Thursday, April 28, 2011

Enchiladas esta Noche!

Enchilada literally means in chile, the enchiladas are dipped into a red chile sauce to concentrate the chile flavor into the tortilla. The tortillas are not baked in the oven, they are lowered into hot oil to make them pliable, then dipped into the sauce, the fillings are layered, and then the enchilada is rolled up and served right away. This is the Mexican way of making enchiladas!

The weather has been a real downer of late here in Milwaukee so I thought preparing and eating Mexican, food I typically over-indulge in, the summer, would lift my spirits. I've always had enchiladas at Mexican restaurants but have only made them once before. I got inspiration from the latest edition of Saveur magazine and their article on Mexican cooking. Making enchiladas won't bring the sun out but it at least puts my mind at ease.

I headed to the southside of Milwaukee to El Rey Supermercado to buy quality Mexican ingredients. You will need:

8 dried New Mexico chiles
1 ounce Mexican chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 saltine crackers or 2 1/2 tablespoons of bread crumbs
1 clove garlic
1 whole clove


To make the red chile sauce, start out by heating up the dried chiles on a skillet. Cook until fragrent. This should take about 4-5 minutes. It deepens the flavor of the sauce.

Add the chiles to a blender along with chocolate, oregano, cinnamon, garlic, clove, bread crumbs, and 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. Let the ingredients steep for 5 minutes and then puree until smooth.

I love putting my face right above the blender and smell in the hot fumes of the sauce, all the separate ingredients hit my nose. I can pick out each one. Oh yes!

Drain the sauce into a bowl through a fine sieve.

Add the sauce to a pot and add a tablespoon of oil and cook over medium heat, constantly stirring until the sauce thickens. Set aside.

What better filling for an enchilada than pork right? There are many ways you can cook the pork to add as a filling and many types of cuts of pork but my favorite is to slow-cook pork shoulder. I cooked a 3 lb pork shoulder, seasoned with salt - pepper - garlic powder - Mexican spice for 8 hours. The pulled pork fits well in the cigar-shaped rolled up tortilla. Damn, look at that bowl of pork!

Instead of dipping the tortillas in hot oil, I opted for a healthier method. I cooked the tortillas on a skillet until pliable and set aside. Too much oil tastes too greasy for me. Make sure you get good tortillas. I got store-bought rather than make my own and the tortillas weren't the great of quality, they tended to tear when rolled. I really hate when that happens.

Dip the tortillas into the red sauce until coated and transfer to a plate, add pork filling and roll up like a cigar. Sprinkle queso fresco on top of enchiladas and add sliced onions.

You can add different types of filling along with the pork if you want, cheese, onions, cilantro, etc...I went for a simple version. Yes, the enchiladas were very tasty. The red chile sauce adds a lot of depth to the dish. You can really notice the hints of cinnamon and clove. I'm not the biggest fan of the taste of clove but I'm getting more used to it. It is a staple ingredient when making moles and sauces so I wanted to include it. The Ibarra chocolate is there too although more subtle than the other ingredients.

The pork was a real winner and the queso fresco always makes a dish better. My only problem were the tortillas. Perhaps I bought an old batch, one that was sitting on the shelves too long. I would recommend making your own if you have the time.

Last note:  These aren't Gringo enchiladas, they are packed with real Mexican flavor. Go get 'em!

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