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Tips on Enchiladas please

last month

I was hoping the good people here could talk to me about enchiladas. When we visited my son’s place my DDIL made us Jamie Oliver’s vegetarian enchiladas and they tasted good. Sweet potato and black beans were some of the veg included in the rolled up enchiladas.

Now before people mention my ignorance about all things Mexican, I do understand there is a difference between authentic Mexican food and what I understand is called Tex Mex. There are authentic restaurants here as well as the not so authentic. Also there are a couple of shops that stock authentic Mexican goods but they are an hour away through traffic.

When it comes to making enchiladas, what is the main difference between authentic and non traditional and does it matter greatly? For example, I don’t like using the very hot chilli’s, Jalapeno is about my standard. ( except when it comes to hot Indian curries which are different to me) so is it Ok to use Jalapeno instead of say chilli de arbol and what would be an acceptable substitute for queso fresco.

I guess I am asking “what is the secret to good enchiladas”?

Comments (19)

  • last month

    dried chilis like anchos, guajillo, new mexico… gives that burnished color and amazing flavor and not too much heat, just shake the seeds out of the dried chilis, soak in hot water, puree and that is essential in an enchilada sauce

    neely thanked lat62
  • last month
    last modified: last month

    I make very old fashioned California enchiladas. ;) This isn't about them.

    So, in general, “enchilada“ means covered in chili. Without the enchilada sauce it's just food in a tortilla. Really good enchiladas are made with fresh corn tortillas. Unless your Mexican shops are making them fresh, make your own. They're not difficult. The Mexican shops should have decent masa for making tortillas. You don't need a press. The inexpensive presses aren't made well and take expertise in dealing with their quirks. To be authentic, use plastic wrap on both sides, anyway, though parchment or waxed paper will work. You can use a baking board or your counter, with your ball of dough layered with the wrap, and whack it with a heavy frying pan. Just be careful of what else gets whacked. [Removed comment based on making your own masa. Don’t unless you're really into it. Buy a bag of dry masa harina.] Individual or pairs of enchiladas can be baked or broiled on heat happy plates or gratin dishes.

    Toast the flattened tortillas lightly on a flattop, griddle, grill, or generously big frying pan, dry or with just a thin brush of oil if it's sticking. Like a minute or so each side, maybe less, so it'll hold together. Then dip in the enchilada sauce (let the sauce cool some so you don't burn your fingers). You can dip right in the pot you made the sauce in, or pour some sauce in a pie plate or similar. Or if you're making a bunch in a casserole dish, coat the dish with sauce, then pour some sauce in one end, pull the tortilla through on both sides, then fill and roll, and set at the other end.

    Alternatively, you can go norte and use ”flour” (wheat) tortillas, and good packaged ones will do. They should have some toasty brown spots meaning they're pretoasted. Packaged corn tortillas are okay for tacos, but IMHO not nearly good enough, even here where a major portion of the population is Mexican, for enchiladas. They have a weird texture. You may be able to find okay corn tortillas in the freezer. They're usually raw and require toasting.

    So, once you have tortillas, the sauce: It shouldn't be tomato-y. Some people like a goodly dollop of tomato paste, which is to taste, but real enchiladas have a base made of dried chilis, not tomatoes, and most good ones don't have any tomato at all. IMO, there should be a distinct flavor of cumin. Also Mexican oregano, which isn't actually oregano. But you can season and flavor any way you want. If you don't like cumin, choose something earthy you like. Basic is onion and garlic, S&P. The chiles shouldn't be that hot. Guajillos. A coulple of anchos (red dry poblanos). These are milder than jalapeños. You can add heat in the filling, or sliced fresh jalapeños on top. Or serve with salsa picante on the side. Or choose your own chiles. There are lots of very mild flavorful chiles.

    Re cheese, if you're doing casserole, you can use jack or cheddar, or Oaxaca cheese which is like mozzarella. Queso fresco is similar to a dry-ish ricotta or paneer, but I wouldn't use a ricotta except for a cheese filling, not for topping. Paneer might top well.

