6/16/09 | Homemade Enchilada Sauce
[ Currently Eating: Yummy Chips and Stuff ]
Hola. I’m JA, and yet the amount of Mexican food cooked in our household when I was a kid was pretty significant. I grew up on it. Granted, it was kinda “fake” Mexican food – the kind that the Better Homes and Gardens included in their cookbooks in the 1950s in order to show how ethnically diverse they were. But still, it was better than Taco Bell. Not that I didn’t eat at Taco Bell frequently too.
To this day, it’s kind of stuck with me. I would say Mexican food is my favorite cuisine. When people learn I don’t eat sushi, sashimi and wasabi, they usually say, what kind of freak Japanese person are you? Yes, I’d rather eat a plate of enchiladas than a plate of sashimi any day. Well, I do eat a lot of rice.
The story is that my step-grandfather, who was born here in the 20s in the OC, learned to really like Mexican food. And that was passed down to my mom, when she came over after the war. I guess I’m continuing the tradition. My dad and brother aren’t as huge fans of it.
The complaint I hear the most from Asian Americans about Mexican food is that they don’t like the cumin flavors. They say it smells like B.O. Yeah. And natto, fish sauce, stinky tofu and durian smell like farking flowers.
(By the way, a post about Natto is coming soon.)
We make quite a few enchiladas and enchilada-type casseroles at home nowadays. For some reason, I’ve never really thought about making my own enchilada sauce. I usually buy the cans, made by Ortega or La Palma or whatever’s on sale.
One thing I always noticed, when you get red sauce enchiladas at a halfway decent Mexican restaurant, the sauce seems a little different than what you get out of a can. I think it’s less tomato-ey and more brown in color. When I made my own, I discovered that sure enough, it’s more like what they have in restaurants.
Actually, the first time I made the sauce was when I was all set to roll up some enchiladas and I discovered we didn’t have any cans left. I was too lazy to drive to the store. I think some people may not like this type of enchilada sauce because it’s not what they’re used to. It has a slightly bitter note to it. I like it a lot better, however, and I think it comes in a little cheaper than buying cans.
Now, as I’ve said before, every time I try to do the old recipe under $3, I get 99 people writing in telling me that I haven’t calculated the price of a pinch of salt correctly. My response has always been that it’s not so much the exact price you should be concerned with. It’s the fact that you’re making this at home, instead of buying it in a can. Five cents misquoted here and there isn’t going to make a lot of difference.
The amount of mail I get about it is tiring, but I’ve decided to do the recipes again. And yes, there are a whole lot of blogs and content sites who’ve jumped on the cheap bandwagon and started doing “recipes under $X amount”. I’m proud to say I was doing it since the beginning, before it was cool. I may have not had the original idea, but this blog was one of the first to do it.
4 tbsp white flour — $0.05
1/4 cup cooking oil — $0.05
2 tbsp chile powder — $0.05
4 cloves garlic, smashed — $0.10
1 cup tomato sauce – $0.30
1 tsp salt — negligible
Cayenne pepper if desired
2 cups hot water
Get a pan. Get a wooden spoon. Well, you don’t need a wooden spoon, but I like it better. Also, it might work better if your pan is not a non-stick variety. But whatever.
Over low to med heat, brown the flour and chile powder. Make sure to stir it pretty frequently, scraping into the corners. I forget how long it takes, probably a few minutes. Just try not to burn it. If it starts to smoke, take it off heat.
Then add the oil and mix it into a paste. You could probably do the oil first and make a roux, but the recipe I took this from said flour first.
Slowly add the water and tomato sauce, stirring frequently until you get the right consistency. You can fix it by adding more liquid, so don’t add too much to start. Throw in the garlic cloves and salt to taste. Add cayenne pepper if you like it spicy. Simmer it on low until thickened slightly. It’ll probably be about 20-30 minutes. Off heat, remove garlic cloves and let it cool a bit. You’re ready to make enchiladas.
This recipe is an adaptation of one I found online somewhere. I can’t remember which one it is. It’s about good enough for a medium pan of enchiladas, depending on how wet you like your enchiladas. You can easily multiply the quantities in the recipe to get more sauce. You may want to mess around with the amount of garlic. Also, this is a “smooth” sauce – I’ve seen many others that include crushed tomatoes or sauteed onions for a chunkier one.
I dunno if toasting the flour is really necessary, but it did seem to take the uncooked flour taste away from the sauce. Just be sure you don’t burn the flour.
I omitted cumin in the recipe because I didn’t think it was necessary. You can throw some in, and for that matter, any other spices you want. The cayenne may not be necessary if you’re going to add heat to the enchilada in other ways. I increased the tomato sauce from 2/3 cup to a full cup – I think some people may like even more tomato taste in it. To get the right consistency you may need to add more or less water as well. This sauce will keep pretty well in the fridge for a week or so.
By the way, enchiladas are one of the messiest things I’ve ever cooked. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I always make a huge mess and use up a ton of dishes. I always feel like a four year old after making them. Wait, I always feel like a four year old anyway…
Ga Ga Goo Goo, Coo Coo Ca Choo.