Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Whole Enchilada

Everyone has their own spin on enchiladas. There are opinions about what fillings to use or what sauces to make for it. Then there are the cheeses?American or authentic Mexican? What makes a good Tex-Mex one?

Sam Sifton had these questions as he wrote about and tasted variations of them for his column in today's New York Times Food section.He flew to Houston where he visited about seven eateries to try the best version for adaptation in his kitchen. South Texas has three basic varieties .Local Houston restaurants such as El Real Tex-Mex has ten while Sylvia's has nineteen.Mr. Sifton just stuck with the three: cheese enchiladas served in a red hued chili gravy or sauce, chicken enchiladas served with a tomatillo sauce and enchiladas stuffed and topped with chili con carne. All are served with cheese and that's when the debate kicks in. The chicken version is served with the Mexican queso fresco,a freshly made mild cheese that can even be created at home.The other two however is made with processed Cheddar. Many blanch at the idea of using American cheese.Home chefs can use real cheddar but there is a caveat.It congeals very quickly and can leave the dish a gunky mess. Go for the in between choice - processed cheddar. Robb Walsh,proprietor of Houston restaurant El Real recommends it provides stability and when mixed with other cheeses takes on their flavors.

That's not the only problem home chefs have with making enchiladas whose name comes from the Spanish enchildar to enrobe.. Making the tortilla soft is a labor intensive job. firm, Fresh corn tortillas have to be dipped into hot oil to make them soft and pliable. Only one or two at a time can be dipped however once home chefs get the hang of them , then it becomes a snap. Use tongs to make the process easier as well as safer.Chef Walsh offers this advice ."dip the tortillas,then roll them around, what ever you're cooking.The seam should be placed down on the pan or skillet.Sauce the middle so the edges get brown and crunchy. Don't smother them in sauce. They'll become gloopy. As for the sauces themselves,they 're quite simple. Mr. Sifton makes a chili gravy for the cheese enchiladas. It's a simple roux amped up with chili powder. The sauce for the chicken version is almost like a primavera sauce with fresh tomatillos cooked with onions and serrano chilis Garlic and cilantro round it out. They're pureed together for a fine blend that amps up the chicken's mild flavor.Any of the recipes can be topped with a fried egg. Rice and red beans are a must for sides.

What makes the perfect enchilada? A combination of both American and Mexican ingredients that create a wonderful, cheesy casserole , chock full of spice. It's a great marriage of flavors and cultures.

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