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MARTIN

Enchiladas
 

It's a very wise thing to ask the people who cross my path, "What is your favorite food?" That question is usually accompanied with an invitation. My friend Javier had no hesitations about enchiladas. I thought I'd had them before. I never had anything like Mama Javier's enchiladas. I completely understand why Javier loves them so much.

Javier explained that this dish wasn't prepared all that often. Perhaps it is for special occasions like birthdays, Christmas or "bring your gringo friend to Mom's diner" kind of days. And, I'm the first gringo he ever brought to Mom's place, so I felt very special and well fed.

Walking into Mama Javier's kitchen on her day off was such a treat. There were no other clients demanding attention. I got to watch, photograph, sample and savor whatever I wanted. Mama Javier had two professional gas stoves all ablaze, cooking mystery food in five pots. Some of it was for the enchiladas, but some was in preparation for business the next day. It all looked wonderful. And, I promised to return the next day. How could I not?

 
 

One of the secret ingredients that made this dish so delightful were the red peppers. There is, of course, a name in Spanish for the particular kind of pepper, but I didn't understand it. But, if a picture is worth a thousand words, these thousands of peppers will help you understand what was used in this recipe. Here they are, whatever the name is.

This enchilada recipe is made up of three parts: red sauce, filler and topping. The good thing is that none of them are hard. I base that upon the fact that I think I can do this. So, it's not that big of a kitchen challenge. It just takes time.

MARTIN
Enchilads
Mama Javier, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
  MARTIN    
Red Sauce 20 red hot chili peppers   salt and pepper to taste
  4 garlic cloves   dash of vinegar
  pinch of oregano   1 small onion
  2 or 3 cardamom seeds   1 trusty blender
       
 

You're starting with very dried chili peppers. You need to fry them up in a pan with some oil to soften them. After they are cooked, toss everything into your trusty blender. Let is blend for a while. If you think you need to add some water, go ahead.

When you have a good mixture all blended up, use a strainer (another one of those items not currently in my kitchen) to get rid up unwanted pulp and seeds.

This red sauce was the magical part of the recipe that I'd never seen before. Soft shelled tortillas (about the size of a salad plate) were individually dipped into the red sauce before frying.

Now, in your kitchen, I guess you are allowed to use a frying pan, but Mama Javier had this magnificent frying table about three feet by two feet. I guess you need that kind of cooking equipment in a restaurant. The dripping red tortillas were fried up for just a few seconds on each side before adding the filler.

       
Filler 1 medium onion   1 cup queso fresco
  pinch of oregano    
       
 

Dice the onion and grate the cheese. If you have queso fresco available at your market, of course, go authentic. However, it is very similar to feta cheese. So, that will certainly do if your grocer is unenlightened.

You don't need to cook this long at all. Warm one side a few moments and then turn it over to warm the other side. Place some filling in the torilla and then flip the tortilla halfway so you have a semi-circle. Then, flip the semi-circle. If you are really good, like Mama Javier, you can next fold the tortilla one more time so it's kind of like a roll of deliciousness.

       
Topping Lettuce   queso fresco
  Cream   salsa roja or salsa verde
       
 

Of course, you can't eat just one enchilada. But, three go nicely as a serving. You might think they are ready to eat once they are fried up so nicely, but you would be wrong. Now, you have to garnish them a little with chopped lettuce, cream, more cheese and salsa. This cream was a thick cream poured from a carton. I'm sure you could use sour cream if needed. You can alway use sour cream. And, it seems you can never have too much cheese.

Both salsa roja and salsa verde were additional options. The salsa verde had a little more fire. It was my flame of choice.

 

Everyone wins in this kitchen experience. Gracias to Mama Javier and her son.

Copyright 2016 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.