My Favorite Recipe: Cheese Enchiladas
When I’m asked, “what’s your favorite recipe on the site?,” my reply without hesitation is this one, my mother’s cheese enchiladas!
We had enchiladas at least once a month my entire childhood; it’s still the most requested recipe from any of my siblings when they come home to visit. We’ll often make extra just so my father can have leftover enchiladas for breakfast the next day (it’s his version of chilaquiles).
My mother, a fifth generation hispanic Arizonian, was taught this recipe by my grandmother. Here’s her step-by-step guide to how to make enchiladas, using yellow corn tortillas, a cheesy filling, and a tomato and green chile sauce.
Note that there are many kinds of enchiladas—green chile, shrimp, chicken, red chili—to name a few. This recipe is much more “Tex Mex” than Mexican, and is easy to make.
A note about the tortillas. Sturdy yellow corn tortillas hold up better in these enchiladas than more delicate white corn tortillas. The corn tortillas must be softened before they are rolled and baked in the casserole. Frying them gently in a little oil greatly enhances the flavor of the tortillas. Do not use flour tortillas for this recipe.
If you don't have green chiles, you can substitute the chiles with a cup of your favorite prepared salsa (cooked, do not use salsa made with fresh, uncooked tomatoes)
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or peanut oil
- 12 corn tortillas
- 1/2 onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
- 14-ounce can (about 1 3/4 cup) crushed tomatoes (preferably fire roasted)
- 3/4 cup of chopped cooked green chiles (about a 4-ounce can), or 1/3 cup chopped pickled jalapeños (more or less to taste, depending on the heat of the chiles and how spicy you want your enchiladas)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 lb (4 cups) of jack cheese, mild cheddar , or a mix, grated
- A handful of cilantro
- 1 cup of sour cream
- Half a head of iceberg lettuce
- 9x13-inch (3-quart) casserole dish
1 Preheat oven to 350° F.
2 Lightly fry the tortillas to soften: In a large frying pan at medium-high heat add a tablespoon of oil. When the oil is shimmering and hot (not yet smoking), add a corn tortilla to the pan. Cook it for several seconds, use a metal spatula to turn it over, and cook it for few seconds more.
You can soften all of the tortillas this way, one at a time, or you can use my mom's trick of doubling and tripling up the tortillas to absorb excess fat.
My mother places another tortilla either on top of the tortilla in the pan (and then flips both tortillas), or beneath it. In either case the tortillas is picking up some of the excess fat from the first tortilla.
You can continue "stacking" tortillas, removing the ones that have bubbled, softened and lightly browned, while adding more oil as needed to the pan.
This way you can brown and soften the tortillas without using a lot of fat.
It's important to pre-cook the tortillas because not only does cooking them help soften them for rolling, cooking them in a little fat helps develop the flavor of the tortillas.
As the tortillas brown a little, remove them to a plate.
3 Make the enchilada sauce: Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 5-6 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more.
Add the crushed tomatoes. Add the green chiles. Add 1/2 cup of water. Add the oregano. Bring to a simmer and taste. If the sauce tastes too vinegary, add half a teaspoon of sugar to the sauce. Remove from heat.
4 Roll up the tortillas with cheese: Put a little olive oil on the bottom of a 3-quart (9x13) casserole pan. Take a tortilla, cover 2/3 of it lightly with the shredded cheese, then roll up the tortilla and place it in the casserole pan.
Continue until all tortillas are filled and rolled.
5 Add sauce and cheese: Add sauce to the top of the tortillas in the casserole pan. Make sure the rolled up tortillas are covered with the sauce. If not, add a little water to thin the sauce to spread it more evenly over the tortillas. Cover the whole thing with the rest of the grated cheese.
6 Bake: Put the casserole in the 350°F oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Serve with sliced iceberg lettuce that has been dressed only with vinegar and salt. Garnish enchiladas with cilantro and sour cream.
See Perfect Guacamole for a great guacamole avocado side dish.
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