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.
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.
Watch the video below.
Stacked Red Enchiladas (Enchiladas Rojas Montadas)
Red Chile Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cups Red Chile Sauce
- salt to taste
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce (optional)
- 1/2 cup canola oil , for frying tortillas
- 24 to 32 corn tortillas, preferably white corn
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Colby cheese
- 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 8 eggs, optional
Red Chile Sauce:
- Remove stems, seeds, and veins from the chile pods. Place in a colander and rinse well with cool water.
- Add the chiles to a large pot and add enough water so they are just covered. Bring water to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. After 10 minutes turn the chiles over with tongs to make sure the chiles soften evenly. Drain cooked pods and allow time to cool down before blending. Discard water.
- Fill blender with 3 cups of water, half of the cooled chile pods, 3 tablespoons flour, 2 cloves garlic, and half of the salt. Blend until smooth. Strain sauce through a fine sieve to remove skins and seeds; discard skins and seeds. Repeat blending and straining process with remaining water, pods, flour, garlic, and salt. If necessary, season with more salt.
- This sauce can be made in advance and kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Red chile sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen for up to six months.
- Heat olive oil in large skillet. Pour 4 cups chile sauce into skillet and stir. Taste and season with salt if needed. If the sauce is too spicy, add a small can of tomato sauce and stir. If the sauce is too thick, add water until desired consistency is reached, making sure to add more salt if necessary.
- In a non-stick frying pan heat canola oil. Drop 1 tortilla at a time into the hot oil and fry until softened, turning once during frying. Drain on paper towels.
- Place lightly fried tortillas into the skillet of warm red sauce, one at a time. Coat the tortillas with the red enchilada sauce and place coated tortillas on a plate with a large slotted spoon.
- Layer a chile-coated tortilla with some shredded cheese and chopped onion. Put another coated tortilla on top and repeat the layers until you have a stack of 3 to 4 tortillas. Continue to make stacks of tortillas until all ingredients are used.
- Heat a small non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Fry the eggs over-easy and place one on each stack of enchiladas—optional, but oh so worth the try.
- For enchiladas verdes, use salsa verde instead of red enchiladas sauce.
- The enchiladas sauce can be made in advance and kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Red chile sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen for up to six months.
Photography by Jeanine Thurston