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David Ross

Enchiladas--Cook-Off 46

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Welcome to eG Cook-Off 46! Click here for the Cook-Off index.

We spent the last Cook-Off perfecting french fries, delightful yet leaning toward the one-dimensional. This time we're shifting gears and making the multi-dimensional Mexican dish, enchiladas.

The variations on enchiladas are endless-there doesn't seem to be one "definitive," classic, enchilada recipe. They can be filled with beef, pork, chicken, smoked duck, smoked turkey or steamed octopus. An enchilada might be slathered with melted cheese, sprinkled with queso fresco, or have no cheese at all. It seems as though the only thing that enchiladas have in common is that all versions are wrapped in some type of tortilla.

There are lots of possibilities for saucing an enchilada, everything from what one finds in a can on the supermarket shelf to homemade salsas using dried chilies. And of course, the variety of dried chilies to use for the sauce -- from mild to devil hot -- is also endless.

In her definitive Art of Mexican Cooking, Diana Kennedy describes the two methods for making enchiladas. In one, you lightly fry the tortilla before dipping it into sauce; the process is reversed in the other. For both versions, you then fill the sauced and fried tortilla and roll it up.

Kennedy's enchiladas placeras are sauced with a garlic, serrano, and tomato salsa and then filled with shredded beef; her enchiladas de Santa Clara uses an ancho and garlic sauce and an egg and cheese filling (and sounds delicious). Enchiladas benefit from corny, lardy homemade tortillas but also can mask mediocre ones to good effect, and they are an excellent way to showcase a perfect salsa.

The previous main enchilada topic can be found here. You can also find topics on making tortillas at home here and a pictorial topic on Making Mexican at home is here.

I've eaten hundreds of enchiladas in restaurants, but I was never able to duplicate that "restaurant-quality" enchilada flavor at home. My tortillas were either mushy or were too cold and broke when I rolled them with the filling. I also didn't want to serve my enchiladas with the requisite mushy beans and marginal "Spanish rice." What would be a unique side dish for Enchiladas? And what tortilla recipes would best stand up to the abuse of enchilada manufacture?

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It seems as though the only thing that enchiladas have in common is that all versions are wrapped in some type of tortilla.

I'm no expert, and hope that others will offer their expertise in this area since I'm always eager to learn, and am not a native Spanish speaker, but I've been told that actually, "enchilada" refers to the tortilla itself. It means "in chile" and refers to the dipping of the tortilla in a chile sauce. After your tortilla is sauced, there are many things you can do with it, including stuffing and rolling it, as you mention. But you can also just fold it over and eat it that way, or stack it - like the famous stacked enchiladas of Northern Mexico - with various stuffings and toppings or without.

Also regarding "...some type of tortilla." Enchiladas are generally considered to be made with sauced corn tortillas. Although it's obviously not a hard and fast rule, if you're using flour tortillas, generally you'll find the dish called a "burro," or more commonly in the US, a "burrito" or even "soft taco." That's primarily due to the fact that flour tortillas don't lend themselves well to being dipped into a chile sauce, a step that is required for enchiladas.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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Sounds good, David -- and good timing. I'm off to visit family in southern Arizona (Tucson and Bisbee) and will do some investigative work while there.

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Too bad I did not know this was coming up, or I would have taken pictures of the enchiladas suiza I made last week. I love green sauce with roasted poblanos and tomatillos, and top the enchiladas with crema, fresh chopped onion, and cilantro.

Just a quick suggestion for a side dish if you dont want something heavy. Blanch carrots, zucchini, potato, and green beans seperately and then toss with a basic vinagraitte, salt and pepper. Best slightly cold or room temp. Works really well with enchiladas.

I used to just flash my tortillas through the oil, basically a quick dip. I was trying for softened and pliable, but they needed a little more than that. Definately not looking for crispy, but they hold up in the rolling and cooking and have a nice chew in the finished product if you cook them slightly first.

I am already thinking I might have to jump in on this one and use my new digital camera too.


Edited by Goatjunky (log)

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My quest to find out if I could make great enchiladas at home was a journey that took three days-most of that time being taken-up with slow-braising beef in beer.

I started with making homemade enchilada sauce.

I couldn’t take the easy route and pour canned sauce over enchilada’s stuffed with beef that took three days to make. And canned sauce has a thin, runny consistency and basically tastes like canned tomato sauce with chili powder. If I was going to do this cook-off right, I was going to have to make the sauce from scratch.

I found that true enchilada sauce is really nothing more than dried chilies re-constituted in water and then pureed into a sauce with a few spices added.

