Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex, written by Cappy Lawton and Chris Waters Dunn, features over 100 recipes for rolled, folded, and flat enchiladas, salsas, salads, and accompaniments from Mexico, Central America, and Texas. A few highlights include Enchiladas de Ropa Vieja, Enchiladas de Suelo, Envueltos de Nata, Enchiladas Norteñas, and Papadzules. I will also be sharing their recipe for Enchiladas Rojas de Queso (Red Enchiladas with Cheese) following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Trinity University Press in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Cappy Lawton and Chris Waters Dunn
Cappy Lawton grew up in San Antonio and first had a career as an aeronautical designer. His initial exposure to enchiladas was of the Tex-Mex variation. During his first visit to Mexico in his 20s, he was struck by the amazing variety of foods and flavors. He transferred to the restaurant business and has designed, developed, and operated over 29 restaurants in Texas.
In 1997, he bought the oldest continuously operating Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, La Fonda on Main, with his wife and gradually expanded the menu to incorporate authentic Mexican dishes to the previously Tex-Mex offerings. He is also currently the owner of Cappy’s and Cappyccino’s.
Chris Waters Dunn is a food writer from San Antonio. He originally worked in Nashville as a songwriter and record producer. After retiring, he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and now holds a graduate degree in creative writing from the University of Denver. Chris provided much of the research for the enchiladas and history in the book.
The enchilada dates back to pre-Columbian times in Mexico and has become an integral part of the cuisine with hundreds of varieties and fillings. This book showcases some of that variety from Enchiladas Huastecas con Pollo from the Huastec people of the Gulf of Mexico, Papadzules from the Mayan peninsula, the open-faced Enchiladas Tultecas from north central Mexico, Enchiladas Berenjenas that are wrapped in eggplants instead of the traditional corn tortilla, and everything in between.
Enchiladas is so much more than the recipes. It is also a valuable teaching tool for essential Mexican staples and cooking techniques. Every aspect of the enchilada is explained in precise detail, from the homemade tortilla base to preparing the ingredients and assembling the final dish.
You will learn about the history of the enchilada, how corn has become such an essential component to Mexican cuisine, and the development of the tortilla. Fresh and dried chiles are described with the flavor, heat, most popular uses, and how to prepare them. There is also a guide to cheeses, their background in Mexico, descriptions, and substitutions if available.
The chapters are divided based on ingredient: Ingredients, Fundamentals, Accompaniments (Guarniciones), Pork (Carne de Cerdo Enchiladas), Beef (Carne De Res Enchiladas), Poultry (Pato y Pollo Enchiladas), Seafood (Mariscos Enchiladas), Dairy (Lácteos Enchiladas), Vegetable (Verdura Enchiladas), and Tex-Mex Enchiladas.
Measurements are provided in US Customary and Metric. Some of the recipes include a headnote and tips with background information on that particular Enchilada. The name of the dish is provided in Spanish and occasionally English. The absolutely beautiful photos were taken by Andréa Caillouet, Chris Waters Dunn, Sunni Hammer, Gabriel Ibarra, and Mark Menjivar. Many of the enchiladas have a vibrant full page photograph of the finished dish.
Enchiladas Rojas de Queso (Red Enchiladas with Cheese)
Enchiladas Rojas de Queso are made by filling red corn tortillas with queso asadero and a chipotle sauce, rolling them up, then covering with more chipotle sauce.
The enchiladas are broiled, then served garnished with queso fresco. I made the homemade red corn tortillas from the book using ancho chiles. If using store-bought, make sure the red chiles are dyed red from chile paste and not food coloring.
I found ancho chiles at my local supermarket. They are also available in markets specializing in Mexican ingredients or on Amazon.
I found the section on making corn tortillas from scratch incredibly helpful. I have tried here and there in the past, but often had the water percentage off, ending in a too crumbly or too sticky dough. The instructions are precise and and to the point. I am finally able to get a good “feel” of the dough.
If you are unsure if the consistency of the tortilla dough is right, test one ball of dough before forming the remaining. If it is too crumbly, add a little more water. The pressed tortillas should be thin enough to roll with smooth edges, but not so thin that they tear when removing from the plastic.
