By Iliana de la Vega and Isabel Torrealba
Photography by Andy Sams
Enchiladas are typically one of the most representative dishes of Mexican food—perhaps second only to tacos. As simplistic as they may be, enchiladas are truly emblematic of Mexican cuisine and of Mexico as a whole, considering that they contain many of the most distinctive and foundational ingredients used in Mexican cooking, like chiles, corn, tomatoes, cheese, crema and onions.
Enchiladas also hold true to a key element in Mexican culture and cooking: the principle of making use of whatever you may have available while trying not to waste anything. The diversity and colorfulness of Mexico is alive in this dish as well, as each region and most states have a traditional and unique way of making enchiladas and utilizing the local chiles and cheeses. Though the ingredients and names of the enchiladas are of great variance, the cooking methods are mostly the same, with only a handful of differences.
Even though making enchiladas is fairly simple and requires little time and few ingredients, there are some guidelines that need to be followed in order to get a perfect and true enchilada. Despite the fact that most enchiladas call for frying the tortillas, they should not be greasy. To prevent this, simply place the fried tortillas on paper towels for a few seconds to drain. Also, it’s important not to over-fry the tortillas or they’ll become too crisp and impossible to roll or fold properly. The tortillas should be submerged in the oil only for a few seconds and should be soft and lightly golden. Another common mistake is making the enchiladas too far ahead of time. Enchiladas should be finished just at the moment before serving or else the tortillas will get soggy and break. Also, if they’re made too far in advance, the salsa will dry up on reheating.
At El Naranjo, we serve our enchiladas verdes de la milpa four per person, but the recipe here is tailored for three per person. For the enchiladas potosinas, fresh masa can be bought in any of the local tortillerias, or you can also use store-bought masa harina flour. Working with masa is slightly tricky as you need to have the perfect amount of masa and water—it should feel like Play-Doh. But the enchiladas are so good that the effort is worth it! Crema Mexicana and queso Oaxaca, asadero, queso fresco and panela cheeses are available at many local grocers like H-E-B and Fiesta. Buen provecho!