In my previous post, I extolled the virtues of machaca, a Mexican shredded beef of which I am inordinately fond. My standard plan when visiting family in Phoenix, is to stop by my favorite restaurant for a machaca chimichanga. The beef is no better than in a giant deep-fried burrito sauced with both fiery red and green chili sauces and sour cream, known as “Christmas style” in those parts. It is one of my favorite things of all time. While the beef is a fairly do-able thing to pull off in a home kitchen, deep-frying a giant burrito at home has never appealed to me. There are very few things I deep fry at home – chicken, egg rolls and a packzi or two are the occasional exceptions and a single chimichanga will not be added to that list anytime soon. When the machaca craving hits and December is months away what I’ll now do instead is whip up a batch of machaca enchiladas. Very delicious and a bit easier to pull off.
Roll up the shredded beef in fresh corn tortillas, nap with a ladle or two of a red tomato-based enchilada sauce, a handful of cheese and a few minutes in the oven until hot and bubbly. There are a few sub-recipes and the beef can be a little time-consuming but nothing is overly difficult and I love nothing more than a project. Good news though – you can make the beef and the sauce ahead of time so this can come together quickly for a weeknight dinner. Or if you’re so inclined and find yourself with a free day, both the beef and the sauce can be frozen for several weeks until you’re ready.
A word about this sauce. It’s not the blazing red chile sauce of my chimichanga dreams, rather a simple, slightly spicy tomato based sauce that is easy to pull together with items you probably have in your kitchen right now. I like to add a poblano or anaheim chili for a little flavor but the other night I used a jalapeno and it was great. Feel free to adjust the heat to your comfort level. The sauce is based on a recipe from Mollie Katzen, writer of classic cookbooks, and has become a standard of mine. If you get a chance, look up her recipe for eggplant and almond enchiladas with this sauce. Sounds weird, tastes wonderful.
Here’s the thing with enchiladas. You don’t really make just one serving. This is food for a crowd but since I’m only one person and frequently find myself crowd-free, I’ll eat 2 or 3 enchiladas right away and make little dinner kits in foil pans with the rest for a quick meal later. I have a tendency to complicate matters so I’ll often make refried beans and Mexican rice too. Does your favorite Mexican joint just serve you enchiladas? I think not. So yes, thank you for asking but my kitchen sink right now is indeed full of pots, pans, spoons, strainers, spatulas, forks and every utensil I’ve ever owned. There’s a pile of stuff on the stove, a dirty sauce pan sitting on top of the garbage can and the oily frying pan resting on the step stool. Whatever. If you’re going to make this, might as well go big. It’s worth it and what’s a few dishes?
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: ARRIBBA! I had a friend in grade school who used to say this before digging into lunch every day. I never learned why and it made absolutely no sense then or now but I laughed every time and it’s fun to say so sometimes, I do it too. Depending on where you’re from these are not the cheese filled gooey enchiladas you’re probably familiar with. They are filled with meat and only meat because cheese inside would be all kinds of wrong. I do make a concession with a blanket of molten yellow cheese on top. Because you know, enchiladas. Whip up some margaritas or better yet, a paloma and enjoy. Maybe you’ll share them with your family, maybe, like me, you’ll keep them all to yourself.
Six years ago: Chocoflan – an amazing chocolate cake/flan dessert
Five years ago: Peach Frozen Custard
Four years ago: Sweet Corn Soup
Three years ago: Bastille Day Lunch – Figgy BBQ Sauce
Two years ago: Roasted Ratatouille with Sweet Corn Polenta
Last year: Aunt Patti’s Cornbread
MACHACA ENCHILADAS (shredded beef enchiladas)
Serves 4, makes a dozen. Or more. Depends on how much of the ingredients you have. Note, I’m fond of the tortilla frying technique that Elise from Simply Recipes uses and have adopted it myself. Simply rolling the tortilla plain doesn’t work well – they have a tendency to crack and mush and taste terrible. A little fry/warming action in just a little oil works really well and she does this stacking thing in the pan that is so smart. Check out her site for better pictures if you’re not quite understanding my instructions below.
1 dozen corn tortillas
machaca (Mexican shredded beef – recipe here)
red enchilada sauce (recipe below)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a large frying pan at medium-high heat add a Tablespoon of vegetable oil.
- When the oil is hot, add a corn tortilla to the pan.
- Cook it for 2-3 seconds, use a metal spatula or pair of tongs to turn it over, and cook it for 2-3 seconds more.
- Lift up the tortilla with a spatula, add another tortilla underneath.
- Cook the second tortilla for 2-3 seconds, lift both tortillas, and add another tortilla underneath.
- Repeat the process with all the tortillas, building the stack and adding more oil as needed. I usually do these in stacks of 6, removing that 6-stack to a plate and covering with foil while I continue with the remaining tortillas. If it’s cold in my kitchen, I’ll stop after the first 6 and build the enchiladas then go back to warming the remaining tortillas. Adaptation is beauty of a cold winter kitchen with a drafty outside door.
- Put a little olive oil on the bottom of a 3 quart casserole pan (i.e. the typical Pyrex rectangular pan)
- Take a tortilla, cover 2/3 of it lightly with the shredded machaca, then roll up the tortilla and place it in the casserole pan, seam side down.
- Continue until all tortillas are filled, rolled and nestled in the pan.
- Add the enchilada sauce to the top of the rolled enchiladas. Make sure they are covered with the sauce; if it’s not spreading nicely, add a little water to the remaining sauce to thin just a bit.
- Cover the top with grated cheese.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese melts and the enchiladas are melted through.
- Serve with Mexican rice and refried beans.
- If you’re making dinner kits for the freezer, follow the same process in oven safe containers, nestling 3 or 4 enchiladas in each and covering with sauce and cheese. Sometimes if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll tuck in refried beans and rice in there too. Wrap tightly, label and freeze up to 2 months.
- To reheat, unwrap, cover with foil, place on a sheet pan and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes until the cheese melts and the enchiladas are hot and bubbling.
RED ENCHILADA SAUCE
Makes 4 ½ cups
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced, about 1 cup
1 Anaheim or poblano chili, seeded and minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt (possibly more, to taste)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 Tablespoon chili powder
5 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
28 ounces canned whole tomatoes, drained, juices reserved
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
good pinch of cayenne (optional)
- Chop the drained tomatoes; the easiest and neatest way to do this is to put the tomatoes in a bowl and cut with a pair of kitchen scissors. Alternatively, cut up with a knife.
- Measure the reserved juices and add water if needed to total 1 ½ cups.
- Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion, chili, and salt; sauté over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes or so.
- Add the cumin, chili powder and half the garlic; sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes and juice. Bring to a boil, partially cover, turn the heat down as low as possible and simmer for 25 minutes.
- Add the remaining garlic, black pepper and cayenne and simmer uncovered for an additional 5 minutes.
- With an immersion blender, puree the sauce until smooth.