Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Whole Enchilada

Have you ever had an enchilada? I mean a REAL enchilada? I grew up in the Southwest, New Mexico to be exact. We don't just eat Mexican food, we eat NEW Mexican food. The difference, you ask? New Mexican dood is heavily influenced not just by the Spanish who settled the area but also by the Native Americans who lived there (and still do.) Mexican food varies varies greatly by topography and in New Mexico, our enchiladas are not what you would get should you order one in Texas, Arizona, or even California. For those of you who don't know:

[en-chuh-lah-duh, -lad-uh]
–noun Mexican Cookery .
1.a tortilla rolled and filled with a seasoned mixture, usually containing meat, and covered with a sauce flavored with chili.
You would be amazed at the endless variations this seemingly simple definition can initiate. Enchiladas in New Mexico can be flat or rolled. The tortillas we use are made of corn, or masa, and they are filled or layered with cheese and meat. The sauce is what really makes an enchilada. In New Mexico, we produced our sauce out of either red or green chilies. In fact, the state question is "Red or Green?" We're pretty serious about our chili. We put it on EVERYTHING, not just enchiladas. Green Chili Cheeseburger? Yes please! And it's not the kind of chili you are probably picturing either. New Mexico red and green chili does not have beans or veggies in it. It's a smooth, spicy sauce that is, in my humble opinion, a little slice of heaven. My favorite kind of enchilada is flat, with beef, Christmas style, which means both red and green chili.

Why the education on Mexican cuisine? My hubby whipped up a batch of his most excellent red last weekend and we decided to have enchiladas for dinner. I started digging through the freezer for the corn tortillas only to find we didn't have any. I was ready to pull on my shoes for a quick jaunt to the store when hubby oh so gently reminded me that we are trying to "make do" with what we've got. I quickly pointed out that we've got was no tortillas. "Let's make some, " he suggested. Make them? 

We had a small bag of masa waaaaaay in the back of the pantry. I think we bought it last Christmas when we were feeling particularly energetic and thought we might want to make tamales. That never happened. So we measured, mixed and rolled and soon had fresh tortillas cooking on our cast iron griddle. Long story short: homemade corn tortillas+homemade red chili+backyard chicken egg over medium on top=the BEST enchilada I've ever had.
I felt cheated. How could I have been eating store bought corn tortillas for 27 years? Sure, our tortillas were a little thicker and not anywhere near being round but holy moly! They were divine! It never even crossed my mind to make my own tortillas. We are so conditioned to convenience that our brains simply refuse to grasp the possibility that it might better to put a little effort into our lives. Reaching for the packaged food, chemical cleaners or the designer bags in certainly easy, but how enriching is it really? 

The hardest thing for me to explain about voluntary simplicity is that really, it's not simple. It's hard work. Seems, counterintuitive right? Simple is hard? But oh, my friends, the benefits are sooooo worth it.  Not just because homemade tortillas are better, not just because scrubbing my tub for 20 minutes with a homemade baking soda paste is better for the earth....I'm slowly finding that this way of life is better for my soul.


  1. Finally, someone who knows how to make an enchilada. I prefer flat, cheese and onion, red sauce, with an egg on top. simply devine. i will have to try making my own tortillas again, last batch i made were very not round either and were a little too thick. i would really like to find a goo tortilla press, mine is just wimpy!

  2. i should also say my grandmother taught me to make a proper enchilada and she grew up in NM.

  3. Being a waitress in a small town, NM, I get a lot of blank stares when I ask red? green? or Christmas. Then I have to start explaining. I had one guy ask for a Navajo (Na-va-ho) taco, only he pronounced it Na-va-Joe. Cracked me up! Canning pinto beans tonight! Love,love, love my canner!!!!

  4. Where are the photos? I live in Australia, and have a feeling that what we call Mexican is not very authentic!! I'd love to see a flat enchilada. I only make mine from a packet (one of the last surviving packet meals in our lives) as I wouldn't even begin to know how to make sauce for them (I am also a wuss and don't 'do' hot!)

  5. I guess I've never had an enchilada, because I don't think I've ever had read or green chili sauce. I do however make my own tortillas--they're ridiculous looking but they taste so good! I make flour ones, and I use them not just for Mexican food but for any kind of wraps.

  6. Ohhhh my god, I want some New Mexican food. Your post just made me so hungry! I like my enchiladas flat, with cheese and green. But now I of course also want some heuvos with red and a breakfast burrito with green. And some SOPAS!