Notes from Chef Joe
The beauty of tacos and enchiladas is that you really can add your own flavor to each dish very simply – by having a slew of condiments ready to top each to your own delight. A family of five can each have their own version of tacos the way they want it, with all of the major work done before the food arrives at the table.
Below are the basic recipes for taco and enchilada shells, which are so good prepared fresh at home that we cannot emphasize enough what a difference making them yourself will have on your next Mexican meal. We also have the recipe for beef tacos and chicken enchiladas, but of course the filling ingredients can be modified to your own taste preferences. When we ate at Bill and Bonnie’s home, Bonnie prepared small bowls of various condiments for us to choose from as toppings. These included diced avocados, sliced jalapenos from a can, salsa (she likes Newman’s Own), shredded lettuce, sliced scallions, and diced tomatoes.
½ cup canola or vegetable oil
1 package 8 inch corn or flour tortillas
For Taco Shells
In a small skillet (preferably cast iron), heat oil over medium/medium high heat until oil begins to shimmer. Place 1 tortilla shell into oil at a time – the oil will begin to bubble rapidly. As the tortilla cooks, it will begin to puff up in the middle. Use an egg turner to press down on the bubble, keeping the tortilla flat. Cook tortilla for about 30 seconds on the first side or until the air bubble goes away, and use a fork and egg turner to flip the tortilla over in the oil. As moisture cooks out of the tortilla, it will begin to harden. As soon as you notice the tortilla begin to stiffen, use your utensils to fold the tortilla in half, working quickly. Hold the shell open slightly as it continues to cook – this will allow you to fill the taco shell later. Once the bubbles slow down, take the formed taco shell and place it standing upside down on paper towels to allow oil to drain. Repeat to make as many taco shells as you plan on eating.
For Enchilada Wraps
In the same skillet as you prepared your taco shells, heat oil over medium low heat. Place 1 tortilla shell into oil at a time – the oil will begin to bubble slowly. Cook tortilla for about 10 seconds on each side, using an egg turner to press any air bubbles out of the tortilla to keep it flat. The end result should still be soft and roll-able. Repeat to make as many enchilada wraps as you plan on eating, stacking finished wraps between paper towels to drain oil.
3 tablespoons soybean or vegetable oil
1 large onion, medium diced
1 Hungarian pepper, medium julienne
1 green pepper, medium julienne
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 ½ tablespoons fresh oregano, finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded cheese (preferably a mix of equal parts monterey jack, sharp cheddar, and asadero – from about 4 oz. of each cheese)
Makes about 8 tacos.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion with a little salt and sweat without color. Once onion is almost translucent, add peppers and garlic and sweat until peppers become slightly tender. Add beef and cook fully, adding oregano when almost fully cooked. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Fill taco shells with beef and top with shredded cheese. Place in a shallow baking dish and put in oven for about 3 minutes or until cheese has melted. Serve and enjoy.
1 lb. chicken
1 8 oz. can Old El Paso enchilada sauce
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 cup scallions, medium sliced
1 ½ cups shredded cheese (preferably a mix of equal parts monterey jack, sharp cheddar, and asadero – from about 4 oz. of each cheese)
Salt and pepper to taste
Makes about 8 enchiladas.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill medium pot ¾ full with water and season with salt until it tastes like the ocean. Cover and bring to a boil. Add chicken, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook chicken fully, about 20-25 minutes. Remove chicken from water and set aside to cool for five minutes. Once chicken is cool enough to handle, shred chicken by pulling apart into medium- and small-sized strips, and season with salt and pepper. While chicken is cooling, mix enchilada sauce, tomato sauce, and chili powder in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Once sauce is warm, dip one side of lightly fried tortillas into sauce to coat – this will be the inside of the enchilada. Place a portion of cooked chicken meat inside the tortilla with some shredded cheese and scallions and roll, making sure to overlap by about 1/3. Use about 1 cup of cheese to fill all tortillas. Place overlapping part down inside a shallow baking dish, and line with filled tortillas. Pour remaining sauce over and around filled tortillas, and cover with the remaining cheese. Place baking dish inside oven for about 5 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to bubble. Serve and enjoy!