    It's worth trying the Mexican stores for cheese, as well as masa, Mexican oregano, and, while you're there, epazote. Maybe not often, but worth the trip to start with.

    Have fun!

    neely thanked plllog
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    Check out the Salsa Verde recipe in this previous discussion and see if it will work for you. If you could freeze instead of can it then safety issues don't arise and most any tomatillo or green tomato salsa can just be pureed to turn it into enchilada sauce. But you wouldn't be able to can it. Dave Here is a link that might be useful: Salsa Verde discussion
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    I made them last night. I had the camera ready, but didn't take a photo because, like many of my dishes, they tasted WAY better then they looked! LOL Delicious, Thanks Ann! Even Tim cleaned his plate! I used one jalapeno and two anaheims as called for and the chili sauce was very flavorful but not overly hot. He loved it and so did I. I could only eat half of one, tho. It's a very large serving. Especially because I served with a side of Woodie's Mexican Black Beans which I have come to love! Jim, I have visited several areas of Mexico, too and I agree with your comments on the food. The best Mexican meal I ever had was in Monterrey. It was roasted chicken with a prickly pear cactus sauce at a restaurant calle Pollo El Palenque. Fabulous! Linda
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    We all like the green sauce.Too much trouble to make when you can buy it already made.I use the Las Palamas brand from WalMart on the Mexican Food aisle.They also make the red sauce but I have never used that because we prefer the green.Sometimes I use the green "as is" out of the can,sometimes I add a can of cream of chicken soup and some sour cream for a creamy sauce.We just had green beef enchiladas Friday.I made one pan with flour tortillas and 2 with corn.Put one in the freezer for later.I made rolled ones this time but a lot of times I just layer the tortillas,meat,cheese and sauce and make a casserole.Much easier and faster when you are cooking for a crowd.Either way they are always devoured! DS wanted them rolled this time so that's what I did.I do always roll them when I use flour tortillas. There's a Mexican food place where we eat regularly in TX that makes the BEST green sauce.I asked one time what was in the sauce and they said it was green chilies,tomatillos, onion,celery,bell pepper and lime juice cooked in chicken stock.I think from the consistency they probably put it in a blender after it is cooked.It has the most delicious,kind of tangy flavor I have ever tasted.Some day I am going to try to duplicate it.LOL I don't think you can go wrong with the canned sauce.
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    Comments (14)
    I don't think flour tortillas work as well with red or green sauce (it's just not the flavor I expect and love), but my family's favorite is white chicken enchiladas using flour tortillas. It has a white sauce made from chicken stock, milk, and sour cream that includes jack cheese and green chilies...Sometimes I add a can of mushroom soup to the base. I think I make it a little differently each time, depending on what I have on hand, but it ends up tasting, basically, the same. Here is the red enchilada sauce I use with corn tortilla enchiladas, from Whole Foods for the Whole Family: 3 Tbsp oil 1-2 Tbsp chili powder 2 Tbsp flour 1 tsp vinegar 1/2 tsp garlic powder 1/2 tsp oregano Combine and bring to a boil, then simmer 5 minutes. When I'm feeling lazy (most of the time), I don't roll the tortillas, but layer everything into 'Enchilada Casserole'...sauce, then sauce dipped tortillas, then filling and cheese, then repeat, ending with a last layer of tortillas and cheese...Similar to layering lasagna.
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  • last month

    Here's a good basic enchilada sauce recipe but if you're using powdered spice jar cumin (as opposed to freshly toasted and ground) it needs a lot more than as printed, or to your own taste.

    Tortilla making instructions:

    neely thanked plllog
  • last month

    Thank you so much pilllog for that detailed answer. To abbreviate what I just read from you and lat62, the answer to a good enchiladas is to make your own fresh tortillas, and the sauce is made from chillis and does not contain tomatoes.

