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QUE TAL, Y'ALL! Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas

by Ron Williams
October, 2002

Hatcher leaned back in the chair, "Back in the 60’s when I lived in Dallas, we could get some good stuff. Sometimes we’d have to go to the border or even into Mexico to get the real thing. When I moved to Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, I thought I’d never find the good stuff here."

"And now you’re growing your own", I answered back, admiring the plants growing in back of his shop where Hatcher crafts handmade guitars and basses. "I can even get killer stuff a couple blocks from work in downtown Chattanooga", I continued, a bit hazy from over-consumption. "Hombre, those plants are beautiful!"

Habanero peppers growing right here in Soddy-Daisy! Serranos, Anaheims, Poblanos, too! And an authentic taqueria, hand made tortillas and all on Main St, Chattanooga serving Anglo businessmen and Hispanic workers from the chicken processing plant next door equally. The GOOD STUFF, the authentic ingredients, honest to God Mexican food actually available in Anywhere, USA! Hispanics are now the largest minority in the US, and all other Americans are able to enjoy their culture as never before.

American pop music is a melding of Southern Anglo, Black, and Latino musical traditions: the Bajo Sexto in Ben E. King’s recordings, Richie Valens, Marty Robbins’ "El Paso", Ry Cooder teaming with Flaco Jimenez and Terry King….Techno-Tejano music…(well, maybe that’s a little too far..) Ok, pop open a Shiner Bock Beer and let’s get cooking:
Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas

This is an open ended recipe. You can go whole hog and make your own tortillas (using Quaker Masa Harina) and enchilada sauce from grinding and blending your own dried chile peppers, or use good store bought products from your local Hispanic grocer. The kind of cheese and the amount you use to fill the enchiladas are up to you, too. The secret to great enchiladas is to prepare them and serve – basic short order cooking- and NOT to make a bunch and bake them – they get too soggy. This is best with two people working together. One person fries the tortillas and dips them in the enchilada sauce, and the other assembles them and sticks them under the broiler.

12-15 corn tortillas
1 lb grated cheese (queso quesadilla, Monterey Jack, mild cheddar, etc.)
1 19 oz. can enchilada sauce
1 / 2 lb crumbled queso blanco fresca for topping
chopped fresh tomato, cilantro, and onion
Crema Mexicana (for topping)
vegetable oil (for frying)

First, assemble all the ingredients and utensils because you want to work quickly. Have the broiler turned on. Have a shallow glass baking dish close.
Heat a small skillet with _ inch of vegetable oil until very hot. At the same time, heat the enchilada sauce in another small skillet or pan until hot.
One at a time, fry a tortilla in the hot oil, turning once with tongs, for about 30 seconds until softened and limber. Drain quickly on paper towels. With another set of tongs (and hopefully another person helping you!) dip in the hot enchilada sauce. Remove and place 2-3 TBS of grated cheese in the middle and roll up the tortilla then place, seam side down, in the baking dish. Since you want the enchiladas to be hot, you probably can only do 4 to 6 at a time. Sprinkle some enchilada sauce; crumble queso fresca, and the chopped tomato and onion on top. Run the baking dish under the broiler for a minute or two. Remove, garnish with chopped cilantro and top with spoonfuls of Crema Mexicana, and serve with jalapenos and slice of lime. Then fix another batch.

Suggested Listening:
For Tex-Mex food, you must have Tex-Mex music! Los Palominos, a group of four brothers from Uvalde, TX, recorded 7 CDs for Sony that went Gold and won two GRAMMY Awards in the process. Their 2000 CD is on new label, Fonovisa, and in titled Obsesion. This is an outstanding Tejano recording and well worth finding. I saw them perform live and urge anyone who has a chance to see them to do so.
The father of Tex-Mex music is the late Doug Sahm, who passed away last year much too early. From his records as The Sir Douglas Quintet (with Augie Meyers signature sound on the Farfisa organ) to his later recording with Freddy Fender as the Texas Tornadoes, Doug Sahm combined Hispanic and Anglo musicians; blues, rock, and Tejano music to create a good-time music drenched in hot sauce and cold beer that could come from no place other than Texas.
And for those who prefer their enchiladas made with peyote buds rather than cheese, there’s the legendary 13th Floor Elevators, whose 1960’s Texas psychedelic music featured……yes…..the electric jug!!!

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