Tuesday Night Fun Cooking! enchiladas

A rule I've been letting slide the last couple sessions of Tuesday Night Fun Cooking! is the one where the kids get to choose what we make. Last week this was because I had to pick something we had the right ingredients on hand for, and this week it was just because I was in the mood for enchiladas and no one was going to stop me. Also, the avocados at the coop were on sale and looked delicious.

Fortunately, we all love enchiladas so eating them for dinner wasn't exactly a hardship.

Now, enchiladas are fun and delicious but they are a lot of work. We even did the kind where you throw everything into a casserole dish and bake it so at least they're all ready at the same time, but it was still a lot of work. One of these days we'll make New Mexican style flat enchiladas, which is in my opinion the best way, but that's a ton of work and a mad rush at the end, so it's best when there is more than one adult on hand to help out with dipping and stacking, not to mention the photos.

You may notice the photos are slightly better quality today. They were still taken on my phone in a rush in between wiping grease off my fingers, but thanks to Daylight Saving, there was much more natural light coming in the kitchen while we were cooking! (Recipe and modifications/pros/cons/next-time at the end of the post, as usual)

I started off by throwing a boneless pork shoulder in the slow cooker for 8 hours. I just put the whole thing in there with some salt and garlic powder (yes, garlic powder. I'm not above that.) before leaving for work this morning:

Here it is two hours from final cooking time.
I think the meat was about 3lbs. to start with, and I knew that would be way more than we needed for tonight, and I was right. Half went in the enchiladas and the other half went in the freezer.

Once we got going this afternoon, step 1 was to shred and season the meat before toasting it in the oven. Daniel is squeamish about handling meat, even cooked meat with a pair of forks, but Anya dives right in. It didn't need salt but we added some cumin and dried ancho powder.

I warned the kids that this was going to be a messy meal so they went and got aprons...we've decided they need new ones. That will be a sewing project coming up for me soon, I expect.

While the meat was toasting in the oven, we got the beans going. The kids crushed some garlic into a saucepan. I hate cleaning the garlic press so I never use it, but this seemed a safer option than handing them tiny garlic cloves and a giant knife. Plus, like I mentioned before, gadgets are fun!

After sautéeing the garlic for about a minute, we dumped in some cooked pinto beans (fortunately I had some in the freezer) and added salt, cumin and ancho chili before turning off the heat and letting them sit while we prepared the tortillas.

I had a stack of corn tortillas I fried in oil. You do 10 seconds per side and stack them on a plate with paper towels in between to soak up the extra grease. The oil is quite hot and spatters easily, so I really wasn't comfortable having the kids do this step, not yet. Also, you have to use a cast iron skillet. Nothing else works nearly as well. They're not that expensive, either. You can get a Lodge brand one for twenty-five bucks at the hardware store and it's TOTALLY worth it. One of these days I'll do some flatbread tutorials here and you'll see just how useful cast iron is. But I digress.

Though Daniel and Anya were not doing the actual frying, they did have Very Important other jobs. Daniel was my time-keeper and faithfully kept track of 10 seconds on every single side of each of the 15 tortillas we used. When it's just up to me, I usually let one or two burn. Anya kept me ready with fresh paper towels and more tortillas so I didn't have to run back and forth.

Next we mashed the beans. This is how I do refried beans, by the way. Just cook garlic (and sometimes chopped onion or shallot) in oil, add beans and some liquid with seasoning (salt, cumin, coriander, chili) and set aside until everything else is ready. Then mash the heck out of 'em and warm up before serving. Mashing is fun; the kids liked that.

Then it was time to assemble. I didn't get any shots of this part because we were all helping and it was greasy work. Daniel poured half the enchilada sauce in the bottom of the casserole dish, and then we all took turns filling and rolling the tortillas with some beans and some pork before squeezing them in the pan. We topped it off with the rest of the sauce and some shredded cheese and threw it in the oven to bake for about a half hour, during which the kids got a little break and I cleaned up and made some guacamole. 

Before picture!

After! Pork enchiladas, fresh veggies, guacamole, and my knees.

Enchilada Casserole

  • 1 pork shoulder, 3 lbs (you won't use all of it)
  • 2 cups cooked pinto beans
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2T. oil for refried beans (I used avocado but plain vegetable oil is fine)
  • seasoning: salt, cumin, chili powder (I used ancho because it's mild and the kids are sensitive to heat) and I would have also used coriander but we're out
  • 15 corn tortillas plus oil (corn or vegetable) for frying
  • 1 16-20oz jar or can of enchilada sauce
  • 2 cups shredded jack cheese
  • Equipment: cast iron skillet, tongs, cheese shredder, saucepan, masher, knife, garlic press (optional), paper towels, 9x13 casserole dish, baking sheet or pan, slow cooker or dutch oven...this is a pretty equipment-heavy recipe, isn't it? I probably forgot something, too.
1. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, go buy one.

