The Mighty Enchilada.
You’ve seen them in most Mexican restaurant menus. You probably have eaten them. You might wonder if there’s more to them than just putting a spicy sauce on a tortilla.
There is 😀
You see, the enchilada is both a dish….and one of many variations on a method.
The prefix “en-” in Spanish means “in”.
Take the word enchilada: en + chilada. ‘En’ meaning ‘in’ and ‘chilada’ derived from ‘chile’, basically a sauce made with chilies. So an enchilada, is a tortilla dipped in a chile sauce.
Other dishes using this method:
– Entomatada : Tortilla in a tomato sauce.
– Enfrijolada : Tortilla in a bean sauce.
– Enmolada : Tortilla in a mole sauce.
– Enpipianada : Tortilla in a pipian sauce.
While the enchilada is the more popular version abroad, the most common form of these in Mexico is the Entomatada, and along with Sopa Aguada (which will appear later in this blog), a meal that appears at least once a week in most households. It’s also one of my favorite comfort foods.
But before we start….there’s one very important thing: Regardless of which type of sauce you dip your tortillas in, DO NOT, under any circumstances, use a flour tortilla. Just don’t. Corn tortillas are a must. Why?? They just are. Sorry if I sound snippy, but……yeah. Use a flour tortilla and you’ll get stared at by every single Mexican in the room.
Don’t say I failed to warn you……. 😉
The bits and pieces (see Notes below).
- Corn tortillas.
- Tomato sauce.
- Crumbled cheese.
- Optional: beans, finely chopped onion, shredded lettuce/cabbage, crema (or sour cream), avocado, salsa, etc.
- Warm up the sauce.
- Heat up about 1/2-1 inch of oil in a pan. Stick the edge of a tortilla to test for temperature. If it sizzles, you’re good to go.
- Fry the tortillas one at a time for a few seconds on each side. You’re aiming for a nice, soft, pliable tortilla. Flip them carefully. Drain them on paper towels.
- Dip each tortilla quickly in the sauce to coat and stack/fold/roll them onto a dish or plate.
- Once all rolled, pour a little more sauce over the top and sprinkle with the cheese.
- Garnish and serve.
- DON’T use a flour tortilla. Sorry, had to repeat it.
- Stuffing your entomatadas (or any other type of dipped tortilla) is entirely optional. We usually don’t.
- Plain tomato sauce works. In Mexico, Knorr has a product called ‘Caldillo’ sold in cartons that we use all the time. It’s basically tomato sauce with a bit of salt, parsley, onion and just a dash of garlic. I’ve yet to find the same thing in the US, so I just improvise with a large can of tomato sauce and spices.
- Regardless of what kind of sauce you use for your tortillas, make sure they are on the watery side. A thick sauce will make your entomadas all pastey. This goes double if you use a bean sauce, as it thickens considerably as it cools down. I’ve seen bean variations, where people roll up the fried tortillas without dipping them in the sauce, then the sauce is spooned on top.
- Crumbled queso fresco is the most used cheese for these. The closest cheese in taste found in the US would be feta. If you can’t find either, a shredded mozzarella or monterrey jack will do.
- Why fry the tortillas? Two reasons: it makes them pliable and the thin coating of oil keeps them from getting crazy soggy after dipped in the sauce.
- You can use tongs to flip the tortillas, just be aware that as they soften, they might easily break. I use a two hand approach: a hamburger turner to lift them off the oil in one hand and the next tortilla in the other to sandwich the fried one against the turner. I let the tortilla drip as much as possible, then transfer to paper towels. When the last tortilla is in, I use the turner plus the back of a soup spoon.
- Can’t be bothered with frying and rolling each tortilla by hand? Stack your tortillas and slice them into 1-2 inch pieces. Fry them in batches a little longer than you’d fry the singles. You’re looking for snack tortilla chip consistency. Let them drip over paper towels. Heat up your sauce in a pot. Add a handful of the tortilla chips, mix around and use a slotted spoon to fish them out and onto a dish. Repeat until you have them all coated. If needed, add more sauce on top, sprinkle with cheese and voila! You have Chilaquiles.