The Whole Enchilada


Like all good South Western food, these Enchiladas are simple, earthy, and delicious. Enchiladas keep well in the fridge for several days and can be frozen for up to 1 month.

The basic idea for assembling enchiladas is to layer soft corn tortillas with red or green chile sauce, grated sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, and optional beans/veggies/meat. A store brand block of extra sharp cheddar makes for a really delicious enchilada, but if you have a large quantity of another semi-soft shredded cheese there’s no reason not to use that. Veggies that work well are spinach, diced onions, thinly sliced zucchini, etc. Serve with a bit of chopped cilantro, yogurt or low-fat sour cream, and guacamole or avocado or salad. A great side dish can be bowl of corn (a cup of frozen corn cooked for 5 min with about ¼ cup water and salt and sprinkled with olive oil) or salad.

If you’ve decided to make an enchilada at the last minute, or simply don’t have time to cook sauces and beans from scratch, you can still make a pretty tasty and inexpensive version using canned ingredients available in any supermarket. For a large baking dish, serving 8, you’ll need a 28 oz can of red or green enchilada sauce and a similar-sized can (or smaller) of pinto or black beans or vegetarian refried beans, plus a pack of soft corn tortillas. Altogether these can be had for $5-6 in any large supermarket, plus $1 or so for veggies. Most non-fancy supermarkets usually have many brands of each of these items, and often at least one of the brands or the store brand is on sale for half the cost.

Oven method, ranch style: Grease a 12 X 18 or larger baking dish with oil or lecithin, ladle a bit of sauce on the bottom to help moisten the tortillas. Put a layer of tortillas, it’s ok if they overlap or if you have to tear some. Then go ahead with cheese, a bit of veggies and your favorite protein source, plus more sauce. You should end up with 2-4 layers of tortillas, depending on the depth of your dish and appetite. Finish off with sauce and cheese on top. Make sure the enchilada is well immersed in sauce; corn tortillas will continue voraciously absorbing moisture for 24 hours after you’ve finished cooking (add water if you have to; there’s nothing worse than a dry enchilada!). Bake at 375F for 30-45 min, until cheese is melted and lightly golden.

Stove-top method: Slightly faster, more suited for a smaller quantity, and gives you an option of browning the bottom layer for extra deliciousness. Note that the ingredient quantities listed below are for a large baking dish; only a fraction of this (1/4th?) will probably fit in a skillet. In a large, deep skillet heat a thin layer of vegetable oil. Wrap grated cheese and a tablespoon of beans/protein with a dab of sauce into each soft corn tortilla. Put a single layer of these wrapped tortillas into the pan and fry on medium heat until cheese is well melted and sizzling. Now add a thick layer of sauce on top (adding sauce after the tortillas have been frying a bit will help brown the bottom, if that is what you’re after). If calories aren’t an issue, sprinkle a bit more cheese on top. Cook for about 10 min to let the flavor from the sauce permeate the whole enchilada. Serve with steamed or raw vegetables or salad.

Ingredients for an 8 serving enchilada:
About 1 lb corn tortillas (any diameter is fine; I usually use 12-16 six-inch tortillas)
4-6 cups red or green sauce or mix (quantity depends on the depth of your pan, number of layers, amount of beans and veggies; if you are a cup short of sauce, add water, but make sure the enchilada is fully saturated with sauce)
2-3 cups cooked beans and, if you wish, imitation ground beef (TVP)
2-3 cups vegetables (finely diced onions raw or lightly sautéed, zucchini, canned or fresh green chilies; lightly sautéed strips of green cabbage can make a delicious low-carb addition to or even substitute for some of the tortillas)
About ½ lb or 3 cups grated sharp cheddar or mix of cheeses (queso fresco, etc.)
Yogurt or light sour cream or avocado for serving



Red Chile and Tomato Sauce (for enchiladas or tacos)

2 Tbsp oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup powdered mild New Mexican red chile
1 Tbsp coriander powder and/or 1 tsp cumin
28 oz can crushed tomatoes (fire-roasted ones give amazing smoky flavor; you can also get the smoky flavor by adding some smoked chipotle or paprika)
1 Tbsp red table wine or red wine vinegar or cider vinegar (optional)
1 Tbsp sugar or honey (nice to add if your tomatoes are quite acidic or you added vinegar)

If you love tomatoes as much as I do, this is likely to become your favorite way of making chile sauce. In a deep saucepan, heat oil on medium heat and sauté garlic till light golden. If you like a thicker sauce, add 2 tablespoons of flour after the garlic is nicely golden and keep stirring for a minute more. Toss in the spice powders and stir for about 30 seconds until aromatic (careful not to burn the chili). Immediately add the tomatoes and simmer gently for 10 min. Taste the sauce and add salt, vinegar, and sugar as needed.

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The goal of this blog is to celebrate delicious food that's also practical. Contrary to certain foodie trends, we believe there is no reason for amazing food to be expensive or complicated or time consuming.

Our hope is to bridge the ethos of the slow and simplicity movements (cooking delectable traditional foods from scratch, connecting with others, minimizing waste and clutter) with the everyday needs and constraints of “the 99%”.

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