I love enchiladas, but I never order them at restaurants. Of the many varieties I have witnessed, none ever compare to my grandmother’s. Soggy, drowned in sauce from a can, flour tortillas, filled with god-knows-what monstrosities, where only forks separate them from a burrito? No thank you.
I’m not going to say there is anything wrong with the more popular versions of enchiladas, they are just never what I am looking for. You can’t get the sauce out of a can, you can’t cover up a bad sauce with cheese, and you certainly can’t expect me to be happy with an enchilada in a flour tortilla.
I’m not saying there isn’t a gem out there on occasion, it’s just never worth the risk. The problem is that at it’s heart, enchiladas are an incredibly simple dish. There are less than a dozen ingredients, and while the process can be messy, the entire meal should be able to be made for less than $10 in under an hour, and should feed many.
This recipe was difficult to piece together because it didn’t come with any measurements. The language is a combination of my mother’s and grandmother’s with some heavy editing. I have made and remade this recipe often, recording my own measurements, but much of this is ‘to taste.’ It also took a while to figure out how to scale it down. I can’t remember a time we ever made enchiladas in a pan smaller than your standard Pyrex Baking Dish, and often we made two.
One important note, even if you don’t like olives, do not substitute or skimp on the olive juice. It is the essence of the flavor. You don’t have to add chopped olives to the final product, but the sauce will not even slightly resemble its true origins without olive juice.
We have always used lard, but I made a batch for my sister-in-law who was vegetarian with vegetable oil, and the results were fabulous and highly similar.
Also, my mom notes that you can add shredded chicken or beef, but we have never preferred this in our family, and when she was a kid they could never afford it. So, below is the cheese only version.
Finally, as my mom likes to remind me, always top the enchiladas with the ingredients, so people know what is inside. In this case, top with olives, onions & cheese. No one likes an olive surprise.
Grandma’s Cheese Enchiladas
makes 15 – 20 Enchiladas
- 15 – 20 Corn tortillas (one package)
- Oil or Lard
- 2 tbsp Flour
- 1 tbsp Chile Powder
- ¾ – 1 cup Water
- 1 can Black Olives, pitted & diced, save juice
- ½ lb Monterey Jack or Colby cheese, shredded
- 1 bunch Green Onions, diced
- Preheat oven to 400
- Prepare Tortillas: Add enough oil or lard to a large sauté or frying pan to generously cover the bottom (about 1 cup), and heat until hot, not burning (about medium heat). Once the oil/lard is hot, place one tortilla in and count to 4, flip, count to 4 then remove to a cookie rack over a paper bag to drain. Do not overcook tortillas, they simply need to be pliable. Continue until all tortillas are cooked. Turn off the burner.
- Make the Sauce: After frying pan cools a little remove all but approximately 2 tablespoons of oil, but don’t throw out the excess until you’ve finished making the sauce. Add approximately 2 tablespoons of flour and stir with a wire whisk until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of chili powder and stir until smooth. Add approximately ¾ cup of water and stir until smooth. Turn burner on to medium. Whisk in about ¼ cup of the olive juice. Whisk constantly to keep the sauce smooth as it thickens. Continue stirring and adding chili powder, olive juice and salt to taste. Add only a little at a time. You may need to add more water. Once you have the right taste and consistency continue cooking until the sauce is bubbling, this will thicken the sauce. Turn off the burner and remove from heat.
- Assemble Enchiladas: Place approximately ¼ cup of sauce on the bottom of a 8 x 8 baking dish, enough to coat the bottom. Spread around. Dip a fried tortilla into the sauce. Make sure it’s coated on both sides, scrapping any extra if there is too much. Place on baking dish. Sprinkle cheese the length of the tortilla in the middle. Sprinkle a few diced olives and diced onions. Do not overfill. Fold tortilla over then roll. Move to the side of the baking dish. Continue with the rest of the tortillas. Feel free to crowd the pan, this will help the enchiladas keep from being too flat. When done, pour remaining sauce over enchiladas, sprinkle with cheese, olives, and onions.
- Bake at 400 for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.