Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cheese enchiladas: the essence of Tex-Mex

Tex-Mex is not Mexican food. That's right, even though most of the restaurants you see all over Texas say that they're Mexican, they're not. But that's OK. When Diana Kennedy bellyached that the food Texans were cooking was an abomination of her beloved la cocina Mexicana, Texans replied, "You're right. Tex-Mex is a cuisine of its own!"

As much respect I have for Kennedy's work, she was rather draconian in her assessment on what was happening north of the border. I won't begin to outline the differences between Tex-Mex and Mexican food because quite frankly, there are more similarities than differences. And as Tex-Mex is practically a youngster in the grand scheme of world cuisines (it’s only been around for about 150 years), it's still evolving.

Many traditional Mexican ingredients, such as epazote, huitlacoche, prickly pear, jicama and yes, even cilantro were absent on your classic Tex-Mex menu—which was a brown feast of tamales, tacos, enchiladas and queso, sandwiched between mountains of rice and beans. But today, many restaurants are going beyond the basics and including more of these authentic Mexican flavors. Squash blossom quesadillas? Of course! Chicken in mole verde de pepita? Why not?

Yet despite the growing sophistication of the cuisine, there will always be room in my heart for that Tex-Mex classic: cheese enchiladas. And no, I'm not talking about black bean and goat cheese enchiladas. And no, I'm not talking about radish, rajas and queso anejo enchiladas. I'm talking about a plate of rolled corn tortillas stuffed with orange, oozing cheese, floating in puddles of brown-chili gravy. Yes, that kind of cheese enchilada. The Tex-Mex kind.

What makes these enchiladas so special? It's the chili gravy, a Tex-Mex classic and said by Robb Walsh, the expert on all things Tex-Mex, to be the essence of the cuisine itself. (And if you don't have Walsh's definitive tome on the subject, The Tex Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos, buy it now—it's a must-have for all homesick Texans or fans of Texan cooking.)

Chili gravy is a mash-up between flour-based gravy and Mexican chile sauce. It’s a smooth and silky substance, redolent with earthy cumin, smoky chiles and pungent garlic. It's not fiery, as it was originally created by Anglos, but it does have flavor. And there's no meat in chili gravy—it's just fat, flour, chicken broth and spices.

If you eat Tex-Mex outside of the state, the lack of this chili gravy is what makes the food taste wrong. It took me a long time to crack the Tex-Mex code, but when I found this recipe and made it for the first time, it was an epiphany: this was the flavor I’d been searching for.

On these cold, bitter days, sometimes you just want to eat comfortable food, something to make you feel warm and cozy. And if macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches are you usual comforts of choice, why not give these a try? They're cheesy, not too spicy and taste of Texas. Sure, you may have had cheese enchiladas, but unless you had them in Texas, they probably didn’t taste like these.

Chili Gravy (from Robb Walsh)
Ingredients:
1/4 cup lard or vegetable oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chili power
2 cups beef broth, chicken broth or water

Method:
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and continue stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it makes a light brown roux.

Add the black pepper, salt, powdered garlic, ground cumin, dried oregano and chili powder and continue to cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring and blending ingredients. Add broth or water, mixing and stirring until the sauce thickens. Turn heat to low and let sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add water to adjust the thickness.

Yield: 2 cups

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cheese Enchiladas
Ingredients:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
8 corn tortillas
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese (can make it with Velveeta for extra melting oomph and good ol' Tex-Mex authenticity)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups chili gravy

Method:
Preheat the oven to 450 and grease a large baking dish.

Pour the oil in a small skillet, and heat the tortillas one at a time. Keep them wrapped in a cloth until all 8 are heated.

Pour the oil in a small skillet, and heat the tortillas one at a time. Keep them wrapped in a cloth until all 8 are heated. Pour 1/2 cup of chili gravy in a baking pan.

Take a tortilla, put 1/4 cup of cheese and 1 tablespoon of onion in the center and roll it. Place rolled tortilla in baking dish, seam side down.
Continue with remaining tortillas.


