Cooking Like A Mexican

Enchiladas
BY: ALE BORBOLLA

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Enchiladas are a Mexican dish by excellence; the main ingredient being corn, this complex yet simple dish has hundreds of variations, definitely, every state has at least one recipe, but there are some regions, like the south, where there are up to 10 ways of making the same dish. Enchiladas are one of the most popular “antojitos” or street foods.

Since the main ingredient is corn, we can almost be certain that enchiladas have been around for thousands of years, since before the Spaniards came to Mexico. For some culinary historians, enchiladas were known in independent Mexico when “the parents of the country” -those who fought the independence- were traveling through our nation. From town to town, they were fed the typical dishes, and always had a different recipe for enchiladas. 

Corn and chile go hand in hand in Mexican cuisine, and enchiladas are just that. In rough translation, enchilada means to be smothered in chile. As a verb, it’s the feeling when you’ve had too much spice. In slang, it means to be angry. So, an enchilada is a dish on itself, but if we say carne enchilada, it's meat marinated in chile. If your lady says she’s enchilada, you better back away slowly.

Enchiladas tricolor is an ode to our Mexican flag. They’re a marriage between red and green salsa, with cheese and sour cream in the middle. The Mexican flag is a matter of national pride. It has been declared one of the most beautiful, and it rises proudly on every government palace across Mexico. It is formed by three vertical stripes; green, white and red. In the middle section, the white, an eagle on the nopal is pictured with a snake in its claws.

The Mexican flag was officially presented in 1821, and even though it has suffered minor changes and tweaks since then, it’s still almost the same as it was 200 years ago. Many people think the Mexican flag was inspired after the Italian flag, but they couldn’t be more wrong.  Our flag was designed well before the Italian’s, we have darker tones and the dimensions and proportions are also different. There’s a fascinating story behind the flag’s elements. The eagle symbolizes Mexican culture and our native background. Legend says that the Aztec god, Huitzilopochtli, told his people that they had to look for a lake that had an eagle resting in the middle of it, on top of a cacti (nopal) eating a snake. When they saw that sign, the Aztecs decided to settle around the lake. The empire that the Aztecs built, had the main city called Tenochtitlan, today Mexico City. So, the middle emblem in the flag is a reminder for the Mexican people of their Aztec roots.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, when Mexico was fighting for independence from Spain, an army was formed to fight the Spaniards, the trigarante army. To represent this army that formed from smaller armies, a red white and green flag was used. This flag was used until the end of the war, and the colors were preserved in our country's flag to honor the troops; as well as to remind the people why and how this country came to be. Way back then, the colors symbolized the “three guarantees” or the three main promises to the people; independence, religion and union. Now, the colors represent hope (green), union (White) and the blood of our heroes (red).

Now, the recipe.

Ingredients:

For the green salsa:

8 green tomatoes

1 serrano chile

1 clove of garlic

1/3 of an onion

2 sprigs of cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

 

For the red salsa:

4 red tomatoes 

1 clove of garlic

1/3 of an onion 

1 chipotle pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

 

For the enchiladas:

1 lb of chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

12 corn tortillas

Vegetable oil for lightly frying

Sour cream to taste

Queso fresco or panela, crumbled, to taste

 

How to:

    •    in a medium pot, we cook the tomatoes, green and red, garlic, onion pieces and serrano pepper with just enough liquid. Cover and let simmer for about 10 or 12 minutes.

    •    While that is ready, in a saucepan, add enough oil to have half an inch to lightly fry the corn tortillas. Wait until the oil is hot enough, and place each tortilla for about 10 seconds on each side, no more. We don’t need them to be crispy.

    •    For the green salsa: blend together the green tomatoes, one of the thirds of the onion, the garlic, and the serrano chile previously cooked. Add cilantro, salt and pepper and blend. You can lightly warm up the salsa in a saucepan for easy assembly. Set aside.

    •    For the red salsa: in a clean blender, add the tomatoes, garlic, onion, chipotle pepper, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth, and warm this separately too if you like. Set aside.

 

Assembly:

    •    Place a tortilla on a plate, stuff with chicken. You can either roll it or fold it in half, I think for this particular recipe, they look better folded in half. Repeat with as many as you want, I’d say four per person. Pour green salsa on one side and red on the other, leaving the middle with no salsa. In the middle, pour sour cream and sprinkle with crumbled cheese, fresco or panela.

That’s all! I think this is a very pretty dish just in time for the Independence festivities, and if you make all the components ahead, it’s really fast to assemble. Find me at ale.borbolla@gringogazette.com.