Cheater, Cheater. Enchilada Eater.

I went to my sister’s in Dallas over the weekend to celebrate what we’re affectionately calling my mother’s Big Ass Birthday. I won’t tell how old she is here (she reads this page) but suffice to say she was appropriately offended by this birthday. Not that she should be, she’s looking cuter than a box of kittens these days.

Anyway, my sister is the real cook in the family, and she put on a Mexican spread of epic proportions, featuring several varieties of enchiladas as the main course. She and I had a special batch with black olives, since according to her husband and the rest of the family, black olives “do not rock. In fact, they are very far from rocking.” We will have to continue to disagree.

She used The Pioneer Woman’s recipe, and they were amazing. I ate so much I couldn’t sleep that night.

Which is why it was so confusing when my girlfriend, Moxie, announced the other day that she’d spent two hours in the kitchen (an earth-tilting proclamation on its own) making PW’s enchiladas, and they totally failed, and turned into enchilada stew, right there on the plate.

Moxie and her main squeeze had come over to watch LOST a few weeks ago, and I’d served them enchiladas made by my loving hand, and since then her squeeze had been talking about enchiladas, had them on the brain, needed another fix.

In a fit of domesticity, she decided to cook a whole dinner on her own and surprise said squeeze, but ran into trouble right away. She had trouble keeping the corn tortillas from falling apart in the face of all the heat and then sauce and then rolling they were subjected to. Now, this could have been a brand issue, but I told her there was another solution. Do it my way. Read: use flour tortillas. I have never been a big fan of the corn tortilla. It’s grainy, and greasier, than its flour counterpart.

She also admitted to having trouble with the roux, the sauce, and something about thickening (which I couldn’t understand. Why do you want the sauce thick? Oh well.) Again, I told her to avoid this pitfall by doing it my way. Read: Old El Paso.

In my defense, I have made many an enchilada sauce in my day, trying to be authentic. And always, every stinking time, I’ve wished I’d opened two cans of Old El Paso – one mild and one medium, mixed them together, and gone with my gut. I could eat that stuff with a spoon.

That’s right, I’m an enchilada cheater. Purists, avert your eyes. My enchiladas are so easy to make, my husband can do it. And does, from time to time.

Cheater Enchilada Step One: arrange your work space.

I have a smallish kitchen, so I have to be creative with this. Thankfully, I have a flat top stove, so it works as another surface when I need it to.

You’ll need a wide, shallow bowl or pie plate for dipping your tortillas, a bowl for meat mix, a bowl for cheese, and your baking dish for the final product. Line ‘em up in the proper order, from right to left. 1 – stack of 6 or 8 large flour tortillas. 2 – dipping pan. 3 – baking dish. 4 – meat mix. 5 – cheese. 6 – cream cheese, sliced into sticks that 1 centimeter by 1 centimeter, or about the width of an emery board. 7. Toppings. More on this later.

Note: I prefer a chicken enchilada, but you can use whatever meat, meat substitute, or lack thereof makes your skirt fly up. I also usually use crock pot chicken for this. I’ve said before, we like dark meat for its moisture and flavor properties. Most typical recipes call for chicken breasts, boiled and shredded, but, in a word: dry and boring. So if you have the foresight to do a crock pot chicken in advance, I totally recommend it. This will only take about half the meat from your bird. You can save the other half for chicken and noodles.

Put your meat, whatever it is, in the next bowl, and stir in enough enchilada sauce to cover it all generously, but not to make it soupy. Dice up some onion, as much as you like, I’d say at least ¼ cup, and add in at least half of a can of diced green chiles. At this point you can shake in extra seasonings, dried cilantro, garlic, chili powder, etc., but you know what? I think it’s really good as-is.

Cheater Enchilada Step Two: Assemble your enchiladas.

Like I said, I use a mixture of mild and medium Old El Paso sauces. Put a little of that in the bottom of your baking dish to prevent sticking. Then pour a cup into the pie pan you’re going to use for tortilla dipping (you’ll probably have to add more later).

Pick up a tortilla and run it through the saucing pan, both sides. It’s going to be a mess. Embrace the messy hands.

