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Ench by Ench: Cinco de Mayo Nears

The Food Dude shares recipes and techniques for making your own enchiladas.
by Dave Cathey Published: May 2, 2012
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Taking the tomatoes out of the sofrito and substituting them with dried chilies allows for a robust chile foundation. For today's recipes, we'll be using ancho, guajillo and chilies de arbol, for heat-seekers.

You'll need to empty the chilies of their seeds for a smooth, uniform sauce. Simply clip the top of the chile, pulling away any membrane and shaking free the seeds. For chilies de arbol, pop the top off, pinch the chile to make it as round as possible then roll it between your hands with open end pointing down into the sink. The seeds will rain down within a couple seconds.

Once the chilies are seedless, they're ready to be cooked. Many recipes call for toasting and rehydrating the chilies, which we'll do. We're going to combine those tasks with sweating the onions.

If I make cheese enchiladas, I like to grill a nice skirt steak, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic-infused olive oil, as the main course. I've also included a recipe inspired by Tacos al Pastor, which lean on pineapple and red chile for flavor.

by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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Cheese enchiladas

12 corn tortillas

16 ounces cheese, mix and match your favorite melting cheeses

1 onion chopped fined

1-2 minced serrano or jalapeno peppers, optional

Vegetable oil

FOR THE SAUCE

¼ cup olive oil

6 dried ancho chilies, seeded

4 guajillo chilies, seeded

2 to 4 seeded chilies de arbol, optional

1 onion chopped

1 grated carrot

1 stalk celery, sliced then

4 cloves garlic

2½ cups chicken stock or broth

2 tablespoons salt

2½ teaspoons toasted and ground cumin seeds

Heat enough vegetable oil in to fill the bottom of a small heavy-duty skillet by a ¼ inch. Have a casserole handy for constructing and storing the enchiladas.

Using a metal spatula or tongs, dip a tortilla in the hot oil and submerge for 2 to 3 seconds. Flip it and repeat. Move the tortilla into a casserole and let cool while you repeat the technique with two more tortillas.

Once your casserole has three tortillas in it, place two heaping spoonfuls of the cheese mixture on one side of each. Pinch the edge of the tortilla closest to the mixture around it and continue to roll as if you were rolling up a carpet. Repeat until the tortillas have run out. It's OK to construct on top of previously rolled enchiladas.

Use any excess cheese mixture to sprinkle over the top after saucing. The unsauced enchiladas can be covered and stored a week.

To make the sauce, heat a ¼ cup olive oil in a large sauce pan or skillet to medium heat.

Toast the chilies in the hot oil about a minute, making sure they are well coated with oil and have darkened slightly. Note: if they become black, discard them as they will impart bitterness.

Remove chilies with tongs, shaking off excess oil and set aside on paper towels.

Add onions, celery, grated carrots and garlic. After about a minute, lower heat to medium low. Sweat the vegetables until very soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Return chilies to pan and add chicken stock/broth. Bring sauce to a boil and return heat to medium low, simmering at least 15 minutes. If you want a lot of bold flavor, reduce heat to low and cook 45 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until very smooth. Add salt and cumin. If the sauce is overly thick, add a little stock or water. Since the sauce is going in the oven, it needs to run a little on the thin side.

The sauce will store up to a week.

Preheat the oven to 350. Pour sauce over enchiladas in the casserole, top with extra cheese and onions. Bake until cheese has melted completely. If it's been refrigerated, it might two 15 to 17 minutes. If the sauce is hot when you add it to the enchiladas, it will be seven to 10 minutes.

Watch the sauce, it begins to dry out, remove the casserole from the oven immediately.

Serve with Mexican Rice, sliced avocados and radishes. Or you can serve it as a side with rice and a sliced skirt steak.

Enchiladas Al Pastor

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

½ cup flour

½ pound Mexican chorizo

1 cup pineapple juice

2 cups chicken stock or broth

2 stalks celery

2 carrots

1 onion roughly chopped

1 ripe tomato halved

2 pineapple slices

2 cloves garlic

12 corn tortillas

Vegetable oil

FOR THE SAUCE

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

5 ancho chilies, seeded

4 guajillo chilies, seeded

2 seeded chilies de arbol, optional

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup olive oil

1½ cups chicken stock or broth

2 tablespoons salt

Dry thighs with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

Place flour in a resealable bag. Drop thighs in to flour two at a time, lightly dredge and remove shaking off the excess.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large Dutch oven or roasting pan, fry chorizo over medium heat until cooked through. Strain chorizo in a colander over the roasting pan. Add a little vegetable oil to the rendered chorizo grease and heat to medium-high. Store chorizo in a bowl until needed.

Brown both side of thighs in oil, about 3 to 4 minutes, and set aside. Toast chilies in remaining oil and set aside. Add carrot, celery and garlic and sauté 1 to 2 minutes and remove pan from heat. Place thighs in bottom of pan. Add pineapple juice and chicken broth. Place tomato halves on top of thighs. Place pineapple rings on top of tomato halves.

Cover Dutch oven or pan and braise chicken two hours.

With 20 minutes remaining on chicken, begin making sauce.

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan or skillet to medium heat.

Add onions, celery, grated carrots and garlic. After about a minute, lower heat to medium low. Sweat the vegetables until very soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Return chilies to pan and add crushed tomatoes and chicken stock/broth. Bring sauce to a boil and return heat to medium low, simmering until chicken is done. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little water or broth.

When chicken is done, remove tomato halves and braised pineapple and add to the sauce. Add salt. Remove chicken to a cutting board and let cool.

Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until very smooth.

Dice the chicken into small cubes and toss with chorizo. Discard remaining braising liquid and vegetables.

Heat enough vegetable oil in to fill the bottom of a small heavy-duty skillet by a ¼ inch. Have a casserole handy for constructing and storing the enchiladas.

Using a metal spatula or tongs, dip a tortilla in the hot oil and submerge for 2 to 3 seconds. Flip it and repeat. Move the tortilla into a casserole and let cool while you repeat the technique with two more tortillas.

Once your casserole has three tortillas in it, place two heaping spoonfuls of the chicken-chorizo mixture on one side of each. Pinch the edge of the tortilla closest to the mixture around the mixture and continue to roll as if you were rolling up a carpet. Repeat until the tortillas have run out. It's OK to construct on top of previously rolled enchiladas.

These enchiladas can be eaten as is or you can top with onion and bake at 350 for five to seven minutes to heat through.

Serve with Mexican rice, beans and guacamole.

Mexican Rice

Serves 6 to 8

2 cups Basmati Rice

3½ cups chicken broth

½ cup tomato juice or juice drained off fresh made salsa

½ yellow onion diced

1/3 cup frozen peas

1/3 cup frozen corn

1/3 cup frozen diced carrots

2 teaspoons toasted, ground cumin seeds

1½ teaspoons chile powder

¼ cup olive oil

Salt to taste

Heat a large skillet with lid to high heat. Add olive oil. Once heated, about 2 minutes, add rice and stir often. Add onions and stir until well coated, about 30 seconds.

Add remaining ingredients, stir in thoroughly and lower heat to medium. Cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn heat off. Remove lid and stir. Return lid until ready to eat. Rice will stay warm under lid up to 30 minutes.

Source: Dave Cathey

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