Street-Style Enchiladas Rojas

This is from Rick Bayless’ Mexico: One Plate at a Time. Dave wanted to make these for us but since he’s been sick and working as usual, time has not been on our side. I decided tonight was the night and with his permission, I made them instead.

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These are not your typical enchilada. The tortillas are not rolled with a filling; the sauce is dry, not wet. The tortillas are not soaking in a sauce while baking. One last surprise? No jack cheese. I was skeptical. Surely you cannot call these enchiladas! I made the sauce, tasted it, and made a face. I thought, “well, if it comes out terribly, I’ll just make sandwiches.” Good thing they were surprisingly delicious. Even Nevan, who I anticipated to not like the strong, dry flavor, muffled through a mouthful of food “MMMMM! I could eat these EVERY day!”. I think I still prefer your traditional saucy, rolled variety, but these were a nice departure from the common enchilada.

5 medium (2.5 oz) dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup grated Mexican queso anejo or other dry grating cheese such as Romano or Parmesan
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
2 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken, preferably grilled, roasted, or rotisserie
12 corn tortillas
Roughly 1/3 cup vegetable oil or pork lard
4 loosely packed cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce
1 1/2 tbsp vinegar (preferably cider vinegar)

I will try to keep the directions short.

Heat a dry heavy skillet over medium. Tear the chiles into flat pieces and toast them skin side up, pressing down with a spatula, until aromatic and lightened in color. Place them in a bowl and cover with 3 cups of very hot tap water. Place a small plate on top to keep them submerged, and allow to soak for 20 minutes.

Transfer rehydrated chiles to a blender and add 1 1/2 cups of the soaking liquid and garlic. Blend until very smooth, and if desired you may strain to smooth further (I skipped that, it was unnecessary). Add roughly 1/2 tsp salt, to taste. Pour the sauce into a pie plate. Note: the ancho chiles at my market came in a 2 oz. package, so I only used that much minus some of the water. I managed to just squeeze through 14 tortillas on that much, so if you can’t quite get 2.5 oz., don’t worry.

Heat oven to 350F. Toss your lettuce in the vinegar. Set out your grated cheese, warmed chicken, lettuce, and onions and get out a baking sheet or small casserole dish. Heat up a skillet over medium heat and add a tbsp of oil/lard. Once hot, dip both sides of the tortilla in the sauce and fry for about 20 seconds each side in the oil. Fold it in half and lay it on side side of the sheet/casserole dish. Cook the rest in the same manner, slightly overlapping the tortillas. Lay another layer of the folded, fried tortillas in the opposite direction on top of the first layer, and if you still have some extra, do another layer.

Place in the oven for 5 minutes to heat through. Remove from oven. Divide among four plates and top with chicken, cheese, lettuce, and onions. I also added sliced black olives, light sour cream, and a generous amount of The Pepper Plant, California Style (if you have never had it, you are missing out on this little known California secret: the world’s single greatest hot sauce. I’m serious: order it now. California Style is the best all around sauce… goes with everything). A healthy handful of cilantro would have been perfect, but I had none. Sad face.

These should be eaten right away. They don’t keep like traditional enchiladas because they’re dry. Enjoy!

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