Make sure all of the tortillas are covered with the chipotle sauce to keep them protected from the broiler.
Queso Asadero is a white, semisoft cheese made from cows milk. It may also be packaged as Queso Quesadilla. The cheese is pressed into a brick shape and melts well for queso fundido, rellenos, and quesadillas. If you are unable to locate it, then substitute with Monterey Jack cheese.
Queso Fresco is a crumbly, unaged cheese with a mild flavor. It is made with cows or a mixture of cows and goats milk. It is located in many larger grocery stores and International Markets featuring Mexican ingredients. If you are unable to locate it, you can make your own or use a mild feta.
For the dried masa, I used Maseca Instant Corn Masa (Instantánea de Maís). Lawton and Dunn recommend White Wings Corn Tortilla Mix.
Chipotles en adobo are morita chipotles preserved in a tomato chile sauce called adobo. They can be found canned in the international section of most larger supermarkets.
Looking for a version with meat?
Try my Enchiladas Rojas with a chicken filling.
I also made Mexican White Rice, Enchiladas Pachuqueñas, Enchiladas de Camote (Sweet Potato), and Tex-Mex Beef Enchiladas.
A variety of recipes for accompaniments are provided to serve with the enchiladas. I started with the Mexican White Rice. This recipe was practically fool-proof. White rice is sauteed with onion and garlic, then simmered briefly before transferring to the oven. After cooking, it is fluffed with a little butter.
Enchiladas Pachuqueñas are made by dipping tortillas in a poblano cream sauce, filling with a poached chicken queso fresco mixture, folding over, and garnishing with sliced radishes, iceberg lettuce, more poblano chiles, and queso fresco. The sauce was flavorful, but not too spicy (though a note is included to toss in a serrano chile to bump up the heat). Roasted poblano chiles are pureed with onions, peanuts, and French bread, strained, cooked, then mixed with heavy cream.
Enchiladas de Camote are made by filling corn tortillas with pureed sweet potato. They are deep-fried until crisp and topped with a chipotle sauce, queso fresco, and fried sweet potato strings. These enchiladas were fairly easy to make, but absolutely delicious. I loved the contrast of crisp tortillas with the smooth sweet potato filling.
The Tex-Mex Enchiladas were a favorite with my San Antonio-born husband. I used the beef filling, but there are also recipes for cheese, chicken, and brisket enchiladas. The beef was seasoned with onion, garlic, cumin, bay leaves, serrano chiles, potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes. After rolling, the tortillas were covered in an Ancho Chile Gravy, topped with cheese, and baked until melted and bubbly.
Enchiladas is a great pick for those who enjoy enchiladas (of course) or want to learn more about this part of Mexican/Tex-Mex cuisine. Nearly every recipe is gluten-free, minus the ancho chile gravy for the Tex-Mex Enchiladas. Every step of preparation is explained thoroughly, making it perfect for home cooks and those unfamiliar with Mexican cuisine.
Having access to a market that specializes in Mexican ingredients is helpful, particularly for fresh items such as certain cheeses and chiles. The book also includes recipes for many staples such as Mexican chorizo, Cecina (Mexican Salted Dried Beef), Crema Mexicana (Mexican Cultured Cream), Queso Fresco, and rendered lard. Most of the recipes involve multiple steps for the tortillas, filling, sauce, and accompaniments/garnishes. Some of these steps may be prepared in advance to help split up the work for assembly.
Enchiladas Rojas de Queso (Red Enchiladas with Cheese) Recipe
Excerpt from Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex
Enchiladas Rojas de Queso (Red Enchiladas with Cheese)
- 2 1/2 pounds (1.13 kilos) Roma tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
- 1/2 medium yellow or white onion peeled and chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (4 grams) garlic minced
- 2 large chipotles en adobo destemmed and minced
- Kosher salt to taste about 1 tablespoon (9 grams)
- 2-4 ancho or guajillo chiles cleaned, destemmed, deseeded
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1 cup (237 ml) warm water
- 1 1/2 cups (210 grams) dried masa
- 3 cups (360 grams) grated Queso Asadero or Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) reserved chipotle sauce
- Vegetable oil for softening the tortillas
- 1 cup (120 grams) crumbled Queso Fresco
To make the Chipotle Sauce:
- Preheat oven to 350˚F (177˚C).
