Recipe File: Roja Cheese Enchiladas

This was an especially difficult recipe for me. My culinary training was in Southwestern grilled food, Italian, and BBQ. I say "training" because I was a line cook for restaurants that made all those types, and quite well I might add. But ever since I left the restaurant business and started cooking solely for myself and Rochto’s enjoyment I’ve always been terrified to cook Tex Mex dishes.

This is mainly because they are my favorite. To this day the first thing I order at a mexican restaurant are the cheese enchiladas. They are the baseline for which I usually end up judging all other dishes, provided the enchiladas are good enough to warrant a second visit.

The best cheese enchiladas I have ever had reside at Herbert’s Taco Hut in San Marcos, Texas. They were perfect. The cheese had the absolute precise amount of diced onion. The texture was a mixture of cheesy and creamy. The red sauce was distilled straight from the nipples of the chili enchilada sauce gods.

So when Rochelle brought home a bunch of stuff from the store and said "Let’s have enchiladas, I have a craving." I panicked.

You see, I can’t just make enchiladas. Like most of my all time favorite foods, I have to have my own way of doing it. And I’ve had too many horrible horrible enchiladas in my life (like when people just stuff flour tortillas with cheese and picante and bake it. *shudder*) that I knew if I was going to make enchiladas it was going to be a recipe I would want to keep and use. AND I was going to insist on making my own red sauce from scratch.

So, much to Rochelle’s consternation, since she just wanted something simple and NOW, I hit the Interhighway Superweb Tubes. I usually do this for my first try at a recipe, I find two or three that I like online then merge them or mix and match. I did so here, and 2 hours later Rochelle proclaimed the results to be outstanding.

I however was not satisfied completely, but at least I was not disappointed (I found there was too much salt in the final result). Couple nights later Rochelle brought home all new ingredients and I made some major modifications and the results, were awesome.

So without further ado, Roja Cheese Enchiladas with home made sauce.


Roja Enchilada Sauce

1 Can all natural Low Sodium Chicken broth (Or 2 cups if you wish to make your own)

4 Tbs Chili Powder

1 tsp. Ground Cumin

2 tsp. Crushed Garlic (not garlic salt, not garlic powder, crushed garlic)

1 tsp. Sea Salt

1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. Sugar

6 Tbs. cold water

3 Tbs. flour

Why low sodium chicken broth? Well this was a happy accident. The first batch I made used regular chicken broth and I found it way too salty. Rochelle brought the wrong kind home, but I thought it would be perfect and plunged ahead. I was more right than I knew. Since low sodium chicken broth brings out far more of the wonderful chicken flavor in the broth, I highly recommend using it instead, since we will add a touch of salt throughout the recipe.

On medium heat, combine the garlic and chicken broth in a pot, stirring to distribute the garlic particles around. Add in the chili powder, cumin, sea salt, cinnamon, and sugar while whisking the mixture vigorously. Increase heat to a boil and cook for three to four minutes, whisking all the while. Reduce heat and let simmer for three minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, combine the flour and water in a seperate bowl, making sure to add the flour in a tablespoon at a time and stir so there are no lumps. Once the mixture is complete three minutes should have passed for our simmer. Turn the heat up and slowly pour the flour mixture into the sauce, whisking like a madman to avoid lumps. This is every important, because if you get lumps at this stage it doesn’t ruin the sauce exactly but doesn’t really help thicken it, and you get chunks of cooked flour in your sauce which is never pleasent.

Turn the heat down now back to medium and, slowly stirring, let cook for another three minutes. Turn the heat to the lowest possible setting and let sit. The roja sauce is done for now.

Cheese Enchiladas:

1/3 cup grapeseed oil (Canola can be used in a pinch)

3/4 pound grated mixed cheese (Chedder/Jack)

1/3 cup chopped sweet yellow onion

Enchilada Sauce (see previous section)

8 Corn Tortillas

1 jar Queso sauce (or you can make your own)

Heat the grapeseed oil in a pan to medium heat. I like grapeseed oil because it’s light, healthy, has a relatively high smoke point, and imparts a barely detectable nutty flavor to the tortillas. Canola (or better yet, Enova) can be used in a pinch without impacting the flavor really at all.

Stack the tortillas in 4 groups of two. Using tongs, grab one stack of two and place in the oil for 20 seconds, then flip it for 20 seconds more then set aside.

Here’s how we make the enchiladas. The heating in the oil renders the tortillas nice and soft. If you overcook it no worries, just toss them and start over, or keep frying to make tasty chips. Ok now, seperate the tortillas oil side up. Gently spoon some enchilada sauce all over the tortilla. Then grab a handful of cheese and lay it slightly off center lengthways. Sprinkle some onion, and spoon just a touch of the queso sauce in the center.

Now for the rolling! Take the longest-from-the-cheese edge of the tortilla and pull it up and over, then tuck it under the cheese. Your tucking action should move the cheese more towards the center, then just roll the rest of the way until its done. Cap each end with your fingers and lift it into a baking dish. Repeat for the other tortilla. It takes practice, but after a bit you become a pro at it.

Now repeat: lightly cook the tortillas, spread sauce, add cheese, onion, and a touch of queso sauce, tuck and roll and back to the next one.

Once all eight tortillas are nestled in the dish, you should have some shredded cheese left over, some queso sauce, and a lot of enchilada sauce. Pour the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas. Gently spoon the rest of the queso sauce if you want on top of the sauce, then sprinkle the rest of the cheese. BE CAREFUL with the queso sauce. Most queso sauce is very salty. This is how I overdid my first batch I think, along with the high sodium broth. Feel free to skip putting any more on. It’s mostly a preference thing.

Now, with good enchiladas, heat is the key. We gotta get those suckers HOT. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the enchiladas uncovered for 20 minutes. By the time you are done the sauce should be deep brown at the edges and bubbling, and the enchiladas should have flattened out from the melting of the cheese and weight of the sauce on top.

Take out of the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, then serve with traditional rice and beans on the side.


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