Thursday, May 05, 2022

The Urban Cowgirl: Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Gravy

I feel a little embarrassed that I came to cheese enchiladas so late in my life in Texas.  I always kinda looked down on them, like they were the "lesser" enchiladas behind their chicken and beef siblings.  Boy, was I missing out.  I have come to appreciate the beauty of a corn tortilla filled with melted Cheddar and topped with a chili gravy.  It is true perfection.  Unfortunately, it's been a bit of a task finding a recipe that replicates that restaurant flavor of the chili gravy.  Not sure this one is quite there, but it's the closest I've ever come, so I'm claiming it.

Note: I substituted some of the salt for Adobo seasoning without pepper.

Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Gravy
Adapted from The Urban Cowgirl blog

1 pound 80/20 ground beef, chili grind if available
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
⅓ cup minced white onion
2 tablespoons Texas chili powder, such as Gebhardts
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2½ cup beef or chicken stock
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

12 ounces medium cheddar from the block, freshly grated
½ cup minced white onion
12 fresh yellow or white corn tortillas
1 cup oil for frying

To make the chili gravy:
In a skillet on medium heat, begin searing the ground beef and breaking it up well with a wooden spatula. Sprinkle in the salt (start with half and add more if needed) and pepper and let the meat sear well as you break it up. The dark brown parts of the sear will dissolve and enrich the chili gravy later adding to the flavor.

When the meat is well-seared, add in the onion and cook for 2 minutes, tossing frequently.

Add in the chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, Mexican oregano, and cumin and let the spices brown and toast in the pan along with the beef.

Finally, turn the heat down to medium and sprinkle in the flour. Toss the flour in the meat and incorporate into the fat and juices creating a roux of sorts. When the flour dissolves into the mixture, pour in the beef stock and whisk it into the mixture.

Turn the heat up to medium-high heat and stir frequently bringing the mixture up to a boil. Allow the mixture to thicken, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (or longer if desired). The longer the chili cooks, the more the flavors in the chili gravy will enhance and deepen.

Finish the gravy with ½ teaspoon more salt, if needed, and the fresh lime juice for acidity.

To make the enchiladas:
Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Grease a 9x13-inch casserole dish with a little bit of olive oil or pan spray so the enchiladas will not stick.

Add 2 tablespoons oil to the bottom of a nonstick skillet and heat over low heat. Add a corn tortilla into the pan and fry for about 1 to 2 seconds on each side, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate for holding. Continue with the remaining corn tortillas until all of the tortillas are soft, oiled, and warm.

Lay out one corn tortilla and in the center of the tortilla add 2 tablespoons or so of freshly grated cheddar cheese and a sprinkling of minced onion. Roll them up and place them in the baking dish with the seam side down. Fill the entire baking dish with enchiladas tucked closely together. Ladle the hot chili gravy sauce on top of the enchiladas.

Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle extra cheese and white onion on top if desired.

Makes 6 servings

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