Natural flavor doesn't come out of a can, it's found in those dried, (and sometimes, smoked), chilies. Varying the variety, and heat index of the chilies, allowed me to tailor how hot I wanted the finished sauce to be.

The ingredients for the sauce included dried chilies, (for this sauce I used dried chipotles and dried California chilies), garlic, honey and dried oregano-

gallery_41580_4407_34221.jpg

For this recipe I used about 9 dried chipotle chilies and about 6 large California chilies.

I re-constituted the chilies in plain water, brought up to a boil and then turned down to a simmer for 30 minutes-

gallery_41580_4407_39570.jpg

Once the dried chilies were re-constituted, the gloves came on. Follow what you see Chefs do on television-wear plastic gloves when you handle any kind of chilie. Forget the gloves, and your eyes, (and anything else you scratch), will suffer.

I scraped the seeds out of the chilies and pulled off the stems. The chilies are delicate at this point so it’s important to tear them very carefully so as to not rip away too much of the flesh-

gallery_41580_4407_14515.jpg

The meat of the chilies is separated from the seeds and will be the main ingredient in the sauce.

The water from re-constituting the chilies is saved for thinning the sauce. (And the “chili” water is wonderful in Mexican-style soups or stocks)-

gallery_41580_4407_64029.jpg

The cleaned chilies go into a blender with a bit of salt, a drizzle of honey, some dried oregano, and a few cloves of fresh garlic-

gallery_41580_4407_14355.jpg

Although the chipotle’s are smoked, dried chilies, I like to enhance the smoky flavor of the sauce with a few drops of liquid smoke-

gallery_41580_4407_58935.jpg

The sauce is pureed in the blender-the result is a smoky, spicy, hot, moody, enchilada sauce-

gallery_41580_4407_23112.jpg

Next up-braising the beef for the enchilada filling, pickling red onions, prepping corn tortillas, heating re-fried beans and making a pickled cactus salad. (And finding exactly the right corn tortilla to stand-up to my rigorous dipping, stuffing, rolling and plating).

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Is this cook-off about true Mexican enchiladas, or Tex-Mex enchiladas? Both are wonderful, but there are huge differences.

Enchilada sauce here in central Mexico is not made with chile chipotle. Nor are enchiladas placeras made with beef. I think you have misquoted Diana Kennedy, who lives in central Mexico. And enchiladas in this part of Mexico are rarely filled and rolled; the tortilla is filled and folded in half.

If this cook-off is trying to approximate enchiladas made in Mexico, it will be difficult if you are buying packaged tortillas from a supermarket. Fresh tortillas made at a tortillería or at home are the way to go. Supermarket tortillas are too much like cardboard to soften properly.

Jaymes is absolutely right: enchiladas (at least in central Mexico) are always made with corn tortillas. They're passed through a bath of very hot oil, just long enough to make them flexible, and then are passed through salsa, making, as Jaymes said, the enchilada (tortilla bathed in salsa, or enchile-ed).

In central Mexico, enchiladas are not baked after being lightly fried and bathed in salsa. They're filled, folded, and plated for serving. A little additional salsa might be ladled over them and they're topped with a sprinkle of crumbled queso fresco or crumbled queso Cotija, some thinly sliced rings of white onion, and that's it. In nearly 30 years in Mexico, I've never seen enchiladas put in a baking dish, covered with cheese, and stuck in the oven.

There are any number of kinds of enchiladas made in Mexico. One of my favorites is enchiladas verdes (green enchiladas), made with fresh green salsa, shredded chicken, minced onion, and crumbled queso Cotija.

If you'd care to read an article about making real-deal enchiladas placeras, click here: http://mexicocooks.typepad.com/mexico_cook...enchiladas.html

Jaymes, I suspect the article will bring back heavenly memories of Pátzcuaro. C'mon down and we'll go eat.

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Rick Bayless brings this up in his "Mexico: One Plate at a Time" cookbook (companion to the TV series of the same name). In it he presents two different enchiladas: he characterizes them as "home kitchen enchiladas" and the other "street-food enchiladas" (I'm paraphrasing here). The first type, according to Bayless more typical of a home kitchen or restaurant, is more along the lines of what those of us north of the border think of enchiladas: a quick-fried and then chile-dipped tortilla wrapped or folded around some sort of filling. In the second type, the tortilla is first dipped in chile sauce, then fried, and served folded, with some lighter topping on top, but nothing in the middle. Personally I love both, though the "street-style" are a bit messier to cook since the oil splatters all over the place due to the water in the sauce. Still, they are delicious.

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There is another style - where the tortillas are sauced in red chili sauce and stacked with cheese and chopped onions- between each layer. These are prepared by my wife's family who ranch in Northern Coahuila. You then cut them and eat little pie slices of heaven.

