Monday, November 23, 2015

Dad's World-Famous Enchiladas

Greetings from the JOIDES Resolution, sitting off the coast of... some random island in the Maldives.
I'm currently coming to the end of IODP Expedition 359 and one of the curators asked for favorite recipes for an IODP cookbook he's putting together.  I wrote this recipe out for him.

This is my World Famous Enchiladas recipe that I make once a week at home and everyone in the family inhales within 30 minutes.  Making these, and eating them with the family, is one of my favorite things, and among the things I'm looking forward to most when I get home -- that and Star Wars!

After I gave it to our curator, I thought it would be nice to post here for the rest of the world.  Bon appetit!  Ok, these are enchiladas so buen provecho!

Dad's World-Famous Enchiladas


21 corn tortillas
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can black beans
1 28 oz can green chile enchilada sauce
1 lb ground turkey (or ground beef, but we like turkey best -- and not the nasty stuff that comes in tube form)
About 2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 fresh lime
1-2 habanero pepper(s) (or more if you want 'em extra hot)
About 1/2 pablano pepper
1 bananna pepper
3-5 green onions
About 1/2 package fresh mushrooms
Some black pepper (freshly ground is best)
About 1 teaspoon salt
About 3 tbs olive oil (plus a little more to coat a baking pan)
About 1/2 package cotija (a.k.a. "queso fresco") cheese (buy the more expensive brand, because the cheap ones are wet and gooey)


Oven and stovetop
Cutting board and knife
Large frying pan and pancake-flipper (or turner, or spatula, or whatever you call it.  Metal ones are best for this.)
Three slotted spoons (one large, two smaller, if you've got them)
Three bowls (larger cereal bowl size)
One 13 x 9" cake pan
Aluminum foil
A plastic pancake-flipper for serving (so as not to tear the foil)


Oxo brand slap-chopper (available at Bed, Bath and Beyond, and your new best friend!)
Your favorite music playing (because the person making dinner gets to listen to whatever he/she wants!)
A large rum-and-coke to sip while you cook (or vodka-and-sprite, or tequila-and-... you get the idea)

This recipe requires about 30 minutes in the kitchen, followed by a 35 minute baking time.  It will make 20 enchiladas and should feed 4 - 6 people (depending on whether any of them are teenagers).


  1. Set the oven to 350 deg.
  2. Put your largest frying pan on the stove, add the olive oil.  Do not turn on the stove yet (or things will get unevenly cooked).
  3. Open the peppers up and remove the seeds, then wash the peppers off.
  4. Dice the peppers and mushrooms.  I use the slap chopper to make this easy.  You don't want them too fine so they turn to mush, but you don't want large chunks either.  As you chop them up, pile them into the frying pan.
    (If you use whole mushrooms, do not put a whole mushroom in a slap chopper as it will gum it up. Break them up by hand as you drop them in.)
  5. Trim off the onion roots and finely chop up the onions (you can try to chop the onions with the slap chopper, but I don't think it works as well).  Put them in the pan.
  6. Peel the lime and discard the peel.  Slice the lime up pretty finely with a knife (limes do not do well in a slap chopper).  Try not to waste any lime juice!  Remove the seeds as you do this.  Put the lime and all its precious juices in the pan with everything else.
  7. Open up the package of turkey or beef and have it ready to drop into the pan (so things won't burn in the frying pan while you get the meat ready).
  8. Turn the stove on to medium high and stir-fry everything, stirring constantly.  As you do this, add the salt and black pepper.  Do this for about 10-15 minutes.  Be careful not to let anything stay in one place for too long or it will burn.
  9. Add the ground turkey (or beef).
  10. Keep stirring and mix it all together.  Mix continuously as you cook, breaking up any chunks of meat that want to clump together.  Keep cooking until the meat is nicely done.  It should be crumbly and the whole thing should be fairly dry (if you used ground beef or inferior turkey-from-a-tube, there will be more liquid, which is not optimal, but ok since you have a slotted spoon).
  11. Open the can of beans and the can of tomatoes.  Pour the cans into separate bowls.  There's no need to drain the liquid off.
  12. Put the cheese in a third bowl. 
  13. Cover the inside of a large 13" x 9" baking pan with a single piece of aluminum foil (if there's a break the enchilada sauce will leak out while it cooks). 
  14. Cover the inner surface of the foil with olive oil (I like to use a spray can for this)
  15. Take a few paper towels and lightly wet them with tap water (use the sprayer).  Wrap your corn tortillas in the paper towels and microwave them for about two minutes.  This will make them easier to handle.  Be sure to do this immediately before assembling the enchiladas or of course they'll cool off and you'll have to do it again.
  16. Arrange everything neatly on your counter in this order:
    tortillas - meat mixture - beans - tomatoes - cheese - pan (set the can of enchilada sauce aside for now)
  17. Assemble the enchiladas as follows:
    • Take a tortilla
    • Spoon in a little meat mixture (about 1 rounded spoonful, depending on the size of your spoon)
    • Add a spoonful of beans
    • Add a spoonful of diced tomatoes
    • Sprinkle on some cheese
    • Roll it up
    • Place it in the pan, so that the edges of the tortilla are on bottom (i.e. open side down).  Press the enchiladas together  as you go.  The first one may be a little tricky, but after that they should hold together and not unroll.  (hint: I like to try to feed the end of one enchilada into the end of the one next to it across two rows.  That helps them hold together.)
  18. Repeat for 20 enchiladas -- two rows of 10.  Save the 21st tortilla. 
  19. Once you are done assembling the enchiladas, they should all be snugly pressed in together.  Some of the tortillas will have split open.  Take the last tortilla and tear it into strips, and cover the splits with a strip of tortilla.
  20. Sprinkle any leftover meat, beans, tomatoes and/or cheese evenly over the whole thing.  It's ok to add some extra shredded cheese now, if you want to splurge.
  21. Open the can of enchilada sauce and slowly pour it over the enchiladas, taking care not to let much of it spill over the edges of the foil (or pan).  Shake the pan a bit to make the sauce seep in.
  22. Take the 1/2 package of "queso fresco" cheese and crumble it by hand over the top.  It's ok to leave biggish chunks.
  23. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes.  The top edges of the tortillas should just barely be getting brown and a little crispy.
  24. Remove from the oven (carefully) and enjoy!!  (hint: use a plastic utensil to get the enchiladas out of the pan!! A metal one will tear the foil, and you'll get foil in your food.  Also, if you have a really wide spatula, you should be able to get them out of the pan intact, otherwise it will be trickier.  But if they break, they still taste great!)


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