Enchiladas are good but a little variety helps. Here is how to make chicken, steak, and cheese enchiladas all at the same time. Oh, did I forget pork?
Beef: I like steak enchiladas but you need good beef that is tender and flavorful. Some of the restaurants around here use ground meat in their enchiladas. These are the restaurants I never visit twice.
When I first started working as an engineer in Colorado (about a zillion years ago), an old industrial engineer told me this: Never buy a breaded piece of meat!
He went on to say that any old piece of meat could be breaded and you just don’t know what you are getting. It could be as old as the hills, unrefrigerated, contaminated, dropped on the floor and stepped on, or fetched out of the grease trap as far as you know.
The same goes for ground meat. Who knows it’s real history? In enchiladas it gives the wrong texture and the wrong flavor.
So buy a good piece of beef. You don’t need much because there are other things in the enchilada. Most of the good Mexican restaurants around here put in too much meat. You don’t need it.
For that matter, they use too much cheese. My heart surgeon doesn’t like that, but my wife does.
Pork is a good substitute for beef or chicken for those who prefer the flavor of pork. In 1956 when, with a fellow engineering student, I drove to Massachusetts to work for the Norton Company for the summer, we passed through Iowa. The hogs there were just like the hogs on our church welfare farm. They looked more like elephants than hogs.
I moved to Iowa in 1966 to teach in the engineering department at Iowa State University. By then, the hogs were lean and mean, still long but not fat. That change made pork an acceptable lower fat meat. And pork has a great flavor for enchiladas.
Meat and Poultry Preparation
Fresh, frozen, or canned meats can be used to prepare enchiladas. If you use frozen meats or poultry, thaw it out at room temperature or in the refrigerator. If you are like me and at times in a big hurry, then place the meat or chicken in the microwave and thaw it out. I have a freezer full of Omaha Steaks® products sold me to the nice folks there by telephone. I can’t say no! So I usually get my meat from the freezer.
I like to use a whole dead chicken so I let it stew in pomegranate juice until the chicken is ready to fall of the bones. Pomegranate juice seems to penetrate the chicken better than other juices and give a fabulous flavor, especially the next day.
If you use chicken breast, they are easy to slice even when frozen. For me, I want some brown meat so I use the whole critter.
When I say use a “dead” chicken, I mean it. Years ago my dad decided to buy a live turkey for thanksgiving. He killed it in the basement where it ran wild for the longest time and spurted blood from hell to breakfast finally creating a bloody feathered mess. When I was a kid, we chopped the heads off chickens and let them flutter hither and yon in the yard. Who needs that?
I buy Kirkland® canned chicken at Cosco®. It has a nice tecture and flavor and is very good in soups and chicken salad when you are in a hurry. I’m not much for canned meatsm but they are different now days, and there are some good choices to make. Spam® is still available but I’m not sure I would want a Spam® enchilada. Canned or prepared in the frying pan, season the chicken with poultry spice, creole spice, teriyaki sauce or whatever you want.
For other meats, slice the meat in to short strips. Keep each meat separately from the other ingredients. (You can use left over meat from that Sunday roast too and other than slicing in to short strips or small cubes, no other preparation is needed. )
Put some canola oil in a frying pan with a clove of garlic. Make sure the oil is hot. (You probably do not need much oil, so you may be able to just spray the pan and not use the garlic. ) For steak, I like to use Omaha Steaks® All Natural Steak Seasoning. Another seasoning I like for about everything is Spice Island® Beau Monde seasoning. Tampa Spices® have a full range of low-cost spices (packed by M. I. S. , POB 2081, Gibsonton, FL 33534). I like their creole seasoning and their meat and poultry seasoning.
Prepare each meat separately and put each in a separate bowl. Have one bowl with just grated cheese. (More about cheese below. )
Preparing the Enchilada Mixture
In a frying pan with hot olive oil (or your favorite oil) fry slices of bell pepper, green chilies (You can add the green chilies from a can if you like. They are a nuisance to clean and slice. ), onion, a small hot pepper variety (remove the innards and seeds if you don’t want the enchiladas to be too hot), cumin, and salt and pepper. Add a trace of cayenne pepper if so inclined. You also can add chopped black olives; which I do because my wife likes them and I can tolerate them. Drain the mixture and place it in a bowl.
