Some dishes are more challenging to make en mi cocina pequeña, in my tiny kitchen. Enchiladas Rojas is one of those dishes where organization and preparation — referred to as mise en place in France– are key. As each ingredient is prepped, the counter space is cleaned before I move on to the next one. With a counter that is only 14.5″ (37 cm.) deep, I don’t have room to make a mess. Not that I don’t. On a not so good day, my kitchen can look like it just exploded and I know I will never see my spatula again. Today was a good day.
A bad day is when I bend over to open the oven, and my rear end knocks something off of the shelf behind me. Or there is not a single bit of clean counter space, and I still have more preparation. Then I have to call time out and clean up to start all over again. The floor area is only 31″ (79 cm.) wide. When Russ is cooking with me, our movements are almost choreographed; neither can turn around with a knife in hand or holding a drippy spoon without being aware of where the other is working.
Enchiladas Rojas were inspired by the recipe of the same name in From My Mexican Kitchen, Techniques and Ingredients by Diana Kennedy. A vegan friend was coming for dinner, so his serving was changed: no cheese, but with a filling of vegetables that Mrs. Kennedy used as a topping. Plus, I added mushrooms and chayote for a heartier vegetable mix. Russ and I had a generous amount of queso fresco that was made right in our town of La Cruz.
Can you guess what is in the photo, below right? I’m not offering a give-away prize, just my felicidades if you know. Hint: it is part of the preparations. The extra large garlic clove (1.5″ long) is included to give a sense of scale. (Answer: veins from dry chiles, which are used in Mexico as a garnish.)
Enchiladas Rojas makes 12 enchiladas
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced (medium dice for all 4 vegetables)
- 3 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 small chayote, peeled and diced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 12 medium mushrooms, diced
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 9 guajillo chiles, flattened
- about 1 1/2 cups (375 ml.) water
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 peppercorns, crushed
- 2 whole cloves, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- about 1/3 cup (80 ml.) vegetable oil for frying
- 12 corn tortillas
- 8 oz. (225 grams) queso fresco for filling, plus 4 oz.(115 grams) for garnish
- 2/3 cup (165 ml.) white onion, finely chopped
- jalapeños en escabeche (pickled jalapeños)
- 1 1/2 cups (375 ml.) lettuce or cabbage, finely shredded
- 1/2 cup (125 ml.) white onion, finely chopped
- 3 radishes, thinly sliced
- Add carrots, potatoes, chayote and salt to a small pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 10 minutes or until just tender. Drain.
- Heat oil in small skillet and cook mushroom until tender, about 5 minutes.
- In a glass bowl, barely cover vegetables with cold water, add vinegar and stir gently. Set aside.
- To make the guajillo salsa, heat griddle or skillet and toast chiles on both sides 10 seconds per side. Do not burn.
- When cool enough to handle, cut chiles lengthwise and remove seeds and stems. You may need to pull out the veins and strip them of seeds if the seeds cling tenaciously to the veins, but be sure to use them (the veins, not the seeds).
- Put chiles in small pot, cover with water and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to soak 10 minutes.
- Strain chiles, discard water, and tear chiles into 6 or 8 pieces.
- In blender jar, put 1/2 cup (120 ml.) water, chile pieces, garlic, crushed peppercorns and cloves, and zizz 1 minute.
- Add remaining water and blend until smooth, about 3 minutes.
- Pour into a sieve and press to extract pieces of tough skin. (This step is not necessary if you have an efficient blender that purees the skin or you don’t mind the little pieces of skin.)
- Add oregano and salt and pour into a shallow bowl. Set aside.
- Drain vegetables, stir in mushrooms.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 C.)
- Heat 1 tablespoon (20 ml.) of oil in a small skillet.
- Dip tortillas in sauce to lightly coat both sides, and fry one at a time, about 8 seconds per side. Do not overcook.
- As each tortilla is cooked, spread a small amount of cheese and onion across the center. Fold or roll.
- Keep enchiladas warm in oven until all are filled.
- Pour remaining guajillo chile sauce into skillet and add vegetables. Cook until heated through.
- Divide enchiladas among 4-6 plates, spoon vegetables on top, garnish with cheese, cabbage and radish slices and serve with pickled jalapeños. Serve hot. Enchiladas Rojas can also be served in a casserole dish.
- Vegan version: omit cheese and generously fill fried tortillas with vegetables and onion. Garnish.
This method of making enchiladas by dipping tortillas in sauce and then frying may seem unusual to you, but it is a common kitchen practice in Mexico.
The guajillo chile, a dry chile with deep orange-red hues, is very common all over Mexico. I always get a kick out of Mark Miller’s descriptive tastes from The Great Chile Book. He describes guajillo as having “a green tea and stemmy flavor with berry tones”. Also “a little piney and tannic with a sweet heat.” I wish I had his finely tuned palate. I can’t detect these individual tastes, but this flame colored salsa made with guajillos is a favorite on our table.
Leftover enchiladas are great for breakfast with a fried egg.