The first rule of enchiladas is: Do not skimp on the sauce.
The second rule of enchiladas is: Do not skimp on the sauce.
Third rule of enchiladas: Slosh your tortillas through fiery chile sauce.
Fourth rule: Roll 'em up with meat or vegetables; bake and top with cheese; and find saucy, spicy bliss.
"Enchiladas are not to be taken lightly. They command respect and admiration," Diego Galicia, chef/owner of Mixtli in San Antonio, says.
Rich and fortifying, endlessly adaptable and packing lip-smacking lingering heat, enchiladas are always delicious. Except when they're not. Though they're not hard to make, they're easy to mess up. Enchiladas can get dry and crusty, and the tortillas can turn soggy and break apart. But with some tips from enchilada experts like Galicia, we're doing them right, and you can, too, with our foolproof recipe for chicken enchiladas verdes (see the recipe).
The key lies in the sauce—and a lot of it—as so emphatically described above. And only in Spanish would there be a verb, enchilar, that means "to add chile." Enchilar, enchiladas—things are starting to click.
"It is called an 'enchilada,' so it should be smothered in 'chile' sauce," Matt Gandin, chef at Berkeley's Comal, says.
But enchilar also points to the spice factor.
So we opt for two kinds of chiles to kick up our fresh-tasting tomatillo-based sauce: big, bell pepper-like poblanos and slim, searing serranos. As for everything else, we keep it pretty traditional: chicken, poached in an aromatic broth until moist and meaty, for the filling. A bit of salty Cotija cheese. A few thin rounds of radishes for a bit of crunch, freshness and a pop of color.
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And, of course, we can't forget the major building block, also known as corn tortillas.
"Enchiladas have always been in Mexico, but they were just a tortilla stuffed with vegetables, some venison or duck," Margarita Carrillo Arronte, author of Mexico: The Cookbook, explains. "When the Spaniards came, they brought fat with them—lard and oil—so then the tortillas were passed through the sauce and then very quickly through oil."
However, Arronte switches up the traditional order—oil then sauce—which makes the enchiladas less greasy, and we're fans of this technique. That double dip is essential: A short run through warm oil, then simmering sauce cooks the tortilla, making it pliable so it doesn't fall apart when bundled around the filling. Fun fact: The Spanish also introduced chicken and cheese to the Mexicans.
If they're rolled and baked properly, oozy, warm, saucy enchiladas are perfectly acceptable for any meal of the day, according to our experts. But Olvera likes them in the morning—and we think you will, too.
"They're good for a hangover," Olvera says with a laugh.
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