Jmahl

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Yes! Northern Mexico style enchiladas are delicious!

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Por favor; corn tortillas are not made with lard, as mentioned in the OP.

"Enchiladas benefit from corny, lardy homemade tortillas but also can mask mediocre ones to good effect, and they are an excellent way to showcase a perfect salsa"


Edited by Panosmex (log)

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Por favor; corn tortillas are not made with lard, as mentioned in the OP.

"Enchiladas benefit from corny, lardy homemade tortillas but also can mask mediocre ones to good effect, and they are an excellent way to showcase a perfect salsa"

Aha, good point. Absolutely true: corn tortillas are made from nixtamal-ized corn and water and nothing else.

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I think the OP was referring to frying the tortillas in lard for enchiladas, which is what I do (and what Diana Kennedy does more often than not).

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I think the OP was referring to frying the tortillas in lard for enchiladas, which is what I do (and what Diana Kennedy does more often than not).

Yes, that's how enchiladas are made...fried very briefly in lard, then dipped through the salsa and filled.

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My primary goal was to create a sauce, stuffing and tortilla texture that would match the flavors and textures of the enchiladas I had eaten in restaurants. Other than the sauce, I didn't rely on written recipes. I wouldn't classify my enchiladas as "classical" or "regional," but a sort of almagamation of creativity, ideas and what I thought would just taste good.

After I made the enchilada sauce, the next step was to prepare a beef stuffing for my enchiladas.

I slow-braised a beef chuck roast in the crock-pot for about 8 hours-then turned off the heat and let the roast sit in the braising liquid overnight. The braising liquid was a combination of water, some of the poaching liquid from re-constituting the dried chilies, beer, salt, pepper and chili powder.

The braised beef-

gallery_41580_4407_122339.jpg

The beef shredded and ready for rolling in corn tortillas-

gallery_41580_4407_17397.jpg

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This sounds interesting; thanks for the topic David.

I've done Tex-Mex enchiladas before but I think I'll try to come up with something Mexican. I've had Enchiladas Rojos con Pollo at several taquerias; yesterday I tried the Enchiladas Potosinas at a local place (picture on my blog). I'm going to look into a couple of other local offerings to get inspired.

I find the refritos and Spanish rice many times are no more than 'the usual suspects' both at Tex-Mex and Mexican places so I frequently opt for something different if offered. Many Mexican places here offer frijoles charros which I prefer and (not sure of the name) arroz con vegetales, a sort of Mexican rice pilaf usually with diced carrots and peas, minced onions, sometimes minced celery, diced green beans, etc.

I may just do steamed or grilled veggies and plain white rice, which I've also had.

But the enchilada sauce will be the really interesting challenge.

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Living where I do I am not sure I have had much experience with "real" enchiladas. But as part of the "week without shopping" challenge I did carnitas based on Jaymes' recipe and an enchilada sauce I made up from a couple of on-line recipes. I think maybe? real enchilada sauce has no tomatoes.....but I was trying to use up diced tomatoes so I used them, and a lump of tomato paste too. The cocoa idea came from one of the other recipes. Family really liked sauce, I will make it again. Feel free to comment on improvements you would make to it.

Enchilada Sauce:

1 Can chicken broth

1-2 cups diced tomatoes

2 Tab. Tomato paste

2-4 Tab. Chili powder....not a mix, pure chili powder

1 teas. Cumin

2 teas. Garlic powder....or some real garlic

3/4 teas. Salt

a pinch, or more of cinnamon

1 teas. Dark cocoa powder

½ teas. Sugar....it cuts the sharpness of the chili

a slurry of equal amounts water and flour......3-5 Tab. Each depending

Combine tomatoes and broth, stir in everything except slurry. Bring to boil and simmer 10-15 minutes. Zap with stick blender, or not. Thicken. Pour over enchiladas or anything involving tacos, tortillas etc. Dip your corn tortillas in the hot sauce before filling to make them supple.


Edited by JTravel (log)

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Here's a tip for dipping your tortillas that I got many years ago from a friend. She told me that she alone, amongst all her female relatives - mother, sisters, aunties, etc. - could not seem to dip her tortillas into the salsa without at least half of them falling apart. It was the joke of the family until finally, an auntie took pity on her and confessed that she, too, couldn't seem to get the hang of it, and shared this method.

