Mom's Enchilada Casserole

No, this recipe does NOT require that you make your own corn tortillas.

I am not adept (yet) at corn tortillas so in the interest of honing that skill, I made my second batch ever of corn tortillas today with the intent of using them in Mom's Enchilada Casserole (see recipe below). My tortillas aren't yet good enough to simply fill with delicious taco ingredients and enjoy fresh or to smear with butter while still warm. But for enchiladas they're more than serviceable. I think my tortilla press doesn't quite squish the masa flat enough. Or, perhaps, I just need to practice a lot more.

Normally, I would just use store bought corn tortillas for enchilada casserole--but, like I said, I needed the practice. And since I'm no Tortilla Wizard, I won't drag you through the written instructions on how I make them until I get it perfect. Following are just some photos of the process--there are a multitude of recipes and suggestions online.

I have learned a few things about making tortillas--they need to be kneaded for at least three minutes. I keep intending to knead them for five minutes but my arm wears out.

If I don't knead them for a few minutes, they simply don't cook up as well.

Another trick I've learned is that tortillas are not done until they've sat and steamed for at least a couple of minutes. A tortilla warmer is a must. It can turn the stiffest tort cooked by the most ignorant tortilla cooking noob into a soft, pliable, useful food item. Putting warm tortillas in a tortilla warmer with some paper towel on the bottom to absorb excess moisture and closing the lid allows the cooked tortillas to steam perfectly.

Now, if you are going to make the following recipe, I suggest you use store bought corn tortillas and either warm them up wrapped in paper towel in a tortilla warmer (make sure yours is microwaveable) for one minute or warm them in very hot oil. Personally, I don't find that dunking them in hot oil improves the flavor at all. Steaming them in the warmer makes them pliable enough for rolling, and dipping them in the warm or hot enchilada sauce improves that even more.

This recipe assumes that you are using a 9x13 baking dish. It's the closest approximation I can get to the way my Mom made enchiladas. These are my all time, favorite enchiladas. We used ground Axis meat instead of hamburger for this recipe, not that we can taste the difference.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 to 1.5 lbs. lean ground beef, turkey, pork, or venison
Half a large onion, chopped--reserve enough chopped onion to sprinkle on top of casserole
2 jalapenos for spicy enchiladas or 1 for mild. Cut off stem and chop, do not remove seeds.
Approximately 12 oz. grated cheddar
15 to18 corn tortillas depending on size
1 batch of Killer Enchilada Sauce
Enough sliced black olives to sprinkle on top of casserole

Cook ground meat until it is about half done or so--but not completely done, then drain off excess fat and liquid. Add almost all of the chopped onions, except for what you've reserved to sprinkle on top, and all of the chopped peppers. Sprinkle in a bit of salt if you like. Saute until meat is completely done and onions are tender. The fat melts off ground meat well before it's done and you won't find that anymore needs to be drained off after the vegetables are cooked.

Doing it this way allows my onions and peppers to cook with the meat without my having to pour off half their flavor when I drain the fat from the meat. It probably doesn't REALLY matter if you saute your onions and peppers separately and add them to the meat after it's done or if you add them to the meat after it's cooked and drained and then saute the whole mess until the veggies are done. But something inside me says the veggies and the meat need to cook together so that's what I do.

Once cooked, set meat aside. Your enchilada sauce should at least be warm, if not hot. So warm it if necessary. You will use all but about 2/3's cup of the sauce. Take that out now, if you like, so you don't forget.

Warm tortillas as suggested above the ingredients list and set aside in tortilla warmer to keep them warm, moist, and pliable.

Get ready to get dirty, this is a messy process.

One at a time, dip a tortilla in the sauce to coat the entire tortilla. In the image below I only dipped most of it, but I was trying to keep from getting too dirty while I took photos of this process. After tortilla is dipped, lay it in your baking pan and put a bit of the meat mixture and a little bit of cheese in the tortilla and roll it up. Don't be tempted to over-stuff tortillas, you need to be able to roll them. Also, you don't want to run out of meat. Roll tortilla and start with the next and keep going until you have a pan full of meat and cheese stuffed tortilla rolls.

As you can see below I started rolling them in the pan one way and then realized I needed to lay them out in the pan differently. Oh well. In addition to that boo boo, I was desperately hoping that 16 tortillas would be enough but it wasn't and at the last minute I had to whip up two more. The maseca bag actually has a recipe for just four tortillas, so I didn't have to do any math in my head. The extras took almost no time at all to make--probably since everything was still sitting out!

My homemade tortillas are a bit smaller than store bought tortillas so you may find that 15 store bought tortillas are enough. You'll just have to figure that one out on your own!

Once your pan is full, don't fret if you have leftover meat, just sprinkle it over the rolled enchiladas. Then pour the enchilada sauce (all but that 2/3's of a cup) over the enchiladas and spread it evenly over the top of the casserole with a spatula or your hand. If you think it needs more, add the rest, but mushy enchiladas are not pretty on a plate so don't use too much. Besides, the extra sauce can probably be used for a little snack the next day!

Now sprinkle enchiladas with remaining cheese, adding more if you wish. Sprinkle remaining onions over the top of the cheese and then sprinkle with sliced olives.

Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is beginning to bubble.

Serve and enjoy!


Sophie said...

Your tortillas look awesome. I just tried making some flour ones recently and they came out horrible...well, maybe a little worse than horrible :). I'm still looking for that perfect flour tortilla recipe! My grandma never measures the ingredients that go into hers, so asking her about it isn't always so helpful :P.

Genie said...

Hi Sophie! I'm glad they look awesome! They aren't quite what I want yet but they will be one day. My only attempt at flour tortillas was so bad that I never tried it again.

I'm starting to think that both with corn and flour tortillas it's more about how the dough is handled than how the recipe. Maybe it's about knowing when the dough is ready?

Gidge said...

Haha! I have my own rendition of Mom's Enchilada Casserole (seriously folks, the blogger-chef is my sis) except mine is the lazy version - it involves a can of Ranch Style Beans with Jalapnenos and I don't actually bother with rolling up the enchilladas... I just layer the tortillas (quartered like chips) and my awesome bean/tomato/black olive/ground beef/canned enchilada sauce and cheese concoction in a round casserole dish until it reaches the top, then throw it in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes. I know it's not quite right, but I just can't get the right flavor without the Ranch Style beans. Maybe she just stopped doing it the hard way when you left. :) and boy it's good...

Genie said...

Hey bro. I haven't updated this blog in ages. In fact, I still haven't changed this recipe after Gini told us how she remembered Mom making the sauce. I've made it so often that it doesn't take me any time at all to throw it together now.

Mom always made it from scratch when I was at home. She used canned sauce at my wedding though, I remember that clearly because a woman had to leave the wedding after eating the enchiladas--she was sensitive to msg. Mom was really upset with herself for not making the sauce from scratch.

Ranch style beans are AWESOME and I've found that some of my enchilada sauce added to homemade pinto beans makes them taste like Ranch Style, so it make sense to me that they're good in your enchiladas. I'll have to remember that for enchilada emergencies.

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo
Fresh, cool, delicious.

Anasazi Beans

Anasazi Beans
Dang, that's a pretty bean.

Mom's Beef Enchiladas

Mom's Beef Enchiladas
Except we used ground Axis.

My Solar Cooker

My Solar Cooker
Needs some refinements but it works!