Take remaining chili gravy, and pour it over the rolled tortillas. Sprinkle remaining cheese and onions on top. Bake for 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.

Yield: 4 servings

Preparation time: 20 minutes

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108 comments:

melissa mcgee said...

this brings to mind many delightful enchilada dinners consumed at ninfas, el fenix, el chico, and any hole in the wall mom & pop taqueria, anywhere in texas (by far my favorite place to eat tex-mex food).

i can't imagine being served a platter of cheese enchiladas without the chili sauce - that, to me, sounds as if it would be the abomination!

thank you for the recipes! they're getting printed and stuck in my recipe files for next time. and i'll definitely be going with lard vs. oil for the gravy - it ain't great for you, but as far as the flavor goes, there's no beating it!

Eric said...

My wife, being from Texas, has always made great enchiladas. I have also had some fantastic variations while visiting Texas. This recipe is something I will have to give a try. Thanks!

Shawnda said...

You are so right - chili gravy is the make or break ingredient!

matt said...

I love Robb Walsh, have given that book as gifts, and cooked from it many a times when I was missing home.

Your images have really made me sad (for home) and happy (I know what I'm making tonight!)

Julie said...

I was just pondering what to have for dinner tonight and you may have provided the answer. I can tell you my husband would be THRILLED if I made this. No, he's not from Texas, but he loves this sort of thing.

Homesick Texan said...

Melissa--You're very welcome! It's funny, I never made these back in Texas because they were readily available, but I'm glad I have the recipe now.

Eric--Hope you like it!

Shawnda--Yeah, I'm glad I finally figured it out!

Matt--Isn't he great? I've been reading him for years online, but never bought this book until last week. I read it in one sitting! (And had a very hard time curbing my desire to hop on a plane to San Antonio immediately!)

Julie--Oh good! I hope they make him happy!

meeegan said...

Thank you for the recipe! This former Austinite misses her Tex-Mex.

Since I'm a vegetarian, I'm going to try veg. stock to make the chili gravy -- more flavor than water.

Yvo said...

so much the yum! >.<*

Susan said...

Thanks--after reading your delicious description, I'll be checking out the Walsh cookbook.
You mentioned squash blossom quesadillas in your entry; I adore squash blossoms! Have you ever had one or made one?

Chicken Fried Gourmet said...

Lisa, you should check out Grady Spears first cookbook " A cowboy in the kitchen" Robb Walsh is a contributor and pretty much every recipe is great.

Homesick Texan said...

Meeegan--Good idea! Veggie stock has way more flavor than water.

Yvo--It is indeed!

Susan--Yes, I have made squash blossom quesadillas. At the Union Square Greenmarket in the summer you can buy them and they are divine!

Chicken Fried Gourmet--That sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the tip! I've seen some of Grady's recipes online, and was thinking about doing his Dr. Pepper-marinated flank steak this weekend.

Sue(coffeepot) said...

Thank you. I love that Texas "gravy".

Zora said...

Just followed your link over here and, hey, found this post, which answers a nagging question.

I was reading reviews of some New Mexico restaurants on Chowhound dismissed something as being "not Mexican at all, just drowned in chili tomato gravy," or something like that.

Now, I'm from New Mexico, and I know New Mexican food is not like Mexican food. Nor is it exactly like Tex-Mex. And this guy didn't seem to know the first thing about that, because he was using this weird word, GRAVY, to describe the sauce.

So...ah-ha. I had no idea Texans called their chile sauce (as we spell it) "gravy." At least I know where this guy is coming from now.

For the record, for all those people who are horrified when NM and Tex-Mex cuisine are not properly distinguished, NM chile sauce is pretty much the same thing. Only we don't use "chili powder," we use straight-up dried Hatch chiles, so it can get pretty hot.

Anonymous said...

You're right, Tex Mex is in a category all it's own! I love how you captured all the cheesy goodness in your photos, yummy.


