February 11, 2013

In the US we become accustomed to a food that goes by a particular name and expect it to be the same everywhere. In the same way the US has regional foods, the different countries in Central America also have foods bearing the same name that are quite distinct. Enchiladas are a completely different thing in Guatemala, where I lived for 12 years. I was accustomed to Guatemalan enchiladas, so when coming back to the US and seeing what passed for an enchilada here, I was amazed, and not necessarily in a good way.

I am not intending to put down what some know here as an enchilada. We all have ways of eating different foods. There is no right or wrong way. What I was accustomed to eating in Guatemala was a nicely fried corn tortilla, with some thickness, so it would support all the toppings. The process for making Guatemalan enchiladas takes at least a half day. The reason for this is that there are many vegetables that go on top of it. Each vegetable is pickled a little bit, in a vinegar and water solution, much as beets are pickled.

Preparing the Vegetables

The vegetables used are usually beets as the basis, with other vegetables such as cabbage, green beans or carrots in varying amounts. Some places make cabbage the main vegetable, with just a little bit of beets, giving the color. Some places used only beets, and sometimes a combination of some of all these vegetables was used. The vegetables are shredded, or in the case of green beans, sliced very thinly. Each vegetable is cooked separately, to maintain flavor and color. Once cooked, each vegetable is soaked in a light vinegar, water and salt solution to give a pickled flavor. This is best done a day ahead, though it can be done early the same day for serving later on.

Preparing the Meat

Meat is generally a part of the assembly, and is always chopped finely. I use a brisket and cook it for 2 or more hours until tender in water to cover, with salt, one bay leaf and a whole onion. I find brisket to be most flavorful, and it makes a great addition to the enchiladas. Once cooked, shred and chop the meat finely. It may be put into the food processor very briefly. It should be finely chopped, but not a wet clump. Chop one onion and fry in oil until golden brown. Add in the meat, with more oil if needed, and fry to a nice crisp brown. Add salt if needed. Save the broth left from cooking the meat as it is extremely flavorful and makes a fantastic soup or soup base. Freeze for later if not used right away.

Make a Tomato Sauce

In a dry skillet, roast some Roma tomatoes, tomatillos and garlic. Once blackened in many spots, place into a blender. The tomatoes, tomatillos and garlic can also be placed under the broiler to blacken a bit if preferred. Fry another chopped onion. Once nicely translucent, add them to the blender and puree until smooth. Pour back into the pan and cook for a few minutes to bring together the flavors.

Other Ingredients Needed. Finalizing the Enchiladas.

A few hard boiled eggs will be needed, sliced about 1/4 inch thick. Chopped parsley and lettuce leaves and grated Cotija cheese will round out the whole thing. Once ready to make the enchiladas, make sure everyone is assembled because if they set for a bit, the tortillas will get soggy and unable to support the toppings. Drain all the vegetables and toss together to combine.

The first thing needed for the enchiladas is the fried tortilla. Spread a little of the tomato sauce on the fried tortilla. Place a leaf of lettuce on top of the tomato sauce. Place a large spoonful of the vegetable mixture on top of the lettuce leaf. Sprinkle on some of the meat mixture. Place one slice of hardboiled egg on top. Sprinkle with Cotija cheese and parsley. Repeat with as many tortillas as needed.

These are generally picked up with the hands to be eaten, though I will warn that they are messy.

I have never had a recipe for these wonderful treats, so at present there are no precise measurements. If you need a lot of these delicious enchiladas, make more of each ingredient. Even those who dislike beets have enjoyed this mixture of ingredients. I hope this will inspire someone to try these out, because these are a whole other kind of enchilada and well worth the effort.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope it was informative and helped you along your own culinary journey.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking and help pass along my love and joy of food. I would love to hear from you! Join my "e-family" and share recipes, stories and good times in the kitchen. Visit my Web site http://www.aharmonyofflavors.com/ my Blog at http://www.aharmonyofflavors.blogspot.com/ my Marketplace at or join me on Facebook. Let me know, and I will send you a copy of my monthly news letter full of recipes the latest tips.

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