Saturday, May 3, 2014

Muy Bueno Enchiladas - you want these for Cinco de Mayo

Enchiladas were one of the first "real" Mexican foods I ever tried.

And I fell in love immediately.

I'd never tasted anything like the sauce that the tortillas were dipped in. Nothing like it. Not ever. It was so completely foreign to me, and I couldn't get enough of it.

That was many years ago, and many Mexican meals have been consumed since - some of them in Mexico. But I'm still very fond of cheese and onion enchiladas with a red pepper sauce.

I've made a few versions of the sauce, but I'm always willing to try new versions. So, when I found a recipe for Stacked Red Enchiladas in the book Muy Bueno by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith and Evengelina Soza, I knew I had to give it a try.

The first step is to make the sauce, and that's something that can be done a day or more ahead of time. After that, making the enchiladas is pretty simple - great for a busy night. I didn't make the full recipe of enchiladas, since there are just two of us. So, I made just enough for dinner each night.

Since I prefer the cheese melted inside the enchiladas, I'd suggest microwaving the finished enchiladas for a few seconds, or warming them in the oven.

Otherwise, this is a pretty great recipe.

The sauce can be used for other things, as well. I bought some boneless, skinless chicken thighs and cooked them in my slow cooker with some of the sauce. I served that chicken with rice and tortillas - really, really good. I've also used a similar sauce to cook pork.

One big difference between sauces is the type of dried peppers used. I've tried a lot of different ones, but I have to say that I like them all. So if you can't get the New Mexico or California peppers, choose another type, or even use a variety of different ones.

Red Chile Sauce
Adapted from Muy Bueno by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith and Evengelina Soza

8 ounces California or New Mexico red chile pods
6 cup water
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon salt

Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles, ad rinse well.

Put them in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Bring the water to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes. About halfway through cooking, stir the peppers to make sure the ones at the top end up under water to finish cooking.

Drain the water and let the peppers cool a bit before blending.

The recipe suggested blending in two batches, but my blender is pretty big, so I stuffed all of the peppers into the blender along with the flour, garlic, and salt. I added 2 cups of water, pulsed a few times, then added another two cups of water. That was close enough, and it blended well.

If you've got a smaller blender, blend in two batches.

Pass the mixture through a fine strainer to remove the seeds and skins. Discard those.

Refrigerate the sauce if you're not making the enchiladas right away. It freezes well, too.

Stacked Red Enchiladas
Adapted from Muy Bueno by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith and Evengelina Soza

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups red chile sauce
8 ounces tomato sauce (optional)
1/2 cup canola oil
24 to 32 corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded Colby cheese
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
8 eggs, optional

I made two servings each day, rather than making the whole batch at once, but the instructions are prett much the same.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, and add the red pepper sauce and stir. Taste and season, if needed. If the sauce is too spicy, add the tomato sauce. If it's too thick, add water.

In a nonstick frying pan, heat the canola oil. Dip one tortilla at a time into the oil and fry until the tortilla softens - if you keep cooking, they'll start to get crisp, so cook them "just enough" to get the softer. Drain the tortillas on paper towels.

One at a time, dip the tortillas into the sauce, then place the tortilla on a plate. Put a layer of cheese on the tortilla, then sprinkle on some onions. Add another sauce-dipped tortilla, followed by more cheese and onion. Continue stacking - 2, 3, or 4 tortillas, total, is fine. with cheese and onion in between, and ending with a sauce-dipped tortilla.

Or, for a smaller serving, use one tortilla, folded in half, with the cheese and onion stuffed inside the folded tortilla.

At this point, I microwaved them to melt the cheese. You could also warm them in an oven.

If desired, top the finished stacked enchilada with an over-easy fried egg.

A dollop of crema, sour cream, creme fraiche, or a few slices of avocado also makes a nice garnish.

Serve warm.