Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 13: Cheese Enchiladas

When I moved from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania, I anticipated that I would experience many changes, but I never really considered the consequences of losing access to my favorite Tex-Mex restaurants. Sure, there are a few decent Mexican restaurants in the area, and with Southern Chester County's growing Mexican population, I'm sure there will be more. But Mexican isn't Tex-Mex. There are no cheese enchiladas.

Today, my mom and I set out to recreate genuine, restaurant-style Tex-Mex cheese enchiladas, with their savory chili sauce and mounds of gooey cheese. These enchiladas would not contain goat cheese or swim in a pool of tomatillo salsa. The cheese must be yellow, and the sauce brown.

We started in the most logical place: searching out recipes from friends or bloggers who live in cheese enchilada country. It soon became clear that these people have no need to recreate cheese enchiladas in their kitchen; they just go out to eat. Many did express sympathy at our plight and disbelief that there are parts of the world in which children grow up without access to Tex-Mex. Undettered, I turned to the most logical source of restaurant-style Tex-Mex recipes: Homesick Texan. Texans stuck in New York can't go out to eat and order a competent enchilada, after all.

There I found a recipe that called for all of the essentials. Lots of yellow cheese, onions, and a savory, simple chili sauce. Nothing fancy. No goat cheese. Overall, her recipe is good, although I made a few tweaks. I included a half tablespoon tomato paste to give the sauce a little depth the juice of half a lime to brighten things up.

Chili Gravy

1/4 cup lard or vegetable oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chili powder (I used a hot chili powder, but I wanted a hotter sauce)
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
Juice of half a lime
2 cups beef stocl

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and continue stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it makes a light brown roux.

Add the black pepper, salt, powdered garlic, ground cumin, dried oregano and chili powder and continue to cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring and blending ingredients. Add beef stock and tomato paste, mixing and stirring until the sauce thickens. Turn heat to low and let sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add the lime juice and simmer for another minute or two. Add water to adjust the thickness.

Cheese Enchiladas

1/2 cup lard or vegetable oil
8 corn tortillas
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups chili gravy

Preheat the oven to 450 and grease a large baking dish.

Melt the lard in a small skillet, and heat the tortillas one at a time. Keep them wrapped in a cloth until all 8 are heated. Pour 1/2 cup of chili gravy in a baking pan.

Take a tortilla, put 1/4 cup of cheese and 1 tablespoon of onion in the center and roll it. Place rolled tortilla in baking dish, seam side down. Continue with remaining tortillas.

Take remaining chili gravy, and pour it over the rolled tortillas. Sprinkle remaining cheese and onions on top. Bake for 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.

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