Imagine juicy meat flavored with cumin & oregano, mild & spicy at the same time, wrapped in a soft tortilla cover with melted cheese: that’s the essential element of an enchilada dinner!
We are doing enchiladas!
During our holiday trip in Southwest USA I had a lot of Mexican style food & especially a lot of enchiladas: I just enjoyed. Back home I started looking for ingredients based on my recent experience & based on my inspirations especially the books “The Well-filled Tortilla” & “American Southwest”.
For the record:
Of course it wasn’t my 1st trip to this region & I always enjoyed the typical food, but back then I preferred Chili con Carne, Guacamole, baked tortilla chips, filled chili peppers… for cooking at home. I think I especially mastered Chili con Carne over the years – the recipe coming soon.
Once upon a time there was a tortilla – a type of very thin flatbread – serving as a companion to meat & vegetables. Nowadays there are tortilla varieties like:
- Tortillas made of flour, salt & water or of corn, salt & water – and maybe some vegetable oil.
- There are soft or crisp tortillas.
- If – during breakfast, lunch or dinner – you fill a soft tortilla with your own meat/vegetable mix & fold it like an envelope it’s called Burrito.
- If a filled soft tortilla folded like an envelope is deep-fried it’s called Chimichanga.
- If a crisp tortilla is folded in half & filled it’s called Taco.
- If a soft tortilla is filled with cheese, rolled & baked until the cheese melts it’s called Quesadilla.
- If a crisp tortilla is cut into triangles it’s called Tortilla Chips.
- If a filled soft tortilla is rolled into a tube, covered with cheese & baked it’s called Enchilada.
I think I roughly covered the tortilla universe, but – be sure! – there are far more (local) varieties out there.
We’re doing enchiladas (I think one of the less complex & kitchen-intensive Mexican dishes), but we’re not doing tortilla production on our own: we’ll buy tortillas ready-to-eat.
For the record:
It sounds quite easy to start with some flour, water, vegetable oil & salt, knead it all together, let it rest for some hours, roll out very thin pancakes & cook them in a pan… (I don’t touch the deep-frying for any crisp tortillas at this point!) Well: it’s work & it takes time – bear in mind that a tortilla is about the size of a plate meaning that your pan can only do a single tortilla at a time… maybe you’ve got more than one pan, but definitely your stove is also limited …and afterwards there’s the clean-up of your kitchen!
Having clarified the source of our main enchilada basis we can start assembling the filling:
- minced beef
- shredded cheese
- fresh tomatoes & tomato puree & concentrated tomato puree
- spring onions
- fresh cilantro
- spices like cumin & oregano
We’ve to distinguish:
- the tomato sauce
- the filling
- the topping.
The topping will be very simple because it’s just shredded cheese.
For the tomato sauce we’ll start with fresh tomatoes. You’ll need not peeling the tomatoes – a time-intensive step (I prefer canned peeled tomatoes if it’s necessary!). However, the seeds & the pulp have to be removed. Just chop the tomatoes afterwards.
Combine the chopped tomatoes with chopped spring onions, some tomato purée & minced garlic & chili (if you like it hot!) & set aside.
Fry the minced beef with the spices (oregano, cumin…) in a pan until well-done. You may add garlic & chili if you like. Add canned corn & mix well. Then set aside.
Now we’ve finished the tomato sauce & the filling: we’re ready for the enchilada production.
We’ll need a casserole & cover the bottom with the tomato mix.
We start with ready-to-use soft tortillas. I checked the fitting: when rolled the soft tortillas are a little too long for my casserole. If putting the tortillas lengthwise it would be only 2 enchiladas (or maybe 3!) filling the casserole. So I decided to tailor the tortillas.
Fill the tailored tortilla with your meat mix & shredded cheese & roll it rather tightly into a tube. This way you can place 4 enchiladas in the casserole.
Now cover the rolled tortillas with the rest of the tomato mix & a generous layer of shredded cheese. You may add some fresh cilantro on top if you like.
Next step is the oven: preheated to about 180° C with fan it’ll take about 30 min to finish the enchiladas.
Enchiladas are perfect for a Mexican dinner with some friends & family. You need not thinking about starters & main dish: you can just cover the table with characteristic Mexican/Southern food – hot & cold – and anybody can serve themselves. I’m thinking of:
- hot baked enchiladas
(Be prepared to keep them hot – at least “warm”!)
- a bowl of steamed rice
- a bowl of mashed beans (i. e. black beans, Kidney beans, baked brown beans)
- a cup of Jalapeño Dip (maybe 2 cups: a medium spicy & a real spicy one)
- a bowl of guacamole
- a cup of green chili salsa – if you manage to find tomatillos…
- a cup of red chili salsa
- a (larger cup) of sour cream
- a cup of shredded cheese
- a small cup of fresh shredded cilantro
- a small cup of whole Jalapeños and/or sliced fresh red chilis
- a cup of lemon or lime wedges (just to squeeze the juice)
- a basket full of flatbread torn into pieces
- a basket filled with tortilla chips.
The whole compilation is a mix of spicy hot food & soothing components – although the “hotness” depends only on you & your preferences. In general enchiladas come along with rice, black beans, guacamole & sour cream after an appetizer of tortilla chips with red or green chili salsa – let your guests decide which combinations they prefer! (A dynamic dinner always cares for joy & high spirits!)
Some information on the add-ons:
Start with tinned beans, drain the water, heat them & start to crush, but stop… the beans shouldn’t become some sort of soft purée! Most of the beans should remain like beans. Don’t forget adding some salt & pepper. (I never encountered mashed beans flavored with chili – it’s always a rather flavorless affair!)
Red or green chili salsa:
The red one is like the tomato sauce/mix of the enchilada casserole with less tomato purée, but a good amount of spices like cumin, oregano & cilantro. The green one is based on tomatillos, looking like green tomatoes, but they aren’t tomatoes… Important: chili is necessary! Lots of chili!
Well: both chili salsas are also available ready-to-eat out of jars.
…and for starting the enchilada dinner think of mixing some Margaritas! Afterwards some cool – soothing – lime or lemon pie is a refreshing finish.
The preparation time for an enchilada dinner is rather short. You can start preparing the enchilada casseroles 1 day before & just start the oven about 45 min before the planned dinner. All the rest is just some reheating, some dip & salsa mixing & filling in bowls & cups: reserve about 90 min for everything else. …and make sure that your better half (or whoever) is prepared to mix the margaritas (delegate at an early state!)
For the record:
It’s fine if you prepare the enchiladas, guacamole & Jalapeño dip at home – don’t hesitate to use ready-to eat-food for the rest: for the sake of good timing!
Concerning Mexican food enchiladas seems to be rather simple & convenient – in some way the cooking process resembles Italian cannelloni or lasagne (the flavour, however, is totally different!). This intrigues me primarily because it fits for dinner preparation in advance & letting the oven just do its work w/o the necessity to stay in the kitchen all the evening. (Another interesting Mexican food option is Chili con Carne which is one of the best solutions for a big party stew.)
The Businesswoman with too many office hours thinks
I’m sure some of my friends will ransack every deli in town to lay their hands on fresh tomatillos & Jalapeños… to boast with home-made green chili salsa … not my cup of tea! I think I’ll stick to the recommendation above: prepare some food with easy to buy ingredients at home & be happy with some ready-to-eat salsas in jars or tins or… for the sake of my timing & my joy of entertaining guests!