Get a pie pan and set it between your skillet with the oil and your dish where you're making your final product. Ladle some of your sauce into the pie pan. Then with your tongs, dip your tortilla into the hot oil and let it sizzle for a few seconds, and then place your tortilla into the pie plate with the salsa. Take a large spoon and smear the sauce around on the tortilla. Then put the tortilla onto your plate or dish where you're assembling your final product and finish up by adding your filling and then folding or rolling or whatever (but rather than rolling, it's much easier to just fold them in half, as Esperanza says). With the pie pan method, you don't have to hang onto the tortilla so long with the tongs. In fact, I do the final step - from the salsa into the dish - with my hands. Yes, the tortilla is still really hot, so you have to work quickly. But overall, this method works much better for me and I am forever indebted to mi amiga for sharing it.


Edited by Jaymes (log)
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In New Mexico enchiladas are also often served stacked - and with a fried egg on top of the red or green chile.

I'm new to eGullet - how long does a cook-off last? I'm trying to figure out how if my work schedule is going to let me play along!

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In New Mexico enchiladas are also often served stacked - and with a fried egg on top of the red or green chile. 

That sounds good, and very easy. Since someone said they are never rolled, topped with cheese and stuck in the oven I have to rethink them. Folded? Cheese topped? chopped raw onion.....inside, or out? I love them with carnitas but would like to try chicken.

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In New Mexico enchiladas are also often served stacked - and with a fried egg on top of the red or green chile. 

I'm new to eGullet - how long does a cook-off last?  I'm trying to figure out how if my work schedule is going to let me play along!

I love an over-easy egg on top of almost any corn tortilla product, so that sounds great to me.

As far as cook-off length: that's the great thing about the internet. From the Cook-off Index:

Finally, thanks to the internet, remember that you're never too late for an eGullet Cook-Off. While all have a specific starting time, none have an end time, and there are many of us eager to see what you will do with the cook-off recipes. So don't hesitate to contribute if you're finding this thread weeks or months after its start: by posting your own ideas, questions, or results, you can bump activity back up on this thread in no time!

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In New Mexico enchiladas are also often served stacked - and with a fried egg on top of the red or green chile. 

That sounds good, and very easy. Since someone said they are never rolled, topped with cheese and stuck in the oven I have to rethink them. Folded? Cheese topped? chopped raw onion.....inside, or out? I love them with carnitas but would like to try chicken.

Here's my recipe for New Mexico-style green chile stacked enchiladas:

Stacked enchiladas

And, as NadyaCat says, they are often served with a fried egg on top. And a bowl of charro beans alongside.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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The day I served the enchiladas was the day I decided what the side dishes would be-and I really used my creativity because I relied on ingredients that I already had in the kitchen.

I wanted to serve some type of cold salad with a sour/acid element to cut through the richness of the beef and spicy heat of the sauce.

I remembered I had this jar of pickled cactus leaves in the refrigerator-

gallery_41580_4407_2984.jpg

I always keep some pickled red onions in the fridge. They are incredibly easy to make, just sliced red onions steeped in a pickling brine made of water, apple cider vinegar and pickling spices. You bring the brine to the boil, add the sliced onions and take it off the heat. Once the mixture is cool, cover and refrigerate.

The pickled onions take on this vivid pink color-

gallery_41580_4407_19967.jpg

I thought the pickled red onion and cactus would make the perfect cool, crisp, salad with a peppery, pickled tang.

I wanted to serve beans for the other side dish to the enchiladas, but I didn’t want to just serve the can of refried beans I had in the cupboard. I decided I would marry two textures of beans-the refried beans, (smooth and creamy), with a can of whole pinto beans that I also had in the cupboard, (whole beans). But I didn’t want to just serve a spreading pool of beans like what I find on restaurant plates.

I decided to put the corn tortillas to double-use. They would be the blanket for my enchiladas, but I would also deep-fry some of the corn tortillas in little basket shapes to hold the beans.

Cutting the tortillas in a small round-

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Putting the tortilla in a basket for frying-

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The fried tortilla basket-

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The beans that would fill the tortilla basket-

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Now I had all the elements ready-the sauce, the beef filling, the salad, the beans. Next up-the delicate task of softening the tortillas, dipping in the sauce, stuffing and then plating the enchiladas.

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I’m a stickler for serving hot food hot, so I was going to have to move quickly to assemble my plate of enchiladas and still get everything to the table hot-a task that I would find very difficult given the nature of the steps involved. I wouldn’t be baking or broiling the enchiladas, so I had to work quick.

I started by setting out all the ingredients, from left to right:

The corn tortilla basket, the beans, the beef, a squeeze bottle filled with Mexican crema (sour cream), queso fresco cheese, feta cheese, green onions, cilantro, (both in ice water to stay crisp), pickled red onions and pickled cactus-

gallery_41580_4407_83196.jpg

The pickled red onion and cactus salad-

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Tortilla basket-

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And filled with refried and pinto beans-

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I strained the sauce into a saucepan over low heat-

gallery_41580_4407_29329.jpg

The next steps would be the most crucial of this whole enchilada endeavor-to try and create that soft tortilla texture that I knew from restaurant enchiladas.

