Updated: Jul 22, 2021
"An enchilada is a corn tortilla rolled around a filling and covered with a savory sauce." Wikipedia
Lockdown has its advantages for yesterday we had one of our family Zoom cooking classes. This time it was enchiladas - a suggestion from the children - and above are the three finished items - boys, girls, me. I think I was rather more generous with the tomato sauce and the cheese - definitely the cheese, but everyone decreed them to be delicious. Which was actually a bit of a suprise to me because, truth to tell, I'm not hugely into Mexican food. Mine were just served with a salad, but my grandchildren - all of them - went for guacamole I see. We don't eat guacamole in this house - the David avocado problem.
Prior to the cook up I had, of course, researched various recipes for how to do it and rapidly came to the conclusion that, as that Wikipedia quote suggests, virtually anything goes. In today's everyday world anyway. You can even substitute the corn tortillas for any kind of thinnish wrap - which, in fact, I did, because I had some in the freezer. A previous suggestion for this cooking lesson had been cannelloni - and really they are very similar.
Having searched the net for suggestions and been totally bemused about the massive variations, I decided in the end that there were fundamentally three parts to the equation. (a) the tortillas and the assembly of the dish, (b) the tomato sauce (c) the filling. But of course it's not quite as simple as that.
The tortillas - well - as I said already - really it can be any kind of wrap. The main difference I found was what you did with them. Most just put the filling on the tortilla rolled them round the filling and put them in a sauce lined dish, seam down.
Some however, said that this resulted in a soggy enchilada and so before doing the rolling thing, they either fried the tortillas lightly and drained on paper towels, or fried and then dipped the tortilla in the sauce before filling. Which seems a bit self-defeating to me. Anyway I decided this was far too complicated for my cooking lesson, so we just rolled them up, untreated. And they were not soggy. Some people on the net didn't put any sauce in the bottom of the pan, but we did - I think it stops them sticking to the bottom.
The tomato sauce. Well first off it doesn't have to be tomato sauce - it can be any kind of sauce you like. Really. We, however all went for tomato. Some recipes made this with passata - occasionally thickened with flour and then thinned with chicken stock. Again - a bit illogical. I was proud of my grandchildren when they all decided to make their sauce with tinned tomatoes, but I didn't explain clearly enough to my grandsons to soften the onions and garlic first, so they were just added in. I don't actually think it made much difference. So you need a fairly runny sauce I think - add some chicken stock - and probably not too much or they will end up soggy. I reckon it should be spicy though - if not with chilli - neither my older son, nor David like a lot of chilli so his boys left it out altogether and I only had a tiny amount. However, we all used the spice mix devised by the Recipe Tin Eats lady in her two enchilada recipes which I used as the basis for my lesson - Beef enchiladas, and Chicken enchiladas. It was a very simple mix of onion and garlic powders (why do they solidify in the jar?), chilli, paprika, ground cumin and dried oregano. I recommend making up a batch and storing it with your other spices.
And lastly the filling. Well anything goes really. I certainly got rid of a few things from my fridge the last bit of a bunch of celery, some roasted peppers that I had preserved, and some beetroot leaves from a beetroot and smoked trout quiche. But you sort of have to have beans. But then again maybe not. I found a recipe from Bill and Hillary Clinton's cookbook - yes they have a cookbook - which had no beans but heaps of chilli. The Recipe Tin Eats lady swore by refried beans which I was going to buy until I saw the size of the tin, so I made my own - very simple - fry a bit of onion and garlic, add some cumin, oregano, beans and a bit of stock even water. Cook for a bit and mash.
Both of my grandchildren families made theirs with chicken. I used beef mince. We added the enchilada spice mix, some beans and then it was over to them. I think my grandsons had corn in theirs for example. But anyway - it is a wonderful way to use leftovers.
Cover with your sauce, and some cheese, and bake in the oven until hot and bubbly. Yum.
It was interesting to me because I thought I would come up against the usual 'authentic' versus experimental thing. But no it seems to be a commonly accepted thing that you can devise your own and there are heaps of 'my perfect recipes' out there.
It took a while for the Americans to catch on. Wikipedia had this quote from an American traveller in Mexico in !883:
"Enchiladas, a greasy tortilla sandwich containing chiles and a number of other uninviting looking compounds and other nasty messes, are sold everywhere, filling the air with a pungent, nauseous smell."
And indeed it is entirely possible that street vendors and fast food chains do something equally awful with them - a bit like sausages. Who knows what's in them! But the Americans have now got their own Tex-Mex cuisine and how you tell the difference between that and genuine Mexican I have no idea.
Apparently when the Spanish first came to South and Central America, they saw simple enchiladas of small fish wrapped in a tortilla and even:
"In their original form as Mexican street food, enchiladas were simply corn tortillas dipped in chili sauce and eaten without fillings." Wikipedia
Anyway the kids enjoyed the whole thing so much that we have now instituted Sunday evenings as a cooking together time. Hopefully not entirely in lockdown and via Zoom. Next time it's Robert Carrier's Egyptian lemon chicken - which is actually so stupidly easy that we'll have to do something else as well or else it will all be over in five minutes. Cooking just does not have to be complicated.