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~ Spicy New Mexico-Style Ground Beef Enchiladas ~

IMG_1802Enchiladas are one of those Tex-Mex specialties that taste a bit different everywhere you eat them.  In a Mexican-American restaurant or in the home kitchen, they are lightly-fried corn tortillas that have been dipped in a deep reddish-brown chili-powder-based sauce before being filled, rolled up and baked.  The filling can consist of a seemingly endless variety of meats (beef, chicken or pork), fish or seafood, cheese and/or beans and/or various other vegetables (for a vegetarian option).  In my Happy Valley kitchen, the two kid- and tailgate-tested favorites for my New Mexico-style Red Chile Enchilada Sauced enchiladas are ground beef, lots of onion and green chiles, and, grated cheese, black beans and sweet corn -- the two pair well together too.

The word "enchilada" comes from the Spanish word "enchilar" which means "to add chile pepper to" as well as "to season or decorate with chile pepper".  In English, the phrase "the whole enchilada" means "the whole thing" or "the entire situation".  In Mexico, they're sold by vendors in the streets, much like hot dogs are sold in the United States, and, the practice of rolling maize tortillas around other food dates back to Mayan times.  In their original form, enchiladas were simply corn tortillas dipped in chili sauce and eaten without fillings.  There are many varieties of enchiladas, which are distinguished primarily by the sauce (most commonly a red chile and/or tomato-based sauce or a green chile and/or tomatillo sauce). That said, if you're not using corn tortillas to make your enchiladas, technically speaking, you're not making enchiladas.  

Part One:  Making the Beef, Lots-of-Onion & Green Chile Filling

IMG_1709FYI:  I make 8 cups & freeze 4 for another meal.

IMG_1658For 8 cups of the meat mixture:

3  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

12  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

4  4 1/2-ounce cans green chiles, slightly-, lightly-drained of excess liquid

IMG_1663 IMG_1665 IMG_1676 IMG_1679~Step 1.  Place the ground beef in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan with straight, deep sides.  Dice the onion and add it to the pan as you work.  Add the garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper, and, using a large spoon or spatula give the mixture a thorough stir (to incorporate the onion and spices throughout the meat).  Adjust heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until meat has lost its pink color, onions are very soft and there is almost no liquid remaining in the bottom of the pan, about 25-30 minutes.  Do not brown the meat -- cook it so it remains steamy and moist.

IMG_1682 IMG_1684~ Step 2.  Turn the heat off.  Add and stir the slightly-, lightly- drained canned green chiles into the steaming hot meat mixture.  Remove from heat.  There's no need to cook the chiles, they were already cooked during the canning process.

Go ahead, take a taste, it's scrumptious:

IMG_1687Part Two:  Assembling & Baking the Enchiladas


Before starting, it's worth mention that I use 2, 8" x 8" x 2" square casserole dishes, rather than 1, 13" x 9" x 2" dish, to make 12 enchiladas.  They fit in the two pans perfectly without squeezing them to oblivion, and, they bake up perfectly.  Next.  I don't dip my corn tortillas in the sauce, which gives them a heavy coating, because my homemade sauce is bolder-flavored than watered-down store-bought versions.  After frying the tortillas, I prefer to use a pastry brush to paint them, on both sides, with the sauce.  It works nicely.  One more item.  I fry my corn tortillas one-at-a-time in a small skillet, not all-at-once on a griddle -- it controls their texture better.

For the assembly:

12  6"-round corn tortillas

1 1/2 cups my recipe for Easy New Mexico-Style Red Chile Enchilada Sauce (store-bought enchilada sauce will be a compromise)

3  cups grated habañero cheddar cheese

1  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves

no-stick cooking spray

an array of your favorite toppings (shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, scallion tops, cilantro, Mexican crema or sour cream and/or guacamole)

IMG_1723 IMG_1725 IMG_1732 IMG_1734~Step 1.  Spray the inside of 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes with no-stick cooking spray, then, add and evenly distribute 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce into the bottom of each dish.  Spray the bottom of an 8" nonstick skillet with no-stick spray and place it over medium heat.  Place one corn tortilla in the skillet and spray the top of the tortilla too.  Cook the tortilla over medium heat, flipping it over once or twice, until it is soft, pliable and starts to bubble up in random spots throughout its center, about 1 1/2-2 total minutes.  Transfer the tortilla to a plate and repeat process with remaining tortillas (spraying and cooking), stacking the warm tortillas on the plate as you work.

IMG_1737 IMG_1738 IMG_1741 IMG_1743 IMG_1745 IMG_1747 IMG_1748~Step 2.  One tortilla at a time, using a pastry brush, paint both sides of tortilla with enchilada sauce. Distribute 1/3 cup ground beef filling lengthwise across the center.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of grated cheese on top of the meat, followed by "a pinch" (whatever you can pick up in your fingertips) of minced cilantro.

IMG_1750 IMG_1759 IMG_1768 IMG_1772~Step 3.  Roll the enchilada up and place it, seam-side-down in baking dish.  Continue filling and rolling until six enchiladas are filled, rolled and placed side-by-side, seam-side-down, in each dish. Evenly drizzle and distribute 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce over the tops of the enchiladas in each dish.  Sprinkle a generous 1 cup of remaining grated cheese over the tops of enchiladas in each dish.  Bake on center rack of 350° oven, until bubbling and cheese is melted, 18-20 minutes.

Bake on center rack of 350° oven, 18-20 minutes:

IMG_1777Serve immediately w/your favorite toppings:

IMG_1803Go ahead, take a taste, they're scrumptious!

IMG_1843Spicy New Mexico-Style Ground Beef Enchiladas:  Recipe yields 8 cups filling (enough to fill 24 enchiladas (I freeze 4 cups for another meal)/12 enchiladas/4-6 servings/2-3 per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held box grater; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; large spoon or spatula; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes; 8" nonstick skillet; pastry brush

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09b26e07970dCook's Note:  The tortilla is Mexico's everyday bread.  Corn tortillas are made from corn flour (masa) and flour tortillas are made from wheat flour (all-purpose flour).  Burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, enchiladas and tacos are classic Mexican specialties prepared using a wide variety of fillings.  Tacos and enchiladas distinguish themselves by being the two dishes made with corn tortillas, so please, do not substitute flour tortillas when making my beef or cheese enchiladas. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/2023) 


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