I hadn’t been successful with the tortillas in the past-I used cold tortillas and they broke when I rolled them. I thought it was due to the small size of the corn tortillas, yet I couldn’t find bigger corn tortillas. I tried large flour tortillas, but they tasted pasty. I tried steaming the corn tortillas first, but they still broke when I filled and rolled them.

I turned to the internet for advice, and settled upon a method that some of you have mentioned above-first dipping the tortillas in hot oil, then dipping them in the sauce. I added an additional step of saucing the tortillas again after they were filled.

I also tried a new type of corn tortilla-extra thick. I figured that the regular corn tortillas were breaking, in part, due to being too thin. I didn’t even know if there was such a thing as a thick corn tortilla-but a little more research on the internet showed that they were widely available in local markets.

A thin film of canola oil in the electric skillet-

gallery_41580_4407_39677.jpg

I knew I didn’t want to deep-fry the tortilla, I just wanted to soften it enough to be pliable for rolling, so I only let it fry in the oil, (about 200 on the electric skillet), for about 20 seconds-

gallery_41580_4407_11741.jpg

Then the tortillas got a quick dip in the sauce-

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Filling the softened, sauced, tortillas with the beef-

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The plate beginning to take shape-

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I ladled some additional sauce over the enchiladas on the plate-

gallery_41580_4407_45167.jpg

Garnished with Mexican crema, cheese, green onion and cilantro-

gallery_41580_4407_45598.jpg

Enchiladas with beer-braised beef, pickled red onion and cactus salad, refried and pinto beans-

gallery_41580_4407_82474.jpg

At last, enchilada success. The tortillas were soft blankets of corn bathed in spicy, sweet sauce. Just like the restaurant enchiladas I remembered.

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When I was seven we moved from the country to a small lumber town in the Sierra. Many of the mill workers were Mexican so we had a mixed neighborhood.

The first enchiladas I remember were made of flour tortillas. Seems surprising as most of the neighbors were originally from Jalisco but we were very isolated, it was the early years of WWII, and travel was out of the question, thus no corn tortillas.

Lupe would make hers with a red sauce, flour tortillas, boiled hamburger, rinsed chopped onion, and home made Queso Fresco. These were rolled.

Teodolo made his with a red sauce, folded and topped with cheese. They both dipped and fried.

Diana Kennedy mentions the boiled hamburger in her first book. The burger is rolled into a ball and simmered, then crumbled to fill the enchilada. I find that it's tasteless IMHO.

The first time I tasted enchiladas made with corn tortillas, I was hooked forever. My dad never did get away from the flour tortillas and had Mom use that method whenever she made them.

Now I prefer shredded beef or chicken, corn tortillas and home made sauce made with guajillo and ancho chilies, although other chiles can work well, too.

I still prefer the dip and then fry method but it must be done quickly as the commercial corn tortillas get soft very quickly but the frying will help firm them up.

Rolling tortillas cold just doesn't get it. If you have to roll them sauceless, they must be warmed either on a dry or lightly oiled griddle.

In a nearby town there was a small restaurant that made green enchiladas, lightly sauced with a sauce of green chilies and cream, filled with shredded chicken and topped with queso fresco. These are heavenly but the no longer serve them and use tomatillo sauce instead. fortunately, I learned to duplicate the sauce.

These along with some chicken enchiladas that I had in Mexico city are the best I have ever eaten. The ones in Mexico were sauced with a light mole, filled with shredded chicken and topped with crumbled queso fresco. First a dish of rice, followed by the enchiladas and a bowl of black beans.

I think I need to make some enchiladas again soon.

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    • By MelissaH
      I was catching up on my blog reading, and hit a post about icebox cakes. I've only ever made one icebox cake in my life, and it was delicious, using the classic chocolate wafers and whipped cream but flavored with Red Bird peppermint puffs. (I got the recipe from an article about the company that makes the candy.) Anyway, while the blog post itself was interesting, the first comment (at least as I currently see it) caught my attention, because it described a Mexican icebox cake that looked very different to me because it didn't use whipped cream. The commenter called this icebox cake a carlota de limón, and described it as being made from maria cookies, lime juice, and sweetened condensed milk. I adore limes!
       
      So...I can find recipes on line, but has anyone made this cake before? Do you have a tried-and-true recipe that you'd be willing to share? Please?
       
      Thanks!
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