Ari (Baking and Books)

Cigarlady said...

I make a similar sauce except I saute onion and garlic and use whole chiles that I toast and rehydrate in the chicken broth and then puree. I make a big lot and then put it in 2-3 cup containers and stash it in the freezer, it defrosts beautifully, just heat it up and stir. I make cheese enchiladas as a side dish to grilled/seared steak, but my husband's favorite dish is enchurritos. Spicy ground beef burritos with cheese and sour cream that I place in a baking pan and top with the chile sauce and cheese and bake in the oven til heated through and the cheese melts. He prefers this to a lot of my Diana Kennedy recipes. We're not Texans, though I love Texas and its food, we're from Chula Vista, thats 15 miles north of Tijuana. I started making Mexican or Border food when we moved to Ohio because we missed all the mom and pop taco shops that we went to while we were dating. I love your site and will keep checking in.

verily said...

I was staying in a youth hostel in London a few months ago, and for some reason, the topic of local foods came up. One of the girls, a backpacker from Manchester, asked what Tex-Mex was and the only good, simple answer I could up with was that it was Mexican food but with lots more cheese in it.

You hit the nail on the head about what Tex-Mex is in one dish. Cheese enchiladas in chili gravy is the yardstick by which I measure all Tex-Mex restaurants. If a Tex-Mex joint can't manage a decent plate with gooey orange cheese and spicy chili gravy, then I won't come back. I've had travesties that included sharp cheddar, velveeta *shudder*, and/or flour tortillas.

Linda said...

I'm lovin' your photos!

Ivonne said...

How I adore your posts and photos! I will admit, Tex Mex has always represented a very mysterious cuisine for me here in Canada. I'm sure we have the usual sorts of chain restaurants that serve awful version of what Tex Mex really is, but you've given me a glimpse at the real deal.

Funnily enough, even though Canada has no football team, we always watch the Superbowl. I think it's because it gives us the chance to cook lots of food. These cheese enchiladas will be making an appearance!

Homesick Texan said...

Sue--You're welcome!

Zora--It's funny, I've never found Hatch chiles all the fiery, but maybe the ones they send here (you can get them at Kitchen Market during the season) are milder varieties. But yes, I have friends here also from New Mexico and we're always arguing about the "right" way to make enchiladas and what to call the sauce. Funny how a border makes such a difference in the cuisine!

Ari--Thanks! I love that cheese!

Cigarlady--Using chiles instead of chile powder is a more authentic way of doing it, but for some reason Texans use the powder. It's easier, I reckon.

Verily--I agree, I judge all Tex-Mex joints on their salsa, refried beans and cheese enchiladas.

Linda--Why thank you!

Ivonne--Thank you! The Tex-Mex I had in Canada wasn't great, not very flavorful and way too many potatoes in everything. If you make the cheese enchiladas, let me know how they turn out!

Jerry said...

I've become very fond of the Tex-Mex variety of chili gravy since moving to Texas.

We had something similar in California when I was growing up, but the taste is different. It probably has something to do with geography and the fact that most Mexican influences in California come up out of Baja and Tijuana, then percolate through a slight "gringo-ing" process by the time they make the area I grew up in.

christine (myplateoryours) said...

I'm trying to kick the comfort food habit before I bust out of every piece of clothing I own, but you are making it tough, lady.

Zora said...

The Hatch green chiles depend a lot on the season. I remember one year they were so hot that my mom's lips cracked...but we still kept eating them. My mom looked like some plague victim, but it was worth it.

The red chile--either Hatch or Chimayo--is a little more consistent because it's dry and they can mix and match, I guess. I don't think the stuff I use is terribly hot, but none of my friends can take it. Poor souls.

Renz said...

Not that it's possible to get a low-fat enchilada, but you can cut down considerably by microwavin the tortillas to soften them: just wrap well in paper towel and plastic and nuke until soft. Work quickly, so they don't dry out (you can go in batches).

Homesick Texan said...

Jerry--It's fine stuff, indeed!