    “So, in general, “enchilada“ means covered in chili. Without the enchilada sauce it's just food in a tortilla” This helps make sense of the whole process.

    “IF you're doing casserole” now this has me puzzled because how else would you be heating/cooking the several rolls with filling and sauce on top? … does this mean you can you serve straight from 1) have sauce ready 2) cook tortillas 3) add filling and roll 4) spread with sauce and cheese and eat straight away. ???

  • last month

    Enchiladas sound really good to me right now. But it is a Fall thing when i make Molé, smoked tomatillo green sauce, red pepper sauce, and a red tomato sauce. And a dry mole spice blend for black beans. A dozen 1/2 pints for the freezer. Long gone by the new year.

    Winter/spring/summer tacos are more family/friends friendly having so many sides and choices...salads, guacamole, salsas, queso fresco, cilantro ...shrimp, fish, chicken, pulled pork. Choice of different corn tortillas.

    I have a press and used to make my own tortillas but that has been at least five years ago. Most important for me is the sauces.

    DH will make all sorts of roti and various flatbreads but will not make tortillas. It is a chore.

    If you have a local brand of corn tortillas you like, white or yellow corn, start with that.

    Probably a few hundred+ in Mexico depending on where you visit.

    The dried pepper sauce is the thread that ties them all together.

    This guy has some good Mexican sauces. Some recipes are 'Tex-Mex'. Too much cheese and baked.

    We like a pepper red and green tomatillo sauce on the same plate.

    (i have a bag of dried chilis in the freezer...add to it when i hit a market when i see them)

    It is the dipping corn tortillas in the pepper sauce that is most important.

    Being a plated knife and fork sit down meal, we rarely go there.

    neely thanked sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)
  • last month
    last modified: last month

    Ah. ”Casserole”. A 20th Century American home cooking noun for a bunch of stuff baked in a dish with cheese (and not for enchiladas, but bread crumbs, crushed potato chips (“crisps”?) or whatever is handy) on top. Or something like that. Not to be confused with the French original meaning it derives from, nor the actual vessel, nor the beautiful adverb ”en casserole”. The ingredients of an enchilada are generally cooked, or par cooked before assembly and heating. They'll never come up right otherwise, though as usual, the degree of cookedness past get rid of germs will vary by your estimation of how much cookeder it's going to get in the final heating. The question, therefore, is how the heating of the enchiladas is going to take place,

    Really traditional Mexican, you fry the tortillas rather than toasting them, which gets them good and hot—some fry first, others enrobe in enchilada sauce first—then fill right away with warm ingredients, roll or just fold (think mom with a passel of hungry children and fold makes a lot of sense!), dribble some more sauce on, garnish and serve,

    For a nice presentation, put your rolls on a sheet pan or loosely in said casserole dish, or right on the plates, drizzle with sauce, add cheese crumbles if you like, so they'll melt, and bake or broil until they're good and hot, transfer to warmed plates (unless they're already plated, of course), garnish and serve.

    Or make enchilada casserole, for a homey version. You fill and roll and crowd into your casserole dish from end to end, drizzle all the extra sauce over the top in zigzags to ensure every part gets some, cover with plenty of shreds of well-melting cheese and bake like a lasagna or any other casserole. If you bake to full melty but not brown, you can reheat it from cold for about the same time and temperature (for me, 350-375° F for 40-45 minutes, but ovens vary a lot). With a tight casserole, the tortillas often kind of fuse, and portions can come out as filling on two sides of a vertical interstice of tortilla. Some people don't even bother trying to serve rolls, and just cut squares, like any other casserole.