Then plop it in your baking dish, and add your fillings. You will be tempted to stuff them full, but that is not advisable. Use about ¼ cup of meat mix, and sprinkle on some cheese, and if you want, add in some black olives or jalapenos or whatever else you love. I save that for on top, though. Then place a stick of cream cheese alongside your fillings, and roll it up snug, and press it into one end of the pan. That cream cheese is your secret ingredient. No one will be able to identify it. It’s subtle, but it’s going to mix with the sauce flavors when it melts, and give that enchilada a creamy dreaminess you never imagined.

Repeat with the rest of your tortillas. I just keep flopping one end of the tortilla new tortilla over the existing enchilada, and using that edge as my filling pocket, and keep going until there’s only space for one more in there. Then cram in an extra.

Cheater Enchilada Step 3: Git ‘er done.

Top the whole thing with more sauce (it’s really all about a saucy mess) and sprinkle a lot of cheese on top. Also, because my husband likes jalapenos, I put those on half, and black olives (that do, in fact, rock) on my half. Bake the whole thing for about 25 minutes at 325.

When they come out, I like to sprinkle some fresh cilantro over the top, if I have it around, which I usually do. I mean, you can’t make proper guac and pico de gallo without it, and guac and pico de gallo are one of the major food groups.

These suckers are so good, you’ll want to have their babies.

The approximate shopping list:

2 large cans (I always seem to run a little short with the small cans) of Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce (yes, it has to be this brand). One medium, one mild.

1 bag large flour tortillas

1/2 of a crock pot chicken

1/4 cup diced white onion (or whatever kind)

1 small can diced green chiles (brand irrelevant)

1 bag shredded cheddar, although I will say I think it tastes better when I shred the block myself.

1 block of cream cheese

sliced jalapenos or black olives for topping, if you're into that sort of thing

fresh cilantro, unless you are one of those people to whom it tastes like dish soap

The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for pico is as good as any, and I don't think it's right to serve enchiladas without pico, guac, and chips. PW just says to add pico to some smashed and salted avocado and squeeze a lime over the top, and I agree this totally works, but if you're going to be right with me, you have to add garlic, preferably fresh, to the works as well.

This post has made me think of margaritas. And sunshine. Which makes me hate my husband, because this entire summer, I will make guacamole, and enchiladas, and pico, and NOT HAVE A MARGARITA TO GO WITH. He did this to me.


amyglester 13 years, 11 months ago

PW still uses canned enchilada sauce, she just spruces it up a bit. I like it. And black olives DO rock.

Aufbrezeln Eschaton 13 years, 11 months ago

Neener neener---three weeks and change, and I can suck down a couple of big, fat margaritas, extra tequila, then come on here and tell you how delicious they were ;)

Awesome recipe, and I don't hold your Old El Paso cheat against you one tiny bit. I like their salsa on my tacos, which makes my husband re-think this whole "woman worth spending his life with" thing.

I would say I'm going to make this for my next LOST-athon, but quite frankly, I get too excited to focus on cooking. Wednesday nights are frozen pizza nights 'round these parts.

Megan Green Stuke 13 years, 11 months ago

Misty, I think we are kindred spirits. And that bit about the margaritas? Pure mean-spiritedness. I like that in a person.

And, if you want to know how really amazing I am...the night I served the enchiladas for LOST I had gone to yoga at 7:00, didn't get home until 8:30, my husband had put the pan in the oven for me, and it was piping hot for our (DVR'd) viewing at a quarter to nine.

However, that attempt at looking like a multi tasking goddess totally failed, when I was asleep and snoring in the chair halfway through the show, right in front of our guests. So ya, frozen pizza from there on out.

Amy, I guess it would have helped if I'd actually LOOKED at PW's recipe before I posted this entry. ;)

alm77 13 years, 11 months ago

I like white sauce. What kind is that and where do I find it? I would love to have a great recipe for that. My cheater enchiladas come frozen in a 13x9 pan ready to put in the oven.... :)

Moxie 13 years, 11 months ago

I am giving up on the enchiladas and from now on I will just crash your dinner when you make them, Megan!

that_will_do_pig 13 years, 11 months ago

This is along the lines of what I do as well, BUT if you are into the corn tortillas (and I suppose this would also work for flour ones), it works really well if you put the enchilada sauce in a skillet and sort of heat it up on medium. Then when you "sauce" your tortillas, they will heat up and get softer to work with AND a little toasted = delicious.

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