Like all of the “ethnic” foods I cook, this dish doesn’t make any claims to being particularly “authentic,” but it is tasty and filling.
Once you learn the technique, you can ring changes on it with different fillings and varieties of sauces.
See also the recipe for Enchilasagna, which uses the same kinds of ingredients but layered rather than rolled — there are notes in that recipe describing some specific techniques for cooking individual fillings and sauces.
Corn tortillas are definitely the traditional choice here, but small flour tortillas would work in a pinch. A stack of 24 or 30 small tortillas is enough for about two casserole dishes worth of enchiladas.
Begin by preparing the fillings — at least one of following, but having two or three is better as you can make part of the batch with one filling and the rest with another:
- corn, cut off the cob and cooked with sautéd onions and cream;
- spinach, cooked with onions and mushrooms;
- mushrooms, cooked with some onion and scallions and a lot of garlic;
- thinly sliced strips of onion, bell pepper, and chili peppers, sautéd until soft and then deglazed with balsamic vinegar;
- textured vegetable protein (or substitute ground beef), cooked with onion and some crushed tomatoes and chili powder;
The sky’s the limit on these fillings — anything savory and moist (but not too wet) would work.
I also make a pot of beans (black, pinto, or kidney are all fine) at the same time — you can either put beans in each enchilada, or serve the beans on the side.
I always include cheese with the fillings:
- Grated cheddar is an okay choice, or something in the colby/jack family, or the Mexican equivalent, Chihuahua cheese;
- I’m a big fan of chèvre, the creamy goat cheese;
- One of the white Mexican crumbling or grated cheeses, like queso fresco or cotija.
Lastly you’ll also need one or more sauces. One quart of sauce is about the right amount for a large casserole dish of 12-15 enchiladas.
- I typically make a batch of tomato sauce, just as I would if I was making pasta, but add more garlic than usual, and a dash of chili powder. If you like your enchiladas spicy, you could sauté a bunch of hot peppers with the onions before adding the tomatoes, and then puree the whole thing in a blender when you’re done.
- If you’re not up for making a sauce from scratch, you can use a saucy store-bought salsa, or mix a plain tomato sauce with salsa.
- For a creamy dish, make a béchamel sauce, with some cheese melted into it.
- Another easy sauce option is to stir a little milk into a pint of sour cream to thin it to sauce consistency, and stir in some chopped scallions or herbs.
If you prepare two kinds of sauces, you can do half of the batch in each, or pour one sauce on the bottom of the tray and use the other to top it.
Any or all of the above items can be prepared days in advance and refrigerated until you’re ready.
When you’re ready to bake, get out a large casserole dish, start your oven heating to around 400° and put a dry skillet on the stove to warm up over medium heat.
Line up your fillings and assemble the dish as follows:
- Pour about two cups of sauce in the bottom of the pan and spread it into an even layer.
- Place a tortilla on the dry skillet for a minute, and then turn it over for a little bit to allow it to warm through. (Corn tortillas are likely to crack or crumble if you try to roll them cold.)
- Slide the first tortilla off the skillet and put another one on to start warming up.
- Use a spoon to ladle some fillings into a line down the center of the tortilla. Avoid the temptation to overstuff it; you want to be able to fold the sides up and overlap them around the filling. A heaping tablespoon each of beans, vegetables, and cheese is about the right amount.
- Wrap the sides of the tortilla around the filling and flip it over as you transfer it to the casserole dish, placing it seam-side down in the layer of sauce.
- By this time the tortilla you have on the skillet should be warm and you can repeat this process until your casserole dish is full, with a dozen or more rolled tortillas lined up side by side.
- Lastly, pour another two cups of sauce on the top and spread it into an even layer.
Bake at around 400° for about 30 minutes. (Add a bit more time if you made your fillings ahead of time and they were still cold when you assembled the casserole dish.)
Optionally, take the dish out of the oven five or ten minutes early and scatter a bit of cheese on top then put it back in the oven to let the cheese melt into the sauce.
While the enchiladas are baking, make a pot of plain rice as a side dish.
You may be able to lift the enchiladas out of the casserole individually, but they might stick together where they were crowded up against their neighbors — don’t fret about it, just scoop ’em out.
Serve with sliced avocados or guacamole, sour cream, salsa, maybe some diced red onion or scallions.
A green salad makes a lovely accompaniment.