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Enchiladas are simple. The key to great enchiladas is the quality and flavor of the red chili powder. Find a great one and keep it around.

Simply, enchiladas are corn tortillas (flour are an aberration) with a filling — usually cheese, then most commonly onion, a meat, and or a vegetable like squash. This is not a bean dish. It should not be smothered with green chili or tomato sauce. It is smothered and baked with a pure red chili sauce.

It is the dish to eat when in Northern New Mexico in towns like Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque. And one of the very best fillings you can get is Adobado, which like the enchilada is cooked in red chili.

The best red chili we’ve every bought was from the Shed in Santa Fe. It was expensive per pound, but we’ve never found its equal on any shelf. We buy it in powder because it last a long time, and we make enchiladas for lunch or dinner at least once a week, so we want it handy. You could soak dried red chili pods in water, after removing seeds and stems, and scrap the meat off the skin as you would do with a vanilla bean but that would add hours of work to this simple recipe. Instead make the sauce with a little sauteed onion, light flavored stock and your great dried variety, as mild as possible so you can taste more chili flavor with less heat. Too much heat prevents the taste coming across to your brain.

Enchiladas, N. New Mexico Style

1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp flour
2 tbs. red chili
1 cup stock or water
four corn tortillas
1 cup cheese, Monterrey Jack

Preheat oven to 350. Saute the 2 tbls onion in oil, stir in a little flour to make a lumpy roux, then add chili then stock. Whisk until smooth and simmer until it is the thickness of cream.

Place a little sauce on a plate that can take oven heat. Lay on the first tortilla and spin to distribute the sauce below it. Add a spoonful more of sauce. Lay on the cheese and other filling. We usually blanch the remainder of the onions in boiling water while the sauce is cooking for the filling. Zucchini is a nice addition, shredded meat or spinach. Other cheese can be used and may spark your imagination to find another filing that will make the perfect match.

Add a few more tbs. sauce. Lay the second tortilla on top and cover with sauce spreading it carefully to cover the top without a lot pooling up on the plate. If you have extra sauce, keep it warm and add on top before serving. Finish with a little cheese on top, and place the plates in the oven. Bake until the cheese is melted inside and out. Serve on a charge or separate plate because the baking plate will be very hot.

In New Mexico, a fried egg is often placed on top. Or the enchiladas are garnished with cilantro, fresh tomatoes, olives or other fresh thing.

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