For some reason i have always felt i could not replicate the delicious tastes i encounter when eating out at a Mexican restaurant. i always felt that when i made it at home it was… good… but not WHOA good. it seemed to lack something each time. so being the food critic that i am, i decided to pay very close attention to the next dish served to me in some of our favorite Mexican joints in the Burgh. what i noticed was that each dish came out with plenty of fresh cilantro mixed on, and sometimes INTO the food. another thing that stood out were green onions. their flavor is so mild yet so fresh… one might miss their role in the dish unless you were really paying attention and looking for answers, as was i. i decided at that moment i would never again prepare Mexican food without those two ingredients.
the Mexican dish i like to make most at home is the beef enchilada. when you start with fresh, lean beef… and add in amazing spices and fresh ingredients- it is transformed into a filling worthy of eating on it’s own. THAT, my friends is how you know your dish is going to be absolutely amazing at the end- when you can’t stop sneaking tastes of the filling itself! (i do the same thing with my stuffed italian shells when i prepare them with cream cheese vs. Ricotta.) and to think that you are about to fill some lovely soft fresh tortillas and coat with delicious sauce and plenty of cheese??? yup… they’re gonna smile.
Here’s what you need:
fresh lean ground beef (93 lean is best)- a pound or slightly over
half of a large onion – small diced
4oz can of diced mild green chiles
shredded cheese (a bag will do – either cheddar or the mexican blend)
one small can of enchilada sauce (i use mild, bc i flavor my meat spicy and i don’t want sauce to overwhelm and ruin those flavors.)
one package of soft flour tortillas (a ten count will do fine)
green onions – one bunch
red pepper flakes
ground coriander (if you have it- it’s not going to make or break the dish- coriander is cilantro in seed/powder form- so if you have the fresh- you’ll still get that flavor punch- side note: you can use this in the rice as well- and i use it in a lot of things- so might be worth having)
Here’s what you do.
add a small swirl of oil to a large pan. (can be non stick or stainless- either way)
over medium high heat, add a few shakes of red pepper flakes.
add in your onions and saute them for a few minutes.
add the beef, and begin to break up and even it out in the pan.
once this begins to brown a bit, add your spices to it. (1/2 t salt;
1/2 t cumin; 1/2 t chili powder; 1/4 t black pepper; and a nice shake of coriander.
stir to combine.
keep working it around- once you don’t see any more pink- add you can of diced chiles. stir to combine.
then stir in a 1/2 cup of shredded cheese, and lastly- about a Tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro.
combine and turn off the heat. let it set for awhile while you get your rice going. (recipe follows) or if you have someone cooking WITH you… let them man the rice, and you focus on the enchiladas. i do them both at the same time… but it is an orchestrated event as to not ruin any part of the dish! gage your comfort level and cook accordingly.
once your rice is going- fill your tortillas.
preheat oven to 350 degrees.
in a pyrex dish- coat bottom with a thin squiggle of olive oil (or wipe some on with a paper towel to coat) this helps the enchiladas to release nicely when you are serving.
fill each enchilada with a bit of meat- (do not overfill) – if i had to guess i would say it was 1/4 cup.
place seam side down in prepared dish. (see visual below) pour sauce atop evenly (they do not need to be completely coated or saturated- it is for flavor and you still want to ‘see’ the enchilada you’re eating)
generously sprinkle with cheese and diced green onions. (save cilantro for when they come OUT of oven) – sprinkle with black pepper as well
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.
once you take these out of the oven, go ahead and hit them up with a generous shower of chopped fresh cilantro. do it while the cheese is hot, as it will hold on the herbs nicely this way! i highly recommend allowing these to rest for ten minutes or so… if you try to take them from pan to plate immediately- you will have a mess. give them some time to ‘set’ a bit- and also this way your lovelies can dig right in without burning their mouths once you hand them their plate of goodness. :) i love serving this with black refried beans- which i do serve from a can. i buy these in the mexican aisle of your better grocer- and always opt for organic if it’s an option. simply turn them out into a bowl, sprinkle about a 1/2 cup of shredded cheese atop, and microwave for about two minutes. stir lightly, and serve. if you have an aversion to refried beans… ( i used to, until i tried these.. and i absolutely love them now, PS) go ahead and serve with some fresh veggies or a simple salad, your call.
now… on to the RICE. this is a rice recipe i have dubbed “mom’s yummy rice” in my household. it is easy- yet over the top good. it does call for turmeric, which not every lay cook will have, but i do recommend purchasing some- as it gives lovely color to your rice. (it turns it a lovely yellowy hue)
Here’s what you need:
a cup and a half of long grain white rice (not Minute rice- this is the real deal)
1 large chopped onion (big vidalia or spanish)
15 oz can of diced tomatoes- undrained
15 oz can of chicken broth
–(i normally also add either a can of chick peas or black beans – drained and rinsed- but for this particular food pairing- if you are serving refried black beans- you may want to leave the beans out of this recipe) – if making this at other times however, just for a side dish… add a bean to the mix for sure.
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
shake of cayenne pepper
pinch of cinnamon
fresh cilantro (chopped)
Here’s what you do:
Heat 2Tablespoons of olive oil in a large non stick skillet. Add one large chopped onion. saute five to ten minutes stirring frequently and then add 1.5 cups of rice. stir in and saute a minute or two, allowing to heat up a bit. Add another tsp of olive oil, and then add your tomatoes and your can of chicken broth. (if using beans or chick peas, add them at this time- remember to drain and rinse first) add your spices, including a small handful of chopped cilantro. stir, and bring just up to bubbling and then COVER. reduce heat to simmer- and cook for 15 minutes. DO NOT STIR THE RICE AT ALL AS IT COOKS- THIS WILL RUIN IT AND MAKE IT A GUMMY MESS. trust me on the time- it’s 15 mins at a simmer. cut heat, remove lid and stir lightly- i tell people to take your spatula, and with the back side of the spatula, take and kind of push your rice around a bit, loosening it from the bottom. do not full on stir it up- again- you want it to stay light and fluffy. sprinkle with plenty of cilantro- and if you desire, move the rice to a nice serving bowl at this point- and even hit the top again with salt, pepper, and more cilantro.
VOILA!! the perfect partner for the enchiladas above- or any main course for that matter. we prepare this rice frequently as a side in the summer months- adding fresh chopped zucchini at the end- or just as is alongside some grilled citrus chicken- or a nice steak kebab. i hope it becomes a go to recipe for many of you. Enjoy yo!!