I am often asked, “What is your favorite dish?” And my answer is always enchiladas. Not restaurant enchiladas, but homemade roasted green chile enchiladas my mom makes or these red cheese enchiladas that my grandma was famous for. This special recipe has been published in Latina magazine and is also a major story in the Muy Bueno cookbook. And today, I’m sharing this very special recipe here on the blog.
Grandma always had red enchiladas on Fridays. I think Enchilada Fridays started during Lent, a Catholic observance that partially focuses on charity and doing without luxuries. As a part of this, no meat is consumed on Fridays from Ash Wednesday until Easter. I’m so glad this Lenten tradition lived on all year long in our home. I loved the intoxicating aroma coming from Grandma’s house next door when she made the red chile sauce. As soon as she started frying the sauce I knew it was almost time to eat. If I was in the kitchen she’d let me help by grating the Colby cheese to go with the enchiladas.
Family and friends would always come over on Fridays to have Grandma’s red enchiladas. Cousins, aunts, uncles, second cousins, you name it, they came over.
Grandma always made one large black cast iron pot of red chile sauce and it would feed everyone who showed up. I remember staring into the pot after a group of aunts or cousins would leave, dumbfounded by the fact that the pot was still filled with sauce. It’s not easy to whip up another batch of red enchilada sauce from scratch, so I knew Grandma didn’t do that.
I never saw Grandma refill it so I decided early on that it was a magical pot, a pot that would refill itself just because she loved everyone enough to feed the masses. The next group of hungry family members would walk through her doors and eat a stack of red enchiladas, leaving just in time to give Grandma a short break before the next group arrived.
The enchiladas I grew up eating were not rolled and filled with meat or cheese inside; they were better—stacked (montadas) like pancakes. Each tortilla was fried softly in hot oil, then dipped into the red sauce, placed flat on a plate and then sprinkled with cheese and finely chopped onions. We usually ate about 3 to 4 enchiladas montadas along with a side of frijoles de la olla and sopa de arroz.
When I was a young girl I would watch my uncle Carlos eat his enchiladas with an over-easy egg placed on top. I finally had the courage to ask him if I could have a taste. It was love at first bite. The luscious yolk running down the stack of enchiladas gives this dish a unique flavor. With or without a fried egg, you’ll find yourself making this recipe time and time again.
Photography by Jeanine Thurston