Sunday, October 17, 2010
The Elusive Enchiladas
I've put off posting this because of the amount of work involved and the subjective nature of the recipe: there are just some things in this recipe that you have to eyeball, they don't really have measurements.
I've decided to split this recipe into 3 parts: The Sauce, The Filling, and The Assembly. The ingredients for all 3 portions of the recipe will likewise be divided.
This recipe makes approximately 3 dozen enchiladas. Why so many? Because I freeze them individually and store them in gallon ziplocks. They reheat beautifully in the microwave for a fast and easy weeknight dinner, or you can grab a couple to toss in your lunch for work. Feel free to tinker with the amounts if you want to make fewer.
IMPORTANT NOTE: These enchiladas do not require further cooking after assembly, aside from a brief shot in the microwave to melt the cheese. You may serve them immediately with extra sauce spooned over the top, or freeze them as per instructions in this post.
(These measurements are approximate, a lot is dependent upon how it looks and tastes)
1/2 c. vegetable shortening (weigh this on a scale before adding to the pan)
an equal weight of unbleached white all-purpose flour
3 each of dried pasilla and guajillo chile peppers, or you can just use chili powder
approximately 4c. hot tap water.
salt to taste
2lb ground beef
4-5 small cans chopped green chilies, drained in a strainer
2-3 cans (I think I used 3) of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 envelopes dry onion soup mix (I used Lipton Onion Soup Mix, one box contains 2 envelopes)
8c. Mexican 4 cheese blend (can find at most groceries, usually a blend of monterey jack, cheddar, queso quesadilla and asadero) or whatever kind of cheese you want.
3 dozen flour tortillas (the size that come 12 to a bag, approximately 28oz per bag)
2-3 sheet pans covered with foil
a soup spoon
an extra pair of helping hands
Melt the shortening and flour together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it starts to bubble and turns a very light blonde color (this is called a blonde roux, look what you just learned how to make!). While this roux comes together, toss your dried chiles (if using) into a dry skillet over medium heat and heat them, turning frequently, just until you can smell them (this helps release some of the oils and flavors). When the chiles are heated through, remove them to a cutting board, pull out (or cut out) the stems, shake out the seeds, and toss them in the blender with about 1/2 cup of hot water, scraping down the sides to make a chile puree. Add approximately 4c. hot water to the roux, whisking with a wire whisk to combine. Add in the chile puree, and add some salt until it tastes right. The sauce should be a dark rusty enchilada sauce color, and be thick like gravy. If it's not dark enough, feel free to add chili powder until it's the right color, and if it's too thin and watery, you can mix some more flour and a little water with a fork in a small bowl to make a slurry, and dribble this in to thicken it more. A lot of this sauce is testing by color and taste... you want to keep adding chiles and chili powder until it's the right color, salt until it's the right flavor, and flour and water mixture until it's the right thickness.
Note: don't make it too thick, think chicken gravy, not a thick brown or cream gravy. You don't want it to be gloppy. If you choose not to use dried chiles, you can use all chili powder... just make sure to keep adding until your sauce is the right color. If you accidentally make the sauce too thick don't despair... add water and voila, it thins out again!
Additional Note: As with any gravy, it will not reach it's maximum thickness until it boils. When the sauce boils, the flour releases all of it's gluten, and the sauce becomes as thick as it's going to get. Make sure you heat this sauce at least until it starts to bubble, then shut off the heat when you have it just right.
Remove the sauce from heat, and set aside to cool slightly once it's the way you want it. If it seems to become thicker as it cools, add a bit more water before you assemble your enchiladas.
Brown the hamburger in a large skillet over medium heat, breaking up the chunks with either a wooden spoon or my favorite kitchen tool for this task, the Pampered Chef Mix-n-Chop(I've never before found a tool that chops ground meat so well, you just raise it straight up and down, much like a potato masher and voila! finely chopped ground beef/sausage/chicken etc!). Drain the grease from the meat once it's browned and add in the onion soup mix, drained black beans and green chilies. Allow this mixture to cool before adding the cheese straight into it and stirring it all together (you might want to transfer everything into a great big bowl for this step if your skillet isn't big enough, but I'm telling you mixing the cheese in with the meat/beans mixture makes assembly LOTS easier)
Once everything is cool enough that you won't burn your hands touching it, grab your sauce, filling, and tortillas, and move the entire entourage to the kitchen table or a very large open countertop.
This part of the operation is MUCH easier if you have someone to help you assemble. One person sauces the tortillas, and the other adds the filling, rolls the enchiladas and places them on the sheet pans.
Step 1: Sauce the tortillas.
We've tried several methods... dipping them in the sauce (they get so wet they tend to tear and fall apart), painting them with a basting brush (this takes FOREVER and they don't seem to get enough sauce), and saucing them with a soup-spoon much like a pizza crust. The spoon method worked out best. If you're not familiar with this method here's a breakdown:
a. put a piece of foil on the table
b. place a tortilla on the foil.
c. using a soup spoon, spoon one or two spoonfuls of sauce onto the tortilla.
d. using the back of the same spoon, spread the sauce out on the tortilla using a circular motion, starting from the middle of the tortilla and working your way to the edge.
e. flip the tortilla over.
f. repeat saucing technique on the 2nd side of the tortilla.
Step 2: The Filling
Person #2 takes over from here... leaving the tortilla where it lays on the foil, spoon a liberal amount of filling onto the center, spreading it out in a line (I usually use a serving spoon for this, one scoop seems to be plenty. Fold one side of the tortilla over the filling sort of like an omelette, it should be almost folded in half. Then continue rolling the tortilla in the same direction, and place it seam-side down on a foil covered sheet pan. Continue until you run out of tortillas or run out of filling. If you run out of sauce... make more, it's not hard! If you have sauce leftover after assembly, spoon it over each of the individual enchiladas on the pans before throwing in the freezer.
The reason for the foil covered sheet pans is this: If you place the enchiladas on the pans so they are not touching, and if they are on foil, you can put the entire pan in the freezer. Once the enchiladas are frozen, they won't be stuck together, and you can peel each one off the foil and place into ziplock bags for later consumption.
My suggestion for reheating from frozen: Place on plates in the refrigerator and thaw before microwaving. If you choose to microwave straight from frozen that's fine, but I'd suggest heating for 1 minute, cutting them in half, opening them up so the middle can get some heat, and microwaving for 1-2 minutes more... otherwise the cold hard center will need so long to heat through that the ends will get chewy and hard.
Feel free to whip up some more enchilada sauce to serve over these when you reheat them!
Note: I make them 3 dozen at a time because they're so so so delicious... but they're also an awful lot of work, and it's easier to do it once and make a ton, than to do it 3 separate times!