I was quite flattered when I showed up to my cousin’s daughter’s first birthday party last month to find that the parents had made three pans of my black bean, chard, and sweet potato enchiladas for the occasion. They wisely layered the tortillas with the sauce and filling, which is quicker and easier than rolling, and accompanied them with massive bowls of sour cream and guacamole. I helped myself to a big plate as guests kept complimenting me. And I didn’t even have to do anything. Best party ever.
The only disappointment came when I optimistically thought I was pouring myself a glass of horchata, but it turned out to be plain milk for the kiddos. (Lest you think I showed up empty handed, I was in charge of baking several dozen cupcakes.)
In any case, that happy occasion got me thinking about how perfect enchiladas are for entertaining (even when you have to prepare them yourself). You can make them ahead of time in varying stages, then give them a warm-up in the oven while you stand in your immaculate kitchen sipping wine until your guests arrive. (Unless you’re like me, in which case you put your guests to work rolling enchiladas while frantically rushing around making a salad and stacking ludicrous amounts of dirty dishes in the sink.)
Lately I’ve been whipping up this version filled with a quartet of wintery vegetables: potatoes, cauliflower, kale, and shiitake mushrooms. The first three all get blanched in one pot (which leaves you with a bonus batch of vegetable stock), and the shiitakes get sauteed until golden and tender with sweet shallots. These are all tossed with judicious amounts of creamy goat cheese and some melty jack. A good squeeze of lime juice brightens up the flavors along with brick red enchilada sauce and a flurry of chopped cilantro.
Enchiladas are naturally gluten-free, which is of import when one lives in Northern California. They’re also warm and nourishing, inexpensive, and just plain delicious. While the versions you find in a restaurant or taqueria are often laden with obscene amounts of cheese, these leave you pleasantly full, but not in need of a nap.
As for tortillas, a corn-wheat blend makes the most pliant version that stand up well to sauce and baking. Purely corn tortillas have the advantage of being gluten-free, and they work perfectly well, too. Look for ones that are soft and bendy. While I aspire to learn to make a great red enchilada sauce someday, there are plenty of good pre-made versions available – I like both Frontera, shown here, and Sweet Creek.
If you’re in a rush, you can be smart like my cousin and leave the tortillas flat, simply layering the components together. Either way, wash these down with a pomegranate margarita, or finish the meal with a scoop of horchata ice cream.
But I would recommend skipping the glass of milk.
A Whole Enchilada Love:
One year ago:
Two years ago:
Three years ago:
Four years ago:
Kale and Cauliflower Enchiladas with Potatoes, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Goat Cheese
There are several do-ahead options for enchiladas that make them great for gatherings. You can make the filling up to two days ahead and refrigerate until ready to assemble. Or you can roll the enchiladas and place them in the saucy pan earlier in the day, cover, and refrigerate. When ready to cook, top with the sauce, bake, and proceed with the recipe from there. Once baked, the tortillas (particularly ones made from pure corn rather than a corn-wheat blend) will absorb sauce and begin to break down, so best to serve them immediately (though they will still be delicious if you need to hold them in a warm oven, covered, for an hour or two).
Makes 12-14 enchiladas, 6-7 moderate servings
For the enchiladas:
2 smallish yellow potatoes (8 ounces/240 grams), diced (1 1/2 cups)
salt, as needed
1/2 medium head cauliflower (8 ounces/240 grams), chopped (2 cups)
1 bunch kale, stems removed (4 cups packed)
2 tablespoons sunflower (or light olive) oil, plus more for frying the tortillas
2 large shallots, peeled and chopped (1 1/2 cups)
3 cups (6 ounces/170 grams) chopped shiitake mushrooms
juice of 1 lime
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces/140 grams) crumbled fresh goat cheese
2 cups (6 ounces/170 grams) packed grated jack cheese, divided use
2 cups (16 ounces/.5 liter) red enchilada sauce (store-bought, or make your own)
12-14 corn tortillas
For serving (optional):
cilantro leaves, chopped
avocado slices or guacamole
sour cream or plain yogurt
crumbled goat cheese
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF (175ºC).
Make the filling:
Place the potato cubes in a medium-large saucepan and cover generously with cool tap water. Salt the water well, then bring the pot to a simmer over high heat. Simmer the potatoes gently until tender but still holding their shape, about 10 minutes, checking frequently to prevent overcooking. Scoop the potatoes out of the water with a slotted spoon, drain well, and place in a large bowl.
Add the cauliflower to the simmering water, and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the potatoes.
Add the kale leaves to the simmering water and cook until bright green and wilted, 1 minute. Drain the kale (you can reserve the water to use as a vegetable stock), let it cool, and squeeze out the excess moisture. Chop the kale and add it to the potatoes and cauliflower.
Meanwhile, heat the 2 tablespoons sunflower oil in a heavy skillet over high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and beginning to turn golden. Add the shiitakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt and continue to cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender and the pan is dry, lowering the heat if needed, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the juice from half a lime (1-2 tablespoons). Add the shiitakes to the bowl with the other vegetables.
Stir the goat cheese, half of the jack cheese, and the juice of the remaining lime half into the vegetables. Taste, adding more salt or lime if you feel the filling needs it.
Assemble the enchiladas:
Pour 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 9×13″ (23×33 cm) baking dish (lasagna pan).
Coat a medium skillet with a thin layer of oil and place it over a medium flame until the oil shimmers. Add a tortilla and heat for 10 seconds on each side until heated through and pliable. Place the tortilla on a cutting board, and place 1/4-1/3 cup of filling on the lower third of the tortilla, squishing the filling into an oblong shape. Roll up the tortilla and place the roll seamside-down in the baking dish.
Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling until all the filling is used up. Pour 1 cup of the sauce all over the enchiladas, and cover the pan tightly with foil.
Bake the enchiladas until the sauce is bubbling and the enchiladas are heated through, 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove and discard the foil, and top the enchiladas with the remaining sauce, and sprinkle the remaining jack cheese over the tops. Bake until the cheese is melted, 5 more minutes. (You can place it under the broiler for a few seconds to brown the cheese a bit more if you like.)
Sprinkle cilantro over the enchiladas, and serve with lime wedges and avocado, guacamole, sour cream, yogurt and/or crumbled goat cheese. They are best when freshly baked, but extras keep well in the fridge for up to 4 days; reheat in an oven or toaster oven until heated through.