Get closer to authentic enchiladas

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

Though I love to cook, I’ve only watched one or two cooking shows in my lifetime. I find the shows fascinating, but they lack two of the most important senses for food — taste and smell.

Kitchens are another matter altogether. I can’t stay out of them. If I see someone cooking, I want to be there inhaling the aromas coming from the stove. This has gotten me some strange looks as I stood a little too long at the door of restaurant kitchens. On the other hand, home cooks are usually welcoming and willing to share their secrets. That’s how I first learned to make enchiladas.

While living in Mexico, we often took trips to the countryside. Once, when visiting a small village, I spotted a seemingly ancient woman grinding corn by hand to make the masa for tortillas. I offered to help, but when I tried to turn the handle on the grinder I could barely move it. This produced a lot of laughter — and later a hands-on lesson in making enchiladas.

Enchilada roughly translates to “in chile sauce.” Tortillas are filled with whatever is on hand, rolled and topped with enchilada sauce. The exact recipe for the sauce depends on which region of Mexico you visit. The American version of the dish is a rolled tortilla topped with a chile-laced tomato sauce and tons of cheese. The result tastes more like a spicy pizza than an enchilada.

The enchilada recipe below is a bit of a compromise. Packaged tortillas eliminate the grinding of corn, and chile powder takes the place of pounding dried chiles by hand. The resulting enchiladas have a nuance of flavors that will wean you away from the Tex-Mex version.

Enchiladas Rojas

3 tablespoons ancho chile powder

21/2 cups water

1 medium size onion

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

3 tablespoons oil (divided)

12 corn tortillas

About 1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

3/4 cup sour cream thinned with 1/4 cup milk

1 cup finely shredded cabbage

10 stuffed green olives sliced

5 thinly sliced radishes

Combine the chile powder, water, onion, garlic, salt and oregano in a blender or food processor and blend to a smooth puree. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 12-inch skillet and add the puree. Cook over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce thickens a bit. Set aside.

To assemble the enchiladas, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small skillet. Take a tortilla and dip it in the sauce. Then fry it quickly, about 5 seconds on each side, in the hot oil, and place on a plate. Put about 2 tablespoons of grated cheese in the lower third of the tortilla and roll into a cylinder, then place in a baking dish, seam side down. Do the same with the remaining tortillas. Reserve the remaining sauce.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and heat in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. When ready to serve, heat the remaining sauce and pour it over the enchiladas, then drizzle the sour cream on top. Garnish with the vegetables and serve.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.