Christine--I promise to post something about vegetables soon. That said, there will probably be bacon grease involved. But that's OK, right? Didn't Pollan via Jefferson say meat should be a seasoning? (I'll try to get grass-fed bacon!)

Zora--My first job here, my coworkers welcomed me by having a Tex-Mex party where they served mild Pace Picante Sauce and chips. They were all making faces and groaning because the salsa was so fiery to their timid palates. It was hilarious (and yet very sweet of them, nonetheless).

Renz--Great tip for those watching the fat!

Cilantro said...

Just found your blog--I live in Texas, born and raised in San Antonio and still here (after several sojourns elsewhere)--so I can go out to the nearest Tex-Mex joint pretty much anytime I want to. But I found Walsh's book last year and I've come to the conclusion that I like my own cheese enchiladas, made from his book, as well or better than those I buy out somewhere. I use his recipe for homemade chili paste (I think that's what it's called--don't have the book in front of me) and they are the best. My son travels all over the country, living in a place for a couple of months at a time, and I've taught him to make these enchiladas so he's never without a taste of home.

I'm loving your blog already!

Addlepated said...

I made this recipe tonight, with some modifications:

I doubled everything in the gravy recipe but the lard. I ended up using boxed chicken broth, but didn't realize until too late that it was not low sodium, so the gravy was really, really salty! I added water and a cornstarch slurry to thin it out/thicken it up.

For the enchiladas, I used a combination of sharp cheddar, velveeta, and shredded-in-the-bag store brand cheddar. It came out perfectly.

For 16 enchiladas, I used maybe 1-1.5 cups of sauce, so I've got tons left over. I'll see how it freezes.

I served it with homemade pinto beans and Spanish rice. Hubby and kids all said it was excellent! I've often bemoaned the state of Tex-Mex here in Austin as compared to that in San Antonio, where I grew up. These enchiladas are just perfect for scratching that itch. Thanks so much for the recipe.

Anonymous said...

There's still a Ninfa's in Baton Rouge, believe it or not. They make the green sauce. Truly, it's the best stuff in the world. I've been in love with it for years and years. My husband calls it "love sauce".

Jessica said...

Okay, so you write about cheese enchiladas and i'm all "oh my god we have to get on a plane and go straight back to America," to my boyfriend. Then I'm daydreaming about my Friday nights as a child - tex mex restaurant, cheese enchiladas and sopapillas for dessert. And then, sweet baby J, you post about sopas. Argh. You have to stop before I do buy another flight!

Malady said...

Hello friend. I'm new to your blog and I love it. I'm a native Texas who grew up in Dallas, lived in San Antonio for four years and now lives in California where I can't find any decent TexMex food. I would give anything to figure out how to make El Fenix's cheese enchilada dinner at home.

siraniko said...

I love chili but I didn't know there was such a thing such as chili gravy! I'm going to try this.

Tace said...

Thannnnnnnk-you, I didn't even know chili gravy was missing from my life. Fantastic recipe.

Christine Adkins said...

I googled red chili gravy...and stumbled upon this site! I am a Texan displaced in Nevada. I MISS THE TEX MEX SOOOOOO BAD!!! So I was going to give it a try at home! Cheese enchiladas with chili gravy extra onions is the only way to go! Oh top it of with a frozen margi swirled with sangria! These Nevadans don't know what they are missing. I have tried every place in town to no avail no Tex Mex or margis with sangria...Makes me homesick

Elise said...

How is it possible that at 6:11 AM, my tummy is growling for cheese enchiladas? :)

I came over from "What Was That", and these look divine! On the menu for next week - thank you!

Another Homesick Texan said...

