Let the sky rain potatoes;
let it thunder to the tune of "Greensleeves,"
hail kissing-comfits, and snow eringoes; let
there come a tempest of provocation, I will shelter me here.
- The Merry Wives of Windsor (5.5.18-21)
Ah, the homely, humble, yet glorious potato: staple comfort food for lo, these many generations. But when Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff first uttered the words above, in the late 1590s, the potato was a relative newcomer on the culinary scene. Its first appearance in Europe, around 1536, was the result of Spanish expeditions to the Americas, and John Gerard, in his 1597 Herball of the same period, reports that potatoes were being grown in Italy by circa 1585. However, as has often been the case throughout history, the latest craze took a bit longer to reach England. It's generally agreed that the tuber that would launch a bazillion chips was first introduced there in 1580, when Sir Francis Drake brought them home - probably along with all sorts of other fabulous salty seadog booty - on his return from circumnavigating the globe.
The classic Blackadder II episode "Potato" gives credit to Sir Walter "Ooh what a big ship I've got" Raleigh, but this apparently has as much truth to it as that whole "throwing his cloak over a mud puddle so that Gloriana's dainty feet might remain unsullied" thing. That said, "Potato" holds a particularly soft spot in my heart; Tom Baker's Captain Redbeard Rum, addressing these timeless lines to Miranda Richardson's Elizabeth I, is worth the price of the whole boxed set:
"You have a woman's bottom, my Lady! I'll wager that sweet round pair of peaches has never been forced 'twixt two splintered planks, to plug a leak and save a ship!"
Sheer poetry; in light of such transcendent genius, one is prepared to overlook picayune quibbles about historical accuracy.
So regardless of who gets the nod for its introduction to that sceptr'd isle, Solanum tuberosum caught on quickly, and a pre-spud Albion is difficult to imagine. I can't recall the exact statistic (and am too lazy to look it up) but I remember reading in some English newspaper about the per capita consumption of potatoes, and being absolutely astonished. And while it seems doubtful that Elizabeth I, Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, John Gerard, or the (fictional, and therefore abstemious in fact if not in reputation) Falstaff ever had the pleasure of eating enchiladas, I like to think this recipe would have scored an adventurous gastronomic hit in that golden age of rampant proto-imperialist colonization...er, "exploration and discovery."
The recipe below was inspired by the Potato Kale Enchiladas from Veganomicon, to which I added black beans, extra kale, additional spices, and an almost completely different sauce, so it's more of an homage than a straight-up adaptation. This dish is not very spicy (and is pretty kid-friendly), but you could easily up the heat by adding some cayenne, hot sauce, or extra red pepper flakes to the sauce and/or filling. Be forewarned that this makes a huge pan - enough to feed the entire court, in fact - and they're very substantial, so be prepared for leftovers. The good news is that they'll be even better heated up tomorrow (and tomorrow, and tomorrow).
Potato, Kale, and Black Bean Enchiladas
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, finely chopped
~ 1 tbsp. chili powder
~ 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, marjoram, smoked paprika, sugar
~ 1/2 tsp. each: cinnamon, nutmeg
~ 1 28 oz. can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, with liquid
~ 1 15 oz. can lite coconut milk
~ 1 cup Daiya, or other vegan cheddar, shredded
~ 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté the onions in the olive oil over medium heat, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they don't stick.
~ Add the seasonings, tomatoes, and coconut milk and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook about 5 minutes.
~ Stir in the Daiya and the red pepper flakes, and continue cooking until the cheese is melted and incorporated into the sauce. You can add a little water, broth or unflavored soy milk to thin the sauce if it gets too thick. Remove from heat and set aside while you make...
~ 1 lb. waxy potatoes (I used Yukon gold), scrubbed and cut into 1" dice
~ 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 tbsp. garlic, minced
~ 1 red bell pepper, diced fine
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, thyme
~ 1 lb. pound kale, washed, trimmed, and chopped finely
~ 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
~ 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
~ 1 package flour tortillas
~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Heat a big pot of water, and boil the potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
~ In the same large pot, heat the olive oil and saute the garlic over medium heat for a minute or two.
~ Add the bell pepper, salt, cumin, and thyme, and cook another 2 minutes.
~ Begin adding the kale by handfuls, stirring well with each addition to to incorporate it with the oil, garlic, etc.
~ Pour in the lime juice and cook another few minutes, until the kale is wilted.
~ Mix in the potatoes and black beans, making sure to mash some of the potatoes as you do so. Cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, and remove from heat.
~ Coat a large casserole or baking dish with cooking spray, and ladle a cup or so of the sauce into the bottom. (I like to place the baking dish on top of a cookie sheet to catch any leaks.)
~ Place about 1/3 - 1/2 cup filling in the top third of each tortilla and roll up into a tube. Place the filled tortillas snugly up against each other, seam side down, in your casserole until all the filling is used up and the dish is full.
~ Pour the sauce over the whole business, making sure to let it ooze down into the filled tortillas, and smoothing the top. If possible, set the assembled casserole aside and allow to sit for awhile before baking, so all the elements can get better acquainted; I left the most recent batch for nearly an hour and they were amazing.
~ Garnish the top with a little fresh parsley, cover with foil, and bake at 375 degrees about 25 minutes, until bubbling.
~ Raise the heat to 400, remove the foil, and bake uncovered another 15 minutes, until browned and lovely.
~ Set aside to cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving with rice, guacomole, salsa, and maybe a green salad. (NB that sangria, a margarita - or even Falstaff's preference, a few flagons of Rhenish - wouldn't come amiss as an accompaniment. )