What it is: Enchiladas are tortillas soaked in chili sauce and rolled around a filling, a comforting, homey dish from Mexico.
Where it comes from: Enchiladas are served throughout Mexico. The word enchilada derives from Spanish enchilar, “to season with chili.”
Enchiladas were mentioned in print in what’s believed to be the first Mexican cookbook, “El cocinero mexicano” (“The Mexican Chef”), anonymously published in 1831. However, the practice of rolling fillings in tortillas dates back at least to Mayan times.
What to do with it: Enchiladas are endlessly versatile. Any kind of meat, cheese, vegetables or fish can be rolled up in the tortillas and any of a wide variety of moles and chili sauces can be used for moistening and saucing the dish. Each region of Mexico has its specialty. At Guanajuato in Glencoe, Chef Margarita Challenger makes San Miguel-style chicken enchiladas flavored with mild, dried guajillo chilies — the flavor seared into the tortillas by a quick sizzle in a frying pan.
Guanajuato’s enchiladas San Miguel
Chef Margarita Challenger
1 pound boneless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small onion, peeled and halved
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 medium red potatoes
1 medium carrot
8 guajillo chilies
2 medium tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin (or to taste)
6 medium corn tortillas
Cotija cheese, shredded
Put the chicken breasts in a medium pan and cover with water. Cut the onion in half, and add the salt, the onion and one clove of garlic to the water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the chicken is tender, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. When cool, shred the chicken and set aside. Save the chicken broth, straining off and discarding the solids.
Meanwhile, put the potatoes and carrots in a medium pan and cover with water. Cook to a firm consistency over a medium heat, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool; when cool, peel and dice the carrots and potatoes and set aside.
Soak the guajillos in hot water until rehydrated. Place the rehydrated peppers, tomato, remaining 2 cloves of garlic and 1/2 cup broth from the cooked chicken in a blender and blend until smooth.
Place 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; when the oil is warm, add the sauce from the blender and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Season the sauce with salt, pepper and ground cumin to taste and then set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Warm a skillet with a little olive oil over medium heat. Individually dip each tortilla in the guajillo sauce. Saute in the skillet for 1 minute on each side, and then put on a cookie sheet.
Fill each tortilla with shredded chicken and roll up. Sprinkle the carrots and potatoes on top and put in the oven for about 15 minutes.
Remove the enchiladas from the oven, and put three on each plate. Sprinkle on the cheese and drizzle with sour cream. 2 servings.