Its true, the missing flavor is the enchilada gravy. Even some tex mex restaurants leave it out, I guess its becoming old fashioned. There are many shades to this enchilada Gravy. My favorite childhood restaurant in Jacinto City always had a gravy that was lighter and less peppery (but better suited for cheddar) than Ninfa's and you couldn't find anything resembling Ninfa's at Merida's (now that's a place I miss!)and still different at Spanish Flowers. (a tour of houston, eh?) Yet all true enchilada gravy. I've read many recipes for this and someone will always mix cream of something soup wth brown gravy and add cumin and someone else will always say "I guarantee real resturants don't use cream of mushroom soup." I beg to differ. I've been in the foodservice industry for eight years and I can bet that if that restaurant serves a cream soup or a cream sauce and a brown soup or brown sauce they DO use the leftovers accordingly and it will taste just as great as a flour and stock rendition. We served our cafeteria in culinary school enchiladas made from leftover bechamel and veloute with cumin and chili powder added and it was amazing. Sometimes it'd be cream of chicken soup and veloute or cream gravy and beef au jus, but it was always a good enchilada gravy.

My kitchen manager at whole foods made great cheese enchiladas using a recipe similar to this one. My advice, play with the recipe until its the flavor of your favorite enchilada joint (or better). It won't be wrong until you add tomato sauce.

Thanks for posting this recipe. I love your blog!

oh and a mushroom or chili pepper stock would make an amazing vegetarian version. (just get dried mushrooms or dried peppers and hydrate them, use the leftover water as your stock and save the mushrooms or chilies for another recipe)

Jo Beth said...

Velveeta in cheese enchiladas? Um, no. Longhorn cheddar cheese is the ONLY authentic cheese that goes into Tex-Mex cheese enchiladas. Tex-Mex, not Mexican, not Cali-influenced. But Velveeta? What is that - Trailer Texan Tex-Mex? Gross. And your chili gravy is just wrong....seriously, chicken broth in the chili gravy? Rachael Ray, is that you?

Have you ever seen the movie Angie, where this WASP step-mom marries into an Italian-American family and cooks "Italian" food such as bolognese sauce with plenty 'o ketchup and pizza out of english muffins, jarred Ragu, and squeeze cheese? That's who you remind me of.

Homesick Texan said...

Jo Beth--I'm sorry you don't like the recipe. I researched a lot of old Tex-Mex restaurants' chili gravy recipes and a large majority of them used chicken broth. Likewise, in the mid-part of the last century, Velveeta was also quite prominent in Tex-Mex restaurants, and some places, such as Larry's in Richmond, still use Velveeta in their cheese enchiladas today. Like you, however, I prefer cheddar. How do you make your chili gravy?

EVille said...

I am in heaven now finishing my plate of cheese enchiladas and refried beans. Thanks for the recipe! I knew you were onto something when I ate the whole first batch of chili gravy with just tortilla chips, butter and salsa. Yummmmy!

My friend, who is from Mexico and came here to NYC with me from Dallas, just confirmed the accuracy of the recipe by saying, after devouring his plate, that they were a little too much like Ojedas. That means that they were perfect! Thanks again.

EVille said...

And to the previous post, Jo Beth, your comments are a little uncalled for. I don't necessarily like Velveeta and choose to use Longhorn (despite the fact that I graduated from SMU, get it??) but I eaten it plenty of times at most Tex-Mex restaurants growing up in the DFW area.

And I just made the chili gravy and it was amazing. Not sure where you have been eating Tex-Mex but this is as good as I've ever had in Texas and the only real Tex-Mex I've had since moving to Manhattan. I love this blog!

Jo Beth said...

You seriously think I'll divulge my secret family recipe for chili gravy? Ha! It's simple and it's authentic and it's not up for grabs.

Perhaps you might want to do some further research about cheese enchiladas with chili gravy, this time using majority sources other than chain restauranteurs and/or cookbooks written by Texas "foreigners".

And eville, my comments were and are COMPLETELY called for. You see, when you choose to publish your thoughts, ideas, recipes, or what have you, then you open yourself up to praise as well as criticism. Welcome to the world wide web.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, Jo Beth honey, but I don't think you're a Texan at all. We don't treat people that way. I think you are probably some adolescent troll. If you aren't, then you, real bad, need to get over yourself.

