Saturday, April 28, 2012

Classic Beef Enchiladas

My grandmother was still in her teens when she married my grandfather, a man ten years her senior.  She was one hundred percent German.  He was one hundred percent Hispanic (mostly Mexican).  You can guess that food and favorite dishes were not a point of one hundred percent agreement between the two of them.  Needless to say, my grandma learned all about cooking chorizo and tamales and enchiladas--her mother-in-law's way--pretty quickly.  My dad and his brothers and sister grew up eating homemade Mexican dishes on a regular basis.  By the time I came along, tamale-making was a steadfast family tradition at Christmas, and my dad had recipes for fidello and picadillo and homemade flour tortillas close at hand.  And there is most certainly a "Mexican" section in my own recipe binder now.  My grandma still makes the world's best German potato salad.  But now she leaves most of the Mexican cooking up to us. :)

As promised, here's the recipe for my dad's classic enchiladas.  This is another one where I scribbled down some notes and later turned them into a real recipe with measurements and numbers.  Most of these family recipes focus more on technique and ingredients than specific amounts--those are left up to your own tastes and preferences.  Feel free to taste as you go, but don't skip important steps like lightly frying the tortillas or using from-scratch taco meat.  You won't regret it.  Yum.

Classic Beef Enchiladas
Time:  50-55 minutes (doesn't count the 20 minutes to prepare meat)
Serves 6-8

1 can (15-16 oz.) tomato sauce
1 heaping tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. seasoned salt
14-15 corn tortillas
2 cups (approx.) sharp cheddar cheese, diced
1 small to medium onion, diced
1/2 to 3/4 lb. taco meat
canola oil, for frying

Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl; set aside.  Set up a work station with onions, cheese, and meat in separate bowls nearby.  Lightly grease a 9x13 casserole or pan (glass or metal both work) and set near your work station.

Make sure tortillas are dry (especially if they have been frozen and thawed).  Have lots of paper towels close at hand.  Heat about 1/4" oil in a large skillet over high heat (I use a skillet with 2" sides to prevent the oil from spattering).  The oil is ready when a drop of water sizzles when added to pan.  Reduce heat to medium high.  Using a pair of tongs, cook tortillas one by one in oil until softened, but NOT hard, about 10 seconds on each side.  Place on a plate lined with paper towel.

Assemble tortillas in sets of four or five, working quickly so they do not harden.  (It helps to have a second person rolling up the tortillas while the other fries them.)  Fill each tortilla with meat, cheese, and diced raw onions; roll up and place seam down in 9x13 pan.  You should be able to fit about 14 filled tortillas into the pan.

Cover completed tortillas with sauce; sprinkle with more cheese.  Cover.  Bake at 375 F for 20-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and enchiladas are heated through.  May be frozen before baking.

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