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October 12, 2012 / Rabbi Laura

Hotdog Enchiladas

Catching up on my New York Times Magazines this week, I came across this poignant piece by David Sax about the power of food in family relationships: Last Bites

I don’t know if it is true for all families, but food definitely plays an important role in our family.

In the Novak family (my family of origin), we are known to talk about dinner plans while we are still sitting at the breakfast table.  My mom has hundreds of pictures of us sitting together a dinner tables around the world, at numerous holidays and family simchas (celebrations).  And we tell stories over and over about amazing meals we have had together.

The Winer family (the family I am blessed to have married into 20+ years ago) has similar traditions.  Most beloved of Winer family stories are those that are about Grandpa Cohen’s cooking adventures.  Sax’s piece as well as a sweet email exchange I had with Saul this week reminded me of this story.

Rick and I were newly married, living in Los Angeles while studying at HUC.  Rick’s grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa Cohen lived in the San Fernando Valley and we tried to see them weekly, usually on Sundays.  Grandpa loved to cook. He had worked for decades as a restaurant supplies salesman.  It was a source of great family pride that Grandpa Cohen supplied Tommy’s with the chili powder for their world-renown chili burgers. Grandpa didn’t follow recipes though. He would just tinker in the kitchen, figure out what worked, and voila, out would come a delicious meal.

One Sunday we arrived to the smell of something delicious  in the oven. When it was time to eat, Grandpa brought out this yummy looking enchilada casserole.  Grandpa Cohen didn’t keep kosher and neither did we.  Biting into the casserole we realized this was no normal enchilada casserole.

“Grandpa,” Rick asked, “what’s in this?”

“Hotdogs, honey. I thought they would taste good.”

Rick and I looked at each other, chuckled, and continued eating.

Since then we have told this story to our children hundreds of times. Anytime I make enchilada casserole (which is often because it’s a family favorite), Max asks if it has hotdogs. It usually doesn’t. I haven’t ever actually recreated Grandpa Cohen’s creation.

This week, Saul, who is off at college and living off campus for the first time, emailed me asking for my enchilada casserole recipe.  I typed it up and sent it to him:

Saul –

You can get all of these items at Trader Joes.  I hope I get the amounts correct – it’s not a big deal if I don’t. You just layer it all up and bake it till its yummy.
9 corn tortillas, sliced in half
1 jar tomatillo (green) salsa
1 cup sour cream
shredded mexican blend cheese
1 bag of the frozen brown rice (it comes in a box with 3 bags in it. You can use white rice too)
1 pkg “just chicken” slices – its in the refrigerated prepared foods section, near the salads etc.
Mix the salsa and sour cream together.
Lightly grease a 9×13 pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To create the layers –
Pour about 1/4 of the salsa mixture into the bottom of the pan.  Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan.
Layer 3 tortillas  – (6 halves) to cover the bottom of the pan.
Add 1/3 of the chicken, 1/3 of the rice and sprinkle a handful of cheese over it.
Pour 1/4 of the salsa mixture.
Layer 3 more tortillas (6 halves)
Add 1/3 of chicken, 1/3 of rice and another handful of cheese
Layer last 3 tortillas
Add last 1/3 of chicken, last 1/3 of rice and the final portion of the salsa mixture.
Finish with some more cheese – I usually do 1-2 handfuls for the top so it is moist and cheesy,
Place in the oven and cook until it is all warm and the cheese has melted, about 20-30 min. (I don’t remember how long exactly so just watch it.
xoxoxox – Mom
Saul’s reply:
How much do you think would it affect it if I switched the chicken for hot dog slices?  =P
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