Old School Baked Enchiladas
I grew up on baked enchiladas. They aren't Mexican, but they are very much a Rancho Mexican or Cal-Mex staple. Although in general I'll do anything for green sauce, this is one time I like red.
This recipe involves a number of steps (and shortcuts), it can be pulled together in just over an hour if you're rushing, but it's better if you give yourself an hour and a half, or make the sauce and combine the filling the night before. Any sides can be prepared while they bake. The fillings are also totally flexible. When I make chicken stock, I bathe the poached chicken with the red sauce and fill the enchiladas with the chicken, caramelized onions and cotija cheese. For a great vegetarian meal, use the filling below. To go totally old-school, use shredded cheese, and maybe even a can of sliced black olives.
This recipe makes two lasagne pans of enchiladas, enough to feed a crowd, or enough for leftovers. You can easily halve the recipe, but one can of sauce isn't quite enough for a pan, so make extra sauce and freeze it.
2.5 cups crumbled cotija or shredded jack cheese
20 corn tortillas
Quick Red Sauce (adapted from Jaqueline Higuera McMahan's delightful California Rancho Cooking)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive or canola oil
2 t crumbled Mexican oregano
1 t ground cumin
2 28-oz. cans Las Palmas mild red enchilada sauce
1 bay leaf
1-2 T brown sugar
Saute the garlic over medium heat for 1 minute till fragrant. Add the oregano and cumin, stir to combine and add a teaspoon of water. Stir again, add the red sauce and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes, and adjust flavor with brown sugar -- 1 T punches up the flavor, 2 dulls the inherent bitterness of the red chiles. Reserve sauce.
Vegetarian Bean Filling
1/2 yellow onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t chili powder
1 t cumin
1 t Mexican oregano, crumbled
1 t salt
1/2 red bell pepper, small dice or 1 4 oz can diced mild green chiles
2 cups cooked beans (pinto, black or your preference) or 1 16 oz can
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
Combine the above ingredients with 1/2 cup cheese and reserve.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. While oven is heating, line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and spray with a light coating of canola or olive oil. Overlap six tortillas across the pan, spary lightly with oil and continue to layer the tortillas. Place in the oven for ~5-10 minutes until they are no longer raw but are not yet stiff.
Create an assembly line: Place the stack of tortillas next to a shallow pasta bowl filled with ~1 cup of sauce. Next place a clean plate, and then a 9/13 casserole. Put a thin layer of sauce across the bottom of the pan.
Dredge a tortilla lightly with the sauce and place on the plate. Place 1/3 cup of filling down the middle, roll it up and place it seam-side down in the casserole. Continue with half the tortillas, placing 8 up the casserole and finishing with two on the side. Spread a cup of sauce over the rolled tortillas, being careful to pour along the sides and at the edges of the rolled tortillas. Sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese. Cover with foil and repeat with the second pan.
Place the pans in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes. Serve with crema Mexicana, creme fraiche or sour cream and the hot sauce of your choice. Put a gravy boat of extra sauce on the table for those who want more.