Enchiladas Con Carne
There are a few cool tricks to this recipe, one of which I picked up from an old issue of Bon Appétit, one I learned from Robb Walsh, the great Tex-Mex scholar and restaurateur who runs El Real Tex-Mex in Houston, and a final one I learned by happenstance. First, for the thickening agent in the chile sauce, toast raw all-purpose flour in a pan until it is nutty and golden brown, then reserve it to stir in with the browned beef later in the recipe. Second, if you like truly melty cheese in the classic Tex-Mex tradition, use a mixture of American cheese, like Velveeta, with the Cheddar you use inside and on top of the finished enchiladas. Finally, if you’re fearful that a casserole of cheese, chili and fried tortillas may be a little rich for dinner, serve it with a bowl of tomatillo pineapple salsa on the side. The acidity provides a nice balance. (Note also that as with all recipes, but particularly this one, some planning and practice can get the preparation down to 60 minutes.)
- Serves: 4 persons
- ½cup all-purpose flour
- 2tablespoons neutral oil, like canola
- 1pound ground chuck beef, ideally 20 percent fat
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- 1medium white onion, peeled and chopped
- 2cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1jalapeño pepper or more to taste, seeds removed if you want it less spicy, stemmed and chopped
- 1cup chopped or canned crushed tomatoes
- 3tablespoons chile powder
- ½teaspoon ground cumin
- ½teaspoon dried oregano, ideally Mexican
- 2cups chicken stock, ideally homemade or low-sodium if store-bought
- ½cup neutral oil, like canola
- 12yellow corn tortillas
- 3cups shredded Cheddar cheese, or a mixture of 1 1/2 cups Cheddar cheese and 1 1/2 cups American cheese, like Velveeta
- 1medium-size white onion, peeled and chopped (optional)
Step 1Prepare the chili con carne: Put flour in a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to turn golden brown and smell nutty, then pour it onto a plate to cool.
Step 2Wipe out sauté pan and return it to high heat with 2 tablespoons oil. When oil is hot and shimmery, add ground beef to pan, and cook, breaking it up with a fork and stirring, until it is well browned, about 12 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then use a slotted spoon to remove meat to a bowl, leaving drippings behind.
Step 3Add onion, garlic and jalapeño to pan and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits of meat, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until vegetables are soft. Stir in tomatoes and cook until their liquid has evaporated, then add chile powder, cumin and oregano and stir to combine. After a minute or so, when mixture begins to turn fragrant, return browned meat to pan, along with toasted flour, and stir well to combine.
Step 4Lower heat to medium-high and slowly stir in chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, until mixture has thickened and started to simmer. Lower heat again and allow chili to cook slowly for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until meat is tender. Add more stock or water if needed. Use immediately, or let cool, cover and refrigerate for up to a few days.
Step 5When you are ready to cook the enchiladas, heat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium sauté pan set over medium-high heat, heat 1/2 cup neutral oil until it begins to shimmer. Using tongs or a wide spatula, place a tortilla in the hot fat; it should start to bubble immediately. Heat tortilla for about 10 seconds a side, until soft and lightly browned. Remove tortilla and set on a rack set over a baking pan, or just on a baking pan if you don’t have a rack. Repeat with remaining tortillas, working quickly.
Step 6Assemble the enchiladas: Using a ladle, put about 1/2 cup chili in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and spread it out a little. Roll a few tablespoons of cheese into each tortilla, along with a tablespoon or so of chili, then place it seam-side down in the pan, nestling each one against the last. Ladle remaining chili over top of rolled tortillas and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Step 7Transfer to oven and bake until sauce bubbles and cheese is melted, about 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle chopped onions over the top, if using, and serve immediately.