Saturday, September 27, 2014

Homemade Enchiladas: Flexible, Fun

Part of what makes a meal memorable is working together to prepare it.

Though time-consuming to prepare from scratch, enchiladas offer flexibility in fillings and fun for those working together to make a memorable meal. We use the recipe from Jacqueline Higuera McMahan's California Rancho Cooking: Mexican and Californian RecipesAuthentic Rancho Chile Sauce.

The ingredients are few: dried guajillo or California peppers (the recipe calls for mild California peppers, we prefer the spicier guajillo), minced garlic, dried oregano, cider vinegar and oil/flour for the roux.

I described the process we use in What's Cooking at our House: Homemade Enchilada Sauce (June 7, 2014): we soften the chilis and then strip the soft flesh off the tough skins.

Several readers wrote to tell me that they don't find this step is necessary, that whizzing up the softened chilis in a blender, skin and all, produces an excellent enchilada sauce.

In our case, we prefer to take the extra step of scraping the chili flesh from the skin.

Whether you take this step or not, the basic steps to prepare the sauce are the same:

Blenderize the chiles with the crushed garlic + 1 1/2 cups soaking liquid to start – use your judgment; you may need more liquid but don’t make the puree too thin.

Heat a cast iron flying pan if you have one, and prepare the enchilada sauce using a basic “gravy” making technique (a roux). Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in the pan on medium, sprinkle in the flour while whisking so it won’t burn – want this roux to brown nicely (you don’t need to add the minced garlic since the cloves are already in the chile puree).

Whisk in the red chile puree until smooth, then add in the 2 teaspoons oregano and 2 tablespoons cider vinegar. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer 20 minutes for flavors to meld – your sauce is ready. If it looks too thick, whisk in more of the chile soaking liquid.

Longtime readers know that due to family obligations we spend time in both Hawaii and California, and our meals with close friends reflect the locale we happen to find ourselves in.

You'll see tell-tale evidence that this dish of homemade enchiladas was made and enjoyed in Hawaii.

First, split the chilis to remove the seeds, and then rinse the opened chilis:

After soaking in boiling water, the chilis soften. The next step is to scrape the softened flesh off the tough skin.

Next, prepare the sauce. To assemble the enchiladas, dip the tortillas in the warm sauce and then fill with the ingredients of choice: in this case, black beans, roasted potatoes and organic cheddar cheese.

The finished pan of gustatory pleasure:

The accompanying dishes: a bowl of the sauce for those who want an extra dollop; diced local avocado, fresh-from-the-garden kale, roasted potatoes, diced tomatoes from the local farmer's market and my favorite carbo, poi.

And for dessert: homemade peach pie:

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