Thursday, February 14, 2013

Guatemalan Enchiladas, a Healthier Alternative

Okay, I do admit, these things take some time to make properly. There are probably shortcuts, but they taste so good made the long way that I hesitate to take those shortcuts for fear they will not taste the same. And they taste so very, very good.

Guatemalan Enchiladas do start off with a fried corn tortilla, but everything else that goes on top is made from scratch. From a tomato sauce, to separately cooked pickled vegetables and a roast that is chopped into bitty pieces (this can be done in the food processor), it is a time consuming recipe, but easily made in stages over a couple or more days, as desired. 

A Guatemalan Enchilada
Another difference from what is commonly known as an "enchilada" here in the US, is that the Guatemalan variety is picked up and eaten with the hands. It is as messy as it can get, but it is nearly impossible to use a fork to eat them. Regular pressed corn tortillas found in stores all over the US these days are far too thin to really support all the things that go on top of these enchiladas. In Guatemala, when the corn tortillas are made by hand, patted out lovingly and shaped into far thicker tortillas, they are fried only partially for the enchilada. If they were fried to complete crispness, the thickness alone would prohibit biting into them without breaking a tooth. I found that "La Tortilla Factory" corn tortillas, though they do have some flour added in, are just the perfect size and thickness to use for this recipe. 

There is an order to the layering of the ingredients on these enchiladas. Onto the fried tortilla goes the homemade tomato sauce. It is made from Roma tomatoes, onion, garlic and celery, with some salt and pepper for flavor. It is a delicious sauce, equally at home over fried eggs. This sauce is topped by a leaf of lettuce. Next comes the vegetables.

The main vegetable that is always present is beets. They can be used alone, or in a mixture with any or all of cabbage, green beans and carrots. Each vegetable is cooked separately in water and salted. A mixture of vinegar and water is poured over each separate, shredded or finely cut vegetable. Once a few hours or days have passed, the vegetable(s) are drained and only then combined. A pile of the mixed vegetables goes on top of the lettuce. Following the vegetable layer is a layer of a cooked meat that has been chopped finely and then fried with onion. My personal preference for sheer flavor is brisket. It also lends itself to easy slicing across the grain, eliminating a lot of chopping. It literally falls into little bits on its own. The meat is piled onto the vegetables. A slice of hard boiled egg goes on next, followed by a slice of raw onion, a good sprinkle of Cotija cheese and then a sprinkling of chopped parsley. And this marvelous combination of flavors is just almost too good to be true. I hope that despite all these steps, someone enterprising might give these a try.

Enchiladas (Guatemalan Style)

Makes about 8 - 10 enchiladas

3 medium beets, about ¾ pound
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 cup thinly sliced green beans, optional
½ - 1 cup julienned or thick-shredded carrots, optional
Vinegar / water solution

The main vegetables used are always beets and cabbage. Sometimes green beans and carrots are added as well. Boil the beets whole, then peel and shred. Place in a container with a lid. Cook the cabbage until tender; place into another container with lid. If using green beans and carrots, repeat, placing each in their separate container.

Mix up a solution of half white vinegar and half water, with a little salt for flavor. Pour about ¾ cup of this solution over each of the separate vegetables, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

1 pound brisket
1 medium onion, whole
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 onion, chopped finely
2 tablespoons olive oil

Place brisket in a pot with water to cover, along with the next three ingredients and cook at a slow simmer for 2 to 2½ hours, or until very tender. Remove meat from pan to cool. Strain and save the delicious broth for another application, or freeze for later. Slice the meat very thinly across the grain, which is very apparent in brisket. The meat will easily fall apart into tiny, "shredded" pieces.

Heat a skillet and add in the oil until it shimmers. Saute the chopped onion until well cooked and golden. Add in the meat and saute over relatively high heat, tossing constantly. The goal is fine bits of meat, nicely browned. Place in a container and refrigerate or set aside until needed.

1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes - OR -
(4 to 5 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped)
1 onion, chopped
1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 stalk celery, finely minced
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ - 1 teaspoon salt, as needed

In a skillet, heat the oil until it shimmers and add in the onion. Saute until nicely golden but not brown. Add in the garlic and celery and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add in the tomatoes and cook until completely melded (if using Roma tomatoes, simmer until tomatoes are cooked through); if there is too much liquid, cook until some liquid has evaporated. Season with salt to taste. Place all in a food processor or blender and puree until fine. Set aside or refrigerate until needed.

Other Items Needed:

2 or 3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
8 - 10 Romaine lettuce leaves
Cotija cheese, grated, for sprinkling
Sliced raw onion rings for garnish
Parsley, chopped, for garnish
8 to 10 corn tortillas, partially fried in oil of choice

ASSEMBLY: Follow the diagram above right. 

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, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.