- Place the tomatoes in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast, turning occasionally, until the skins begin to burst and the tomatoes are soft, about 25 minutes.
- Place under the broiler for about 5 minutes to blacken the skins in spots. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
- Place the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook until translucent but not brown, 3-5 minutes.
- Add garlic and chipotles en adobo and cook for 1 additional minute.
- Place the onion mixture and tomatoes in a blender and puree until smooth. Add salt to taste.
- If proceeding immediately with an enchilada recipe, pour the sauce into a saucepan over medium-low heat, cover, and keep warm. Sauce may be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
To make the red tortillas:
- Place the chiles in a bowl and cover with hot water. Soak about 10 minutes, or until softened. Drain and discard the soaking liquid.
- Place softened chiles in a blender along with salt and 1 cup (237 ml) warm water.
- Strain through a medium-mesh strainer into a large bowl.
- Add the dried masa and knead until the chile purée is evenly distributed through the dough. While kneading, add water as needed (approximately 1/4 cup, 59 ml) to form a soft, workable dough.
- Let the dough rest a few minutes before dividing into balls and pressing.
- Cut rounds from plastic to fit the tortilla press (This is a great way to reuse a plastic grocery bag).
- Heat a well-seasoned comal or iron griddle over medium-high heat. If possible, set the comal at two temperatures: 325˚F (163˚C) and 375˚F (191˚C). The cooler side is for the first two turns of the tortilla. For the last turn of the tortilla, move it to the 375˚F (191˚C) side. This helps encourage puffing. Some chefs lay a tortilla directly on a burner flame for the last turn.
- Divide dough into 12-15 balls and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel to prevent the dough from drying out (this is very important).
- Place a round of plastic on the tortilla press, and place a ball of masa on top of the plastic just slightly off center toward the hinge (this helps maintain an even thickness). Place a second piece of plastic over the ball of masa, flatten it slightly by hand, then close the lid and press. Some chefs like to turn the package 180 degrees and gently press again.
- With the tortilla still pressed between the plastic sheets, place in one hand and use other to peel off the top sheet of plastic. (Plastic sheets may be reused to make remaining tortillas.)
- Transfer the exposed side of the tortilla to the opposite hand. Fingers should be close together and the tortilla should be placed on the fingertips, not the palm. Peel off the remaining sheet of plastic.
- Keeping palm up and nearly flat, gently lay the tortilla on the cooler side of the comal or iron griddle. Try to prevent the tortilla from folding over on itself when placing it on the comal. Cook for about 30 seconds, or until edges begin to firm.
- Using a thin spatula, turn tortilla. Cook for about 1 minute more; the underside should begin to develop little blisters and slight freckles of brown.
- Turn the tortilla over onto the hotter side of the comal, and after a few seconds, if the dough was the right consistency and the comal set to the right heat, the tortilla should puff up (if it doesn't, it is still perfectly usable). Coninue cooking until the underside has some brown spots and the tortilla is cooked through.
- Place in a cloth-lined basket and keep covered while pressing and cooking the remaining tortillas.
To make the Enchiladas Rojas de Queso:
- If the Chipotle sauce was prepared ahead of time, place in a saucepan over medium heat. When sauce is heated through, reduce heat to low, cover, and keep warm.
- Have the cheese for the filling and the garnish ready and at hand.
- Pour oil to a depth of 1/2 inch (12 mm) in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Heat to low frying temperature, about 300˚F (150˚C).
- Place each tortilla in the oil and fry for a few seconds, just long enough to soften. Drain on paper towels.
- Place 1/4 cup (300 grams) queso asadero topped with 2 tablespoons chipotle sauce on the lower third of the softened tortilla.
- Roll and place on an individual ovenproof plate, 3 enchiladas per serving, or on an ovenproof dish large enough to accommodate the enchiladas in a single layer. Repeat with the other tortillas.
- When the enchiladas are plated, pour the remaining chipotle sauce over the enchiladas, being careful to fully cover the edges. Place under a broiler just long enough to melt the cheese. Garnish with queso fresco.