In my early days of cooking, I had a friend from California who introduced me to what she called Texas Enchiladas. Instead of the usual filled and rolled enchiladas, the tortillas were fried, dipped in sauce, sandwiched with filling and then stacked in layers.
I have not been able to discover the exact origin of this version of enchiladas, but I think they are popular in Northern Mexico, west Texas and in New Mexico.
The bottom line: delicioso!
Ingredients for Traditional Enchiladas
In Mexico, there are as many ways of making enchiladas as there are cooks and every family has a favorite recipe. Generally speaking, there are four components to traditional enchiladas: tortillas, sauce, filling and garnishes.
- Fried Tortillas: In Mexico, the tortillas are either dipped in sauce and fried briefly in oil, or fried just until they start to crisp and then dipped in the sauce. Corn tortillas are preferred for enchiladas because they have a lot of flavor and don’t tend to fall apart when dipped in the sauce, whereas flour tortillas are more likely to disintegrate. The first method of dipping and then frying sounds counterintuitive, but the sauce is often uncooked; it literally fries in oil after the tortilla is dipped in it. This said, I prefer the second method because it creates a barrier and keeps the tortillas from becoming soggy and falling apart and when they are dipped in the sauce.
- Pureed Chili Sauce: The sauce itself can be made from any number of types of chiles. Many chiles, such as poblanos and anchos, are commonly dried for long-term storage and then reconstituted in hot water. In a sauce, the rehydrated chiles are pureed until smooth with garlic and onions. It is not a thick sauce, but resembles the consistency of heavy cream. Once pureed, the sauce is often cooked again in a little oil to blend the flavors.
- Lots of Filling Options: A wide range of fillings—shredded meat, cheese, vegetables and beans—make enchiladas a versatile dish that conforms to its probable original purpose: to use up leftovers, including leftover tortillas.
- Fresh Garnishes to Go On Top: Finally, garnishes like cheese, radishes, cilantro, crema (which resembles thin sour cream), chopped onions, and fried eggs are just a few of the choices available to the cook.
Simplified Ingredients for Streamlined "Stacked" Enchiladas
In my quest to replicate my friend’s recipe I considered how to streamline the enchilada process to make it faster and easier. Each component takes from 8 to 12 minutes to complete and most can be prepared in advance.
- Baked (Not Fried) Tortillas: I love the slightly chewy texture of fried tortillas in the sauce, but hate the frying part. Instead, I brushed them with oil and baked them, which gave them just enough crispness to hold together when dipped in the sauce.
- Quick Sauce with Canned Tomatoes: This is a quick hack of a sauce—no dried chilies, just ancho chili powder pureed with canned tomatoes, cooked in a large, deep skillet to blend and meld the flavors. The sauce is already in the pan, ready for dipping the tortillas.
- Easy Vegetarian Filling: A quickly made filling of canned beans and frozen corn with a little onion heated in the microwave is a no-brainer in terms of time and effort. Cooking the onion with the corn softens the harshness of the onion. Add the beans to heat the filling until hot. (If you want to make your beans from scratch, here's how to do it on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker.)
- Pick a Few Simple Garnishes: I chose just a few of the usual suspects: avocado for creaminess, radishes and cilantro for freshness, and crumbled queso fresco for a salty, cheesy component. If you can’t find it, substitute feta cheese, grated cheddar, or Monterey Jack.
How to Serve Stacked Enchiladas
Each stack needs to be assembled individually and takes about 2 minutes to put together.
You could serve each stack as it's finished, if you don't mind people starting to eat at different times.
Alternatively, you can assemble the stacks on a baking sheet and warm them in a 350oF for 5 minutes, or until they are hot. Add the garnishes just before serving.
If you like, place the garnishes in small bowls on the table for diners to pass around.
Make-Ahead Enchilada Stacks
You can make the sauce, bake the tortillas, and make the filling several hours in advance or up to one day ahead.
Place the “fried” tortillas in a plastic bag, and pack the sauce and filling in separate containers. Store all of this in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.
Reheat the sauce in a deep skillet, warm the tortillas for 5 minutes in a 350oF oven, and reheat the filling in the microwave. Prepare the garnishes at the last minute.
More Enchilada Recipes
- Classic Enchiladas
- Red Chili Chicken Enchiladas
- Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas
- Turkey Black Bean Enchiladas
- Mexican Lasagna
Texas Stacked Enchiladas with Corn and Black Beans
- For the sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1/2 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- For the tortillas
- 12 corn tortillas (6 to 7-inch size)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- For the filling
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped red or yellow onion
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Pinch black pepper
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- For the garnishes
- 4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (or feta or Monterey jack)
- 1 ripe avocado, cut into slices
- 4 to 6 radishes, thinly sliced
- Leaves from 1/4 bunch cilantro
Preheat the oven to 350ºF
Make the sauce:
In a blender, puree the garlic, onion, tomatoes, flour, chili powder, oregano, salt and water until smooth.
In a deep skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the sauce and cook, stirring often, until it comes to a boil.
Lower the heat and cook the sauce at a steady simmer for 10 minutes. It may sputter like mad, so either stir often or top with a spatter guard. The sauce should have the consistency of heavy cream. Add more water to thin it if necessary.
Note: you may have a bit more sauce than you need. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and used for leftovers.
Bake the tortillas:
Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of one tortilla with oil and place it on a plate. Set a second tortilla on top and brush the top with oil. Continue to brush and stack the tortillas in the same manner.
When done, press down on the stack gently so that that both sides of each tortilla are lightly coated with oil. This way, all the sides get covered with oil as you create the stack.
Spread them out on two baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, or until slightly crisp at the edges.
Note: You can prepare the tortillas up to a day ahead. Cool completely, then transfer to a plastic zip-top bag and store at room temperature.
Prepare the filling:
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the onion, corn, salt and pepper. Microwave for 2 minutes. Add the beans and microwave for one minute longer, or until the filling is hot all the way through. Cover and keep warm.
Note: The filling can be prepared up to a day ahead and refrigerated.
Assemble the enchiladas:
Set 4 plates next to the stove.
Dip one tortilla in the sauce and set it on one of the plates. Spread 2 tablespoons of the filling over the tortilla. Dip a second tortilla in the sauce and place it on top. Spread with 2 more tablespoons of the filling. Dip a third tortilla in the sauce and place on top of the stack. Spoon a little more sauce over the top.
Sprinkle the stack with one-fourth of the cheese, one-fourth of the avocado slices, one-fourth of the radishes and top with one-fourth of the cilantro leaves.
Repeat with remaining tortillas, sauce, and garnishes.
If desired, transfer each stack to a baking sheet in a 350°F oven to keep warm as you finish assembling the rest. Serve all the stacks together at once.