Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cheese Enchiladas

I am a food snob.

There's no denying it, unfortunately. I like eating good food, and so often, typical chain-restaurant food does not measure up. The food is often salty (a sure sign that it is full of preservatives) the vegetables are frozen, or the food is prepared cafeteria-style (in huge quantities and plated from vats) and that is never good.

Mexican restaurants are notorious for serving sub-par cafeteria food. And who can blame them? With menus that have dozens of items, it would be impossible to not serve food that way. While I used to love Mexican food, my snobbery has taken hold and I now find it all but unbearable. Don't get me wrong; I like Mexican food! It's the typical Mexican restaurant I can't bear anymore. Greasy food, salty food, and poor quality meat rank among the top offenses in my book...so we rarely go out for Mexican food.

It makes me sad. I love cheese enchiladas with a good red sauce, salsa that tastes like the vegetables that are in it and not the bottle it came from, and crispy flautas that aren't greasy. But I'm often disappointed. There are some great Mexican restaurants out there...just not near me. If you're in the downtown Salt Lake City area, Red Iguana is always delicious, and they serve up several types of Mole, which Jeff adores.

But, I digress.

What all of that was meant to do was to say that I have been on a quest for a good enchiladas recipe. I have a chicken enchiladas recipe that I make when Jeff asks for them, and it's alright...but it's definitely American. I want to make the red sauce and have it not taste canned or salty.

See, when I was growing up, and my parents would take our family to Mexican restaurants, my mother always ordered cheese enchiladas. You know the type; the two-item combination plate. So, this was my first real introduction to Mexican food, and I thought that was what you were supposed to order. Of course, as I grew up, I began exploring other menu items, but the two-item combination plate, with two cheese enchiladas, is near and dear to my heart and is often the barometer I use when considering Mexican restaurants.

So, when I saw this recipe on Simply Recipes, I thought my search had ended! It looked delicious. Elise has never let me down before. And it didn't call for sauce from the can.

Alas, my search has not ended. But I have added a tasty recipe to my arsenal, along with a great tip. To use corn tortillas, first fry them. I have seen this tip before, but never actually tried it. I didn't see how frying them would help! Of course, I envisioned them getting crispy...which they don't unless you fry them too long. This dish is good. But it isn't the cheese enchiladas I crave.

Oh, and another thing: make sure you use a (cooked) salsa you actually like. The taste of the salsa really comes through. Which is fine; but I used Pace salsa...and I have begun, in the last few months, to have an aversion to Pace salsa. Which means I didn't want to eat any of the leftovers...

Cheese Enchiladas
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Printable Recipe

canola oil
12 corn tortillas
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup water
1 cup fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 cup salsa (cooked--not fresh!)
1 pound shredded cheese, such as jack or mild cheddar, whatever you want.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Stir the tomato paste into the water and set aside. Saute the onion and garlic in a few teaspoons of oil, then remove from the heat. Add the salsa, tomato paste-water, and diced tomatoes. Stir and taste. If it is too vinegary, add a teaspoon of sugar. Set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a pan over high heat. Add a tortilla and let it cook for a few seconds. Slip another one beneath the first tortilla. A few seconds later, add in another one. Continue until all tortillas have been warmed and softened, removing them from the top when they get hot.

Drizzle a few tablespoons of oil in a 9x13 pan. Spread a few tablespoons of cheese over two-thirds of a tortilla and roll it up. Place it in the pan and continue with the remaining tortillas. (Reserve at least 1/2 cup of cheese for the top.)

Once all the tortillas have been filled and rolled, pour the reserved tomato mixture over the enchiladas. Make sure all the tortillas are covered well; if not, add some water. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the enchiladas are heated through.

Garnish with sour cream and cilantro, serve with beans and Mexican rice.

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