I take this recipe over the top by making my own enchilada sauce. You don’t have to go that far if you don’t want to. Canned enchilada sauce is readily available and a fine substitute. However, I really love the flavor that I get when I soak the dried chiles and use them to make a sauce that’s perfectly seasoned for my taste!
You may have difficulty locating the dried chiles. I find that it’s mostly hit or miss when I shop. The ones I used here were labelled pasilla or ancho chile. You could also use California or New Mexico, or a blend or whatever your favorites are. There’s a lot of confusion and mixed labeling in the chili pepper world. Once you find something you like see if you can locate a regular source for it.
This can be made fairly quickly with canned enchilada sauce, but it’s still a process. I find it’s best to set aside a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, have a margarita or two, and get myself in the mindset to make a batch of enchiladas.
The more traditional way to prepare these has the tortillas lightly fried in oil to soften before filling and rolling. We can cut lots of calories and fat down by skipping that step. A brief warming, whether in the microwave or a cast iron skillet, is enough to soften the tortilla, though.
Typically after frying the tortilla is also briefly dipped in the enchilada sauce and then filled and rolled. This is messy, difficult, and adds nothing to the final result that I can tell. I think it works just as well to fill and roll them dry, then cover them with sauce before baking.
These can be prepared in advance, but don’t pour the sauce over the top until you’re ready to bake. This will help keep them from getting soggy.
Sometimes you will see enchiladas made from flour tortillas. These are not enchiladas, they are something else. Enchiladas should be made from corn tortillas. Unfortunately, they do tear easier than flour ones. But, once stuffed and covered in sauce, you’ll hardly notice the tears anyway.
Once you master the art of soaking dried chiles and creating your own sauces from scratch with them you will open up a whole new world of authentic Mexican and Southwestern cooking!
Makes 8, enough to serve 3 to 4 people
To make your own sauce:
10 to 12 large dried mild chiles, such as Ancho, New Mexico, or California
2 Tbsp oil
1 large garlic clove
1 Tbsp unbleached, all-purpose flour
8 oz can tomato sauce, preferably no salt added
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
28 oz can prepared enchilada sauce
8 6” corn tortillas
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
2 cups shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese blend
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
1/4 cup scallions, sliced, green parts only
If you aren’t using canned, start by making your sauce. Place the dried chiles in a large saucepan and cover generously with water.
Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and let sit for 1 hour or until softened.
Drain the chiles and reserve the cooking liquid. You won’t need it all, but be sure to keep about 2 cups if you have that much.
Pull off the stems and split the chiles open with your finger. Rinse under running water to remove the seeds. Transfer to the large bowl of a food processor.
Add 1 1/2 cups of the soaking liquid. If you don’t have quite that much add water to make up the difference. Process until well pureed.
Place the chile puree in a wire mesh strainer over a large bowl. Press through the strainer. This is easiest with a wooden spoon. Just stir it and press against the mesh. The pulp will go through and the skins will be left behind.
Heat the oil and garlic in a large saucepan until fragrant. Remove the garlic clove. Stir in the flour until smooth and cook 1 minute. Stir in the pureed chiles, tomato sauce, vinegar, sea salt, oregano, cumin, and garlic powder.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until thickened, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes.
Okay! If you didn’t want to go through all that trouble and just decided to use canned enchilada sauce instead I certainly can’t blame you. You will either have your homemade sauce or your can of sauce ready to go at this point. Now we make the delicious enchiladas!
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 1 1/2 qt baking dish and spoon a small amount of the enchilada sauce on the bottom.
Prepare a work surface. Briefly warm a tortilla, either in a skillet or the microwave. Sprinkle a scant 1/4 cup of the cheese and about 1 tablespoon of the onion near the bottom.
Roll up and place in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, reserving some of the cheese to sprinkle on top.
Cover with enchilada sauce. You will probably have more than you need. This is good for reheating later as they tend to get a bit dry.
Add the tomatoes and olives on top.
Add the rest of the cheese and the green onions.
Bake until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Excellent with a dab of sour cream on top!