    If you're baking beautiful rolls, you'll probably want to cover them. If you have a ton of cheese on top of a casserole, you'll want them uncovered, at least part of the time, so that it can brown at the much desired edges. A loose sheet of aluminum foil can be sufficient, Leftovers can be reheated in any way, though big and dense don't microwave well, and if you want to MW, cutting in half may help. They can also be good cold out of the fridge. Freezing is tricky, however, and the tortillas combined with moisture can turn into nasty glue. They can be made a little ahead (not too much, like a couple of hours in the fridge, covered tightly) or the tortillas will fall apart (no gluten...though some people add wheat flour and knead the dough some to add strength)). They hold up better in the fridge after baking (I wouldn't recommend assemble first bake later by more than an hour or two) but still not for an extended period.

  • last month

    Don't forget the Swiss contribution. Might only be around a centrury old, but suiza is just as acceptable for encheladas as other sauces.

    neely thanked beesneeds
  • last month
    last modified: last month

    I have several Mexican cookbooks (mostly small paperback versions), and one of them says that there are as many recipes for enchiladas as there are Mexican grandmothers. Therefore you can pick and choose what you like. I've traveled all over Mexico and have been to more Mexican states than I have U.S. states, and I used to spend my winters in Mexico City when I lived in San Francisco and then venture out from there on excursions.

    You will find a lot of regional variations in Mexican food - my favorite is Yucatecan, and I'm not fond of Oaxacan (even though I used to go there every year on buying trips) because I do not like most moles - they are often too sweet for me, and I don't usually like the combinations of flavors/spices, but that is a personal preference of mine.

    I make enchilada sauce like the one that Plllog posted a link to, but I generally do not add cumin, but the main ingredients are Ancho and Guajillo (or Pasilla) chilies. If I want a Yucatecan flavor, I add achiote paste, and I developed a taste for this when I was in Mérida, which has some of the best food in Mexico.

    I personally like the flavor of chiles de árbol, and if you do not want much heat, use less of them - you might only need one or one-half of a chili for your sauce. Buy ones that are already toasted, as they have a better flavor and you can skip the step of toasting them. I often do not toast the other chilies and do not notice that much difference in flavor.

    When I am making a 6x10" pan of enchiladas, I microwave 12 to 14 tortillas in a special microwave pan made for tortillas to make them pliable, and I do not dip them in chili sauce before adding the filling. I add the sauce to the bottom of the pan first and then add sauce to the enchiladas after putting each one in the pan - it is just too messy to handle tortillas dipped in sauce. However, I do use that method if I am making only a couple of enchiladas at a time.

    I usually add Monterey Jack or Oaxacan cheese to whatever filling I am making for enchiladas, and I sometimes put Cheddar on top, if I am baking them as a casserole.

    Another version is Enchiladas Suizas, which uses a green tomatillo sauce instead of a chile sauce. This is good with chicken breast, but I seldom make it.

    The main difference between tacos and enchiladas is that tacos have the sauce on the inside only, and enchiladas have sauce on the outside and therefore you cannot pick them up with your hands to eat them. In Mexico, tacos are made with soft corn tortillas, usually two at a time, and are rolled the same way enchiladas are rolls, but they have more filling.

    A good source for Mexican recipes is Pati Jinich - for both tacos and enchiladas. She grew up in Colonial Polanco, which is the neighborhood where I usually stayed in Mexico City, and she goes back to Mexico and visits all of the places that I used to go to. Her way of cooking is very similar to mine.

    neely thanked Lars
  • last month

    Absolutely, what Beesneeds said. Enchiladas Suizas is a specific dish. I'm pretty sure that it was invented in a restaurant. Ah, from Saveur: originated at a Sanborns cafe in Mexico City in 1950. Suiza refers to dairy (cheese and crema), and many nowadays use the word Suiza to mean that there's crema in the sauce, rather than the classic Suiza. They are properly made with a tomatillo and green chile green sauce, which is often made even greener with a lot of cilantro (ick. It overwhelms the delicate tomatillos. A little will do). The chiles are usually stronger than ordinary enchilada sauce, jalapeño or serrano, but uses fewer. They're there, so it qualifies as enrobed in chiles, but there's more tomatillo and crema. Suizas also generally have a simple filling of chicken, cheese, onions and cilantro.

    neely thanked plllog
  • last month

    Thanks so much to all for the comments about enchiladas. I guess it is a concept that you acquire early on and just ’know’

    what is right.

