariachis, 1721 W Division. Great new find for sure. I think Jennifer & Jon go here like every week. Or, a lot. They have great margaritas too.
I Can’t Remember the Name of the one with the coconut margaritas, Belmont, West of the Belmont red line stop by 3 blocks. Super duper enchilada suizas.
Supa Dupa Cheap: Flash Taco, 1570 N Damen Avenue. Right off the Blue Line Damen!! This is Chris’ favorite midnight spot, just like everyone else in our neighborhood.
Quick & Cheap: La Pasadita 1132, 1140, 1142 N Ashland. Yes, three locations. They’re busy!
But I finally did get around to it, and I am glad I did. I had to change a few things, but that’s fine. But if you like enchiladas and if you like shrimp, I’d say to give it a go. Plus, anything roasted always tastes better, and roasted salsa verde is top notch for flavor.
Poll to the People: What are your favorite Mexican restaurants and recipes? What have I left out in Chi-town? I’m sure there are many others!
Shrimp & Cotija Enchiladas w/ Roasted Salsa Verde
Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2009; Serves 4
4 T olive oil, divided
2 1/2 lbs tomatillos, husked & rinsed
4 large poblano chiles, halved lengthwise, cored, seeded; divided
1 jalapeno, halved and seeded (leave some if you want heat)
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
2 cups (packed) coarsely chopped cilantro (plus some for garnish)
1 cup (packed) chopped green onions
3/4 cup chopped red onion (plus some thinly sliced for garnish)
2 chopped roma tomatoes
1 lb uncooked shrimp, peeled & deveined (~32)
2 T fresh oregano
1 t gr. cumin
8 small corn tortillas
8 oz crumbled Cotija or feta cheese
- Preheat broiler. Line large rimmed baking sheet with foil; brush lightly with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Arrange tomatillos, poblano chiles, cut side down, and garlic cloves on prepared baking sheet. Broil until tomatillos and chiles begin to soften and blacken in several spots, watching closely to prevent burning, about 10 minutes (do not turn). Remove from oven. Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes.
- Transfer tomatillos to processor. Peel garlic and add to processor. Peel charred parts of chiles; coarsely chop chiles. Add generous 1/3 cup chopped chiles to processor (reserve remaining chiles for enchilada filling). Add jalapeno. Add 2 cups cilantro and 1 cup green onions to processor; pulse until coarse puree forms. Season salsa verde to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer 1 1/2 cups salsa verde to shallow bowl. (Note: Can be made in advance and kept in fridge)
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped red onion and sauté until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper. Add shrimp, oregano, cumin, tomatoes, and remaining chopped chiles to skillet; sauté just until shrimp are almost opaque but not completely cooked through, tossing often, ~3 minutes. Remove shrimp mixture from heat.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush 15×10 inch glass baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread 1/2 cup salsa verde from processor in bottom of dish. Stack tortillas; wrap in damp paper towels and place on plate. Microwave tortillas on high just until soft and pliable, 1 to 11/2 minutes. Place 4 shrimp and some onion-chile mixture down center of tortilla, then sprinkle rounded tablespoonful cheese over. Roll up tortilla, enclosing shrimp and onion-chile filling. Place seam side down in dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas, shrimp, onion-chile mixture, and cheese. (Note: you may have leftover mixture). Spread 2 cups salsa verde from processor over enchiladas.
- Bake enchiladas just until heated through and cheese melts, about 20 minutes. Using spatula, transfer 2 enchiladas to each of 6 plates. Spoon any remaining salsa verde over; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Garnish with red onion slices, avocado, and additional chopped cilantro, if desired.