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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mexican Enchiladas with Homemade Corn Tortillas

Homemade enchiladas, entirely from scratch, are well worth the effort. This post will cover how to make corn tortillas from scratch, how to make a wonderful enchilada sauce (you'll never buy canned again), how to roast green chiles, how to make a (soy) chorizo-potato filling, and, of course, how to put the enchiladas together.

Most people will assume the most difficult part of this dish is making the corn tortillas from scratch. In actuality, this is not difficult; it is merely time-consuming. It goes fastest with two people working together, although one person can certainly do it by themself. We generally double the recipe so that we have enough extra tortillas to freeze for use another time.

Homemade Corn Tortillas
(More information about making tortillas from scratch may be found in this previous post.)

2 cups masa flour
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups tepid water

Be sure to purchase masa flour for this recipe. Do not substitute plain corn flour or cornmeal. Masa is the fine flour from corn that has been dried and then cooked with slaked lime (to make hominy), ground up, and dried again. Masa is used for making corn tortillas and tamales, among other traditional Mexican foods.

Now, back to the recipe. Mix the salt into the flour. Most recipes do not call for salt but we think it improves the taste.

Slowly add the water, mixing until the dough is moist and holds together. Cover and let sit for half an hour.

Roll into balls about the size of a golfball. If necessary, add a little more water. You want to ball to hold together without cracking but not be overly moist. Keep the dough covered as you are working so it doesn't dry out.

Place the ball between two sheets of plastic. I find the liners from a box of cereal are just the right weight for this.

You can purchase a tortilla press if you want, but I just press down on the balls with a cutting board to flatten them into tortillas.

If the tortilla is too thick, you can use a rolling pin to roll it out a little thinner. Carefully peel off the plastic from the top and bottom. Note: if the dough is too moist or the tortilla too thin, the plastic may stick.

Carefully lay the tortillas in a preheated skillet and cook over medium-high heat until lightly toasted on both sides. This doesn't take long, so if you are working alone, keep a sharp eye on them.

Place cooked tortillas on a plate covered by a dish towel to keep them warm. Try not to eat so many fresh out of the pan that you don't have enough left for the meal.

Enchilada Sauce
This is an old family recipe that I've slightly modified over the years.

1 large onion, chopped
½ c fire-roasted green chiles, diced*
1 c diced fresh tomatoes (or substitute 15 oz can diced tomatoes)
3 (15 oz) cans tomato sauce
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 ¼ tsp chile powder (plain ground red chile powder, not a blend of spices)
¾ tsp cumin powder
Pinch oregano
1 tbs packed brown sugar
2 tbs white vinegar

In a large nonstick pan, saute the onion until limp.
Add remaining ingredients.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed:
· For more heat, add more diced roasted green chiles, or chile powder & cumin.
· For more of a tangy bite, add more vinegar.
· To tame the heat, add more tomato sauce or brown sugar.
If you want a thicker sauce, whisk together 1 tablespoon masa and 3 tablespoons water. Stir into sauce and simmer 3 minutes to thicken, stirring frequently.

How to Roast Green Chiles

*Freshly roasted green chiles taste far superior to the canned product available in the grocery store. In the Southwest, stores often set up chile roasters outside during late summer chile season and sell 20 pound bags of fresh green chiles inside. You take the bag outside where the fellows running the roaster dump it inside the perforated barrel (see photo link), fire up the propane burners, and turn the barrel until the pepper skins are nicely charred. You take home a garbage bag filled with hot, steaming chiles. Once cooled, you peel off the charred skin, remove the seeds, and have wonderful fire-roasted green chiles that you can use immediately or freeze for later.

To roast your own fresh green chiles, lay them in a single layer on a hot BBQ grill or under your oven's broiler. Cover the grill or close the oven and listen for popping sounds to know when to turn them over. Steam builds up inside the chiles and splits the skin on top. Keep turning the chiles until the skin on all sides are blackened. Place in a bowl and cover until cool enough to handle. Wearing kitchen gloves, peel off the skin and remove the seeds and stem. Avoid the temptation to dunk the chiles in water. It does speed up the cleaning process but it also washes away some of the wonderful flavor. The chiles will keep in the refrigerator for only a few days, so freeze in small portions for use as needed.

If you forget to wear gloves, as I frequently do, make sure you do not rub your eyes or any other sensitive tissues for at least 24 hours. If you are a female using a Keeper or Diva cup, it is vital to your well-being to remember to wear the gloves. Trust me on this one. You do not want the capsaicin in the peppers on your fingers at this time of month!

(Soy) Chorizo-Potato Enchilada Filling

6 medium red potatoes, diced
1 large onion, diced
6 oz soy chorizo (I buy it at Trader Joe's)

Cook red potatoes in a pressure cooker or pan of water until just tender.
Heat a skillet on high heat and saute the onion until golden. (This can be started immediately following cooking the corn tortillas in the same hot pan.)
Add the soy chorizo* and stir for a couple of minutes.
Stir in the potatoes. Mix thoroughly and cook until heated through.

*If using real chorizo, be sure to cook the pork thoroughly. If not using soy or real chorizo, add 1 - 2 tablespoons chorizo spice mix to the onions and potatoes for flavor.

Chorizo Spice Mix

3 tbs chili powder
2 tbs paprika
1 tsp each coarsely ground pepper and garlic powder
½ tsp each cinnamon and cloves
¼ tsp each ginger, nutmeg and ground coriander
1 tsp each oregano, cumin and thyme
6 bay leaves, crumbled

Mix and store tightly covered in a jar.
Use approximately 2 tablespoons for each 1/2 pound meat substitute.

Enchilada Assembly

Enchiladas may be assembled in different ways. They can be simple stacks of corn tortillas with sauce and maybe a sprinkling of cheese, or in my case, a drizzle of vegan cheesy sauce courtesy of Jo Stepaniak's Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. Or, they can be more complicated with a tasty filling layered between corn tortillas, covered in sauce, and baked. After getting our most recent gas bill, I opted for stacked enchiladas, with filling, but not baked. All of the ingredients were hot and there was no need to burn more natural gas baking it in a pan. If I had been taking the dish to a potluck, the baked version would be more appropriate.

Layered as follows: Dip tortilla in sauce and place on plate. Add a layer of filling. Repeat. Finish with another tortillas and top with extra sauce and a little cheesy sauce.


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