    I was pleased to read Lars mention about books that ”one of them says that there are as many recipes for enchiladas as there are Mexican grandmothers. “ and also that

    “The main difference between tacos and enchiladas is that tacos have the sauce on the inside only, and enchiladas have sauce on the outside and therefore you cannot pick them up with your hands to eat them. In Mexico, tacos are made with soft corn tortillas, usually two at a time, and are rolled the same way enchiladas are rolls, but they have more filling.”

    Also ”I add the sauce to the bottom of the pan first and then add sauce to the enchiladas after putting each one in the pan - it is just too messy to handle tortillas dipped in sauce. However, I do use that method if I am making only a couple of enchiladas at a time.” I was thinking that if I am making 8 (2 each for 4 people) it’s going to get awfully messy dipping and rolling them as you go.

    I am looking forward to visiting the authentic Mexican shop for their corn tortillas. I don’t believe I will make my own just yet although the ones in the ordinary supermarket are not nice at all. That store has a good range of dried/toasted chillis as well. Thanks to beesneeds and sleevendog … all adds to my knowledge.

  • last month
    last modified: last month

    Taco = small tortilla folded or rolled over a filling.

    Enchilada = medium sized tortilla enrobed in chiles, rolled or folded over a filling.

    neely thanked plllog
  • last month
    last modified: last month

    I've been thinking about “I guess it is a concept that you acquire early on and just ’know’ what is right.” There isn't a lot of ”right”. The formulae above are true. Sauce made with chiles is the thing that defines them as enchiladas. I was focusing on sort of classic, definitional, recognizable enchiladas, though, and thinking on it, yes, I think you're right that when you grow up with certain foods, you just know. For sure, I knew how to make enchiladas (and tacos) on my own (given good tortillas) long before I knew how to cook most things.

    So, a note on filling: There are no rules, but the filling usually isn't lumpy. That is, it could be shredded beef, pulled pork, minced chicked, etc., mixed with cooked diced vegetabes, perhaps cheese or other binder, maybe its own sauce (aside from the enchilada sauce), perhaps a puree binder, etc. It doesn't have to be baby food—just not hard lumps, and should combine well with all the ingredients to make a pleasant whole. Seafood, for sure will have a sauce carrier, but is the one time lumps (large dice or slices) may be normal because of the inherent softness and trying not to overcook—-and using less volume per for a normal portion.

    Basically, an enchilada should cut with a fork. Rice and beens are usually served on the side, if they're part of the meal (not required if there's a protein filling, but nutritionally a good idea if it's vegetarian/vegan), but you can also put a line of each, or one, inside, or mix into your filling. Cheese enchiladas are a normal thing, and rice for structure works well, but egg binder, roux or any other way to make a not goopy filling is good. Vegan usually have a carrier of some kind of mash or paste, which could be squash, any kind of tuber, beans, etc., or a bunch of well cooked cut veg, kind of compressed to form a unified filling. If it's your preference to do separate lumps of foods rolling out the end, it's your dinner, and do what you like—you certainly don't have to be bound by the above. But a unified, forkable filling is authentic, and that's back to your original question. And I realized that's one of those things you ”just know” from it being the opposite of ”exotic” in one’s culture.

    neely thanked plllog
  • last month

    Don't forget New Mexican stacked enchiladas.