2. Cook the pork ahead of time, either in a slow cooker all day or in the oven for several hours at low heat until the meat is tender and falling apart. I used a slow cooker and it took about 8 hours. Season with salt. You could add other stuff (like garlic or garlic powder) but you don't really need to.

3. Put about half the meat on a baking tray or pan and shred with two forks. Add salt if needed, plus your seasoning of choice (we used cumin and ancho, but you can use whatever you like). Bake at 350 until the meat is crisp, 20-30 minutes.

4. Chop the garlic and toast in 2T. oil for about a minute, or until the garlic is fragrant but not brown. Turn off the heat and add the beans plus 1tsp salt and your seasoning of choice (cumin, coriander, chili powder, hot pepper). You may need to add some water if the beans look dry. Set aside.

5. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a cast iron skillet on medium-high. When it's sizzling hot, fry the tortillas one at a time, 10 seconds per side, layering them on paper towels to drain. You'll need to replenish the oil in the pan after every few tortillas.

6. Mash the beans, adding water if necessary. You want a nice consistency that isn't too dry. Since they'll be baked in the enchiladas don't worry about reheating them at this point.

7. Now the fun begins! It's time to assemble. Grease the casserole dish and pour about half the enchilada sauce over the bottom, making sure it's evenly covered. Place a generous spoonful of beans and some meat (maybe 2-3T worth? we didn't measure) in each tortilla, roll up, and line up in the casserole dish. You can really pack them in. Pour the rest of the sauce over the tortillas, top with the cheese, and bake at 350 for about a half hour, or until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.

8. Serve hot with guacamole, sour cream and fresh vegetables.

Modification ideas: 
  • You could easily add chicken or beef instead of pork.
  • This is really easy to make vegetarian. Just up the quantity of beans and leave out the meat. In fact, tonight was the first time I've made enchiladas with meat! We always stuffed the tortillas with beans and more cheese before. 
  • Grilled squash would be delicious in a summer version of this recipe.
  • Delicious.
  • Fun.
  • The kids' apparent need for aprons gives me an excuse for a fun new sewing project in the near future.
  • Like several recent features on Tuesday Night Fun Cooking!, this is a dish that bakes for about a half hour, giving me a chance to clean up and get the table ready while the kids got a screen time break.
  • Pork can be kind of messy to clean up, but man is it easy to throw a hunk of it in the slow cooker with some salt and just let it go all day. I didn't brown it or add water or anything. 
  • This is a lot of work. Choosing one filling instead of two (just meat or just beans) would simplify things, but even so, there is a lot of preparation and equipment involved. I don't mind, but you have to be ready for it, and ready for a lot of clean up afterwards.
  • There are a lot of dishes to wash. I can't face them just yet, so I'm procrastinating by writing this blog post!
  • Some things the kids just can't do because of safety, like frying tortillas. 
  • The menu was my choice, not theirs, which has nothing to do with the actual recipe, but I need to be more mindful of their choices.
Next time:
  • I really want to make molé from scratch one of these days. In fact, it was my intention to do that this time, but I would have had to make it ahead of time and there was no way that was going to happen last weekend. We all took turns getting sick, plus I had a long day of work Saturday. Sunday I couldn't get out of bed; it was awful.
  • You need fresh, cold, crunch side dishes with enchiladas to help balance it out. Fresh carrots and cucumbers aren't a bad side dish with enchiladas but it's really best with fresh lettuce. We just didn't have any on hand.
  • Wouldn't this be even better with chopped cilantro as a garnish?
  • I didn't have a lime for the guacamole. Notice I didn't even include a recipe for the guacamole. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't that exciting. Next time I'll make awesome guac and share it.
NEXT WEEK St. Patrick's Day falls on Tuesday Night Fun Cooking! and the kids and I have already discussed some really fun menus for GREEN FOOD. I'm really looking forward to it and I hope you are, too.


Anonymous said…
Your enchiladas look delicious! I think you are ambitious to cook them with kids, but it worked beautifully. I am looking forward to your "green" menu.
Anonymous said…
Ah, yes. New Mexico enchiladas. Flat. Don't forget the fried egg on top.

Cilantro? Jacques Pepin says people either love it or hate it. I am in the "don't care for it" category. To me it tastes like weeds.

Boy that stuff looked good!

Green food. Who was the grouch on Sesame Street? His favorite ice cream was "green beef and pistachio". Ugh.

Maybe lime ice cream. A colcanon: potatoes with something green it it such as spinach or a green cabbage. Celery on the side with no carrots.

I guess I could make other suggestions, especially after having gotten rid of some of our tupperware coffins in the back of the fridge last week.

Of course. Avocado.


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