Now, mix some of this stuff into each bowl of meat or poultry. Leave some for cheese enchiladas.
I have a tortilla maker along with the floor. It was a Christmas gift from my daughter who is married to a great enchilada maker. I used it once. Now, I go down the street to the panderia (Mexican bakery) and buy corn or flour tortillas. (Note: I also buy those round loaves of bread. I cut a circle out of the top, remove the filler bread, and fill them with hot soup. I take the top circle and toast it, then put garlic butter and Parmesan cheese on top. That is called a home-made soup bowl. )
You can also buy tortillas at any grocery store. Before you use the tortillas you may need to soften them. Mine are fresh so I can just roll the ingredients into the tortilla. When they are not soft, or if I want to just roll up a tortilla with the ingredients and eat it, I drop them into a frying pan with hot oil, flip them, and take them out. It takes about two seconds on each side. Don’t burn yourself. Usually, I am going to cook my tortillas in the oven so I just drop three tortillas on the rotating glass platform in my microwave oven and cook them for less then a minute to soften them.
Preparing the Enchilada Sauce
The way I usually prepare enchilada sauce is go to the store and buy Hatch® brand enchilada sauce made in Deming, NM. There are two varieties to choose from. I like the green chili style, but the red or tomato style is equally good. All brands are not the same so you may have to test the brands to see which sauce you like. Here is what I suggest: ask a clerk or stock boy which brands are hot. No, not that “hot. ” Which brand is the top seller.
When you read the label on the can, see if it is “mild, ” “hot, ” or “holy jamoly!” I always buy mild. I can always make it hot if I want to which is never because of my wife and Idaho guest.
Enchilada sauce is expensive. You can easily make your own if you are not lazy like me. Here is how you do it:
1. Put a tablespoon of oil in a hot frying pan.
2. Stir in 3 tablespoons of flour. Stir until brown. (Cajuns call this a “rue. ”)
3. Add 6 tablespoons of chili powder to 2 cups of water or meat stock (beef or chicken broth would work). When the powder is dissolved in the water or stock, add it to the flour and oil rue. Add ½ tsp of garlic powder (why not just garlic?)
4. Bring the mixture to a bubbly boil, stirring frequently. Simmer for 5 minutes.
That will make you 1 2/3 cups of sauce.
Note: Chile powder is a mixture of cumin and cayenne pepper. To cut back on “hotness, ” cut back on the chili powder and add more cumin. Cumin is what makes chili taste good but not “hot. ”
Putting it All Together
Spray oil onto the surface of a baking pan or casserole dish. Soften a tortilla. Place one of the meat mixtures into the tortilla and roll the tortilla. Place it into the pan or casserole dish. Do it again and again until the mixture is gone. Repeat for the next chicken or meat mixture.
For cheese tortillas, mix grated cheese with the basic enchilada mixture and roll it and place it into the pan or casserole dish.
Remember where you place each type of enchilada. They all look the same when cooked.
Now, pour enchilada sauce all over the place—over, under, and between the enchiladas. Top with shredded cheese. You can try a Mexican mix of cheeses, Colby, Monterey Jack, Parmesan, Mild, Cheddar, or whatever.
Cover your dishes with aluminum foil.
Preheat the oven to 325oF. Place your fantastic creations in the oven and cook for 35 minutes. When the cheese is melted and all looks great, take them from the oven and let them sit for a while before serving.
THAT’S IT! Good eating!
Just a note: yesterday we had guest, but some couldn’t show up because of sickness. I had enough enchiladas left over to feed an army. So that’s what I did. I took them over to my son’s house to feed his 13 kids.
John T. Jones, Ph. D. (email@example.com, a retired VP of R&D for Lenox China, is author of detective & western novels, nonfiction (business, scientific, engineering, humor), poetry, etc. Former editor of Ceramic Industry Magazine. He is Executive Representative of IWS sellers of Tyler Hicks wealth-success books and kits. He also sells TopFlight flagpoles. He calls himself “Taylor Jones, the hack writer. "
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