    " Enchiladas montadas (stacked enchiladas) are a New Mexico variation in which corn tortillas are fried flat until softened (but not tough) then stacked with red or green sauce, chopped onion and shredded cheese between the layers and on top of the stack. Ground beef or chicken can be added to the filling. The stack is often topped (montada) with a fried egg. Shredded lettuce and black olive slices may be added as a garnish. "


    neely thanked sushipup2
  • last month

    I hope to make this soon. But i always do the dip, then plate. I find it much better and cut above the 'caserole' version. Prepped, it is much easier than the rolled caserole. Dip and plate fresh. The caserole reminds me of catering like Italian/american delis, in every NY neighborhood that caters pubs for major holidays and sports events. The greatest hits, baked ziti, eggplant parm, stuffed shells. Mexican catering...guac/salsa, chips, tamales, tacos, enchiladas ...all in baked ahead foil pans with sterno under to keep warm.

    PatiJinich dips.

    We rarely eat out Mexican. Unless a step up from basic 'bang for your buck' mexican restaurants surrounding NYC colleges. (Giant burittos stuffed with fillers...rice and beans)

    Prepped ahead steam table enchiladas with massive cheap cheeses baked....

    But great alternatives a step up from basics...

    RosaMexicana and this favorite restaurant among friends...

  • last month

    To clarify, SoCal is different from NY. The casserole, here, is strictly busy mama who wants everybody setting and eating together, rather than plating in series . Lots of Mexican mamas do the latter, too. Like one mother of seven (in Mexico) I know whose kitchen table seats four, with a precarious fifth on the end if cooking isn't in progress, and whose dining room is covered in plastic against dust only to be opened for fancy company. She dips and plates onto a dish held by each kid in turn as they head to the table and eat in shifts, with papa in the corner checking the news (leaving 3-4 seats). As opposed to the mama with a huge round table in the path from the front door to the living room, where the big platters of fixings and a couple of casserole dishes of enchiladas get plunked down, quick grace, flurry of passing and dishing up, quietly eating until papa starts the questions.

    My favorite is rolled, broiled on thick, individual ceramic dishes. Obviously not for a family of 10, but if you have a convection oven which is good on several levels, very doable for half a dozen, especially as you're heating rather than cooking. Enchiladas can be eaten at just about any temperature, but piping hot with a little almost-char is fantastic.

    neely thanked plllog
  • last month

    This thread inspired me to make tomatillo salsa with fresh chili peppers. I've never cooked with fresh or whole dried chilis. I didn't know which peppers to buy so I asked a young Latina who was stocking shelves. I showed her the bag of tomatillos. She told me to use two serrano chilis, taste it, and add a third if not spicy enough. I roasted the tomatillos and serranos. I started with one chili and removed the seeds and the blackened skin, leaving about a half teaspoon of puree for 6 tomatillos. Sweet madre de Dios! It was so hot I had to throw the whole thing out!

    neely thanked Eileen
  • last month

    I made enchiladas yesterday. Found a green tomatillo sauce in the freezer. 5 packets found hidden under some cauliflower rice. I thought those were long gone. Made Pati's red pepper sauce. And some molé black beans. An avocado crema with some of the green sauce and yogurt. Goat cheese.

    Lots of dried chili choices. I don't have Ancho but do have pasilla being similar. Your dried pepper should have the heat index on the package. I used all the ones with a low heat index. link, 'guide to Mexican chili peppers'

    Interesting that both Pati and Rick bayless serve with cooked potatoes and carrots, diced. I prefer fresh pickled vegetables. Though she does make other varieties and an open faced one with salad and avocado.

    I found it much easier to dip in the sauce rather than roll for a casserole. Especially for just the two of us or for 4. Any more guests than 4 i prefer do-ahead fixings for a taco bar. Make-your-own style. Otherwise you end up being a short order cook with all the likes and dis-likes. Like our families.

    With guests i would make some rice with the beans and extra salad fixings separating the rice and beans on the shared platter.

    Now have a fridge full of Mexican meals prepped. Taco soup tonight, then taco Tuesday...

    neely thanked sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)
  • last month

    I make chicken enchiladas with both sauces. I make a green sauce with sour cream chili sauce and the chicken in it inside (though I could see it with something like mushrooms or something else)... and the red enchilada sauce on the outside. I don't know if you call that tex-mex, California style, or just Rob style.