I've written a lot about Enchiladas before trying to sort out the absolute mess in which this dish has been placed by general misconceptions, tex-mex influences and commercially available 'packets'. In Enchilada vs Entomatada, I tried to show you that what you know as an enchilada is really nothing to do with the real thing. I also wrote a post about Enchiladas Verdes, and two years ago I took my disgust for enchilada kits to the stage of The Theatre of Food at Electric Picnic and declared war on the packet enchilada. I am hoping this post finishes off the twisted myth of the enchilada by presenting you the REAL thing.
So, let me start by saying: Forget EVERYTHING you know or think you know about an enchilada. They are not covered in tomato sauce, they are rarely baked and they are never, EVER, made of wheat tortillas!! An enchilada is corn tortilla that has been lightly heated in oil, stuffed with some cheese or meat, rolled or fold into shape and then covered with a chili sauce. The word ‘enchilada’ simply means covered or bathed in chili sauce. Now if you look at the word ‘entomatada’, you’ll see that this one means covered or bathed in tomato sauce. The world ‘enmolada’, on the other hand, means covered or bathed in Mole sauce. The word ‘enfrijoalda’, means covered or bathed in beans sauce. The words ‘enchiladas verdes’ mean covered or bathed in green tomatillo chili sauce… I’m sure by now you’ve got the picture!
There are tons of different sauces and different techniques to make enchiladas depending where in Mexico you are. Some people use Ancho chilli, others use Pasilla, in some parts of Mexico people use a combination of guajillo and cascabel chilies for the sacue. In Monterrey, where I'm from, we make enchiladas with a particular type of red corn tortilla that has been tinted with chilli powder and some natural colourings, they're super tasty but impossible to find here. The recipe I'm sharing with you here is, however, a more traditional way to make them. I use dried guajillo chilies for the sauce.
Some people dip the cold tortilla into the sauce and then fry them, others, like me, heat the tortilla in tiny bit of oil, stuff them and then cover them in sauce. Whatever way you choose to make this, you'll agree that there is no resemblance at all to that starchy fest you get in a packet. These Enchiladas Rojas are a full, balanced meal, so it's very important that you make all the toppings for them. They complement all flavours, so don't skip them.
Pull the stems of the Guajillo chilies and shake all the seeds out. Make sure to wash your hands well after doing this otherwise you might find them stinging a little. Try to keep the chilies are whole as possible.
Toast the Guajillo chilies in a dry skillet or pan at medium heat for about 10 seconds on each side. Be careful not to take your eye off them as they can burn very easily and give the sauce a very bitter taste that would ruin it. Transfer the toasted chilies to a pot and cover them with water. Turn the heat on and bring them to the boil and let me bubble away for 10 minutes.
Drain the chilies and transfer them into the blender or food processor. Add the water, the garlic, the pepper corns, the cloves, the oregano and the salt. Blend everything into a smooth sauce.
Heat the oil in a non-stick pan at low to medium heat, pour the smooth guajillo sauce and cook it gently at medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the sauce has acquired a slightly darker colour. Make sure you stir the sauce every now and then. Set the sauce aside ready to rewarm when we are ready to eat.
Get on making your pan-fried vegetables for the enchiladas. Put the carrots on a big pot and cover them generously with water. Add the salt and bring them to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes before adding the potatoes. Simmer the whole lot for further 10 minutes or until the the potatoes are just al dente. Drain the vegetables and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking process.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan, pour the drained vegetables and pan fry them till they are crispy in the outside, but still soft in the inside, 5 to 10 minutes should do. Keep them warm until you are ready to serve them on top of your enchiladas.
Get the filling of your enchiladas ready by mixing the feta cheese and the chopped onion in a bowl. Set to the side. This is also the perfect timing to get all the toppings ready on the table. Making enchiladas is all about the prepping of ingredients, once you have all the toppings and the sauce ready, the rest will be done quite quickly.
Now we are ready to make and assemble the enchiladas. Heat a small non-stick pan and add 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil. It's important not to use all the oil required for the enchiladas at once as then your tortillas will be way too oily and it would be easier to overcooked them too. We want to heat the tortillas not to fry them, so using about 1-2 tablespoons of oil at a time is best.
When the oil is hot, gently place one corn tortilla and press it with a spatula or egg lifter. Heat it up in the oil for 40 to 50 seconds on each side. We don't want crispy tortillas, but if you don't heat them long enough, they can break. Using the egg lifter and a fork, lift the oily tortilla from the pan and place it into a warm plate. Repeat the process until you have 3-4 tortillas done, depending how many you are serving per plate.
Take a spoonful of the feta and onion filling and place it in the tortilla, then roll it and repeat the process until you have four tacos on a plate. To keep them warm, you can place them in the oven for up to 15 minutes at about 100 degrees Celsius. This will allow you to follow step 7 again until you have 4 full plates of oily tacos.
Warm the guajillo sauce a little and pour it generously over each plate of tacos. Then top them with some lettuce, a generous amount of pan-fried vegetables, some cream and slices of fresh onion and if there's any leftovers of the cheese filling, add that on top too.
Dinner is ready! You can serve the enchiladas with a side of warm refried beans and even let people top up with extra veggies and cream. These are not only delicious, but vegetarian friendly. If you prefer a more meaty approach, stuff the enchiladas with shredded chicken leftover from the Sunday roast, it works well as well! Enjoy a real enchilada and whatever you do, please, please, try this at least once, you'll never buy an enchilada kit again!