Make food the way it tastes good to you, and don't make snotty comments about others preferences.

Thanks, Homesick Texan. Your recipe sounds good to me and I'm saving it.

richard said...

IT always makes me giggle a bit when NMers talk about the heat associated with hatch chiles. The last time I was in Santa Fe, we ate in this little joint with a cool atmosphere and a sign outside that proclaimed: "If you order your burrito with the red sauce and it's too hot, you will not get your money back." Being a texan, I took this as something along the lines of a challenge. Now, while I do love the flavor that a couple of fresh hatch chiles give to a nice 7 pepper salsa, I have never found them to be particularly fiery, and the sauce on that burrito did nothing to change my mind. I have had hotter things come out of a packet from taco bell. Other than that, it was still a tasty burrito. I just had to giggle a bit. Thanks for humoring me.

richard said...

PS
No real offense was intended by that last post...just a playful jab at our cousins to the west!
No hard feelings!

Jo Beth said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tace said...

Hi ya, I just had to say thannnnnnnnk-you again for providing this recipe. I have used it so many times now. I ordered the cook book it came from and hope to have it soon because if this recipe is any indication of how good the rest are then whoooo boy! Love your blog!

rhhodapp said...

I can't even BEGIN TO THANK YOU for this recipe -
I've grown up in Texas... 30 years and have now moved to Ohio... I ate tex-mex like it was going out of style before we left b/c I KNEW I wouldn't be able to find it here. Our weekend adventures include wandering in search of decent tex-mex. I found a recipe for Pappasitos fajitas which are my husbands favorite on copycat.com and you have brought tears to my eyes with this recipe. I'll definitly purchase this book tonight! GOD BLESS YOU!!!! and TEXAS!!!
*** Also a homesick Texan!!

Julie said...

Jo Beth, why so bitter? You come here obviously to pick up ideas from our host and then proceed to act all snotty? Well, I plan to try the posted recipe this Tuesday and cannot wait to get a taste of Chili gravy on my cheese enchildadas.

And get ready to feel real sorry for me folks, we have no cheddar, longhorn or Monterey Jack cheese here in Sweden.. not even Velveeta :) which I do love. Away from San Antonio for 15 yrs, where I lived for 14 yrs, I think it is time for a visit back home.

Lee said...

Wow, what a bitch! I think any future self righteous posts by Jo Beth should be banned...also any post in which she calls someone "honey" or brags about being an eighth generation Texan. Here's a charm school tip for you Jo Beth - you can disagree with someone and do it in a nice and respectful way.

I can't wait to try this recipe. I moved to Germany from Dallas this year and I'm having Tex-Mex withdrawl. (I never learned to cook Tex-Mex until recently because there were so many wonderful restaurants to choose from in Dallas.) Thanks for all the recipes, I really enjoy your site!

Kim Brown said...

I came across your blog recently...I'm a native too and have the great fortune of being back in Texas for some time after living out west. I was just about to suggest Mr. Walsh's wonderful book to you when I found this post!!!

I too grew up with huge family Saturday nights at the local Tex-Mex places both in Abilene and all over the DFW area (Friday nights are for HS football-lest we forget-LOL). As far as I can remember back, baskets of warm toasted chips with little pats of REAL butter to put on the chips before you were brave enough to dip it into the hot sauce on the table!!!

The book was such a homecoming to me, it brought back such great memories of food and family...Tex-Mex is what we learned to cook first. And yes, even rotel & velveeta for many a meal in HS & college.

Your site is fantastic and yummy and I'm blessed to be able walk in my pantry and grab a can of Rotel anytime I want!!!

I spent my 30th b-day (years ago) in Port Townsend, Washington-where we had just moved to from Texas. I felt so lonely and it was rainy, so I took my pity party down to Aldrich's grocery store and found they had Chili-Cheese Fritos AND Dr. Pepper (my great-grandmother called them Fruitos, "Honey go hand me the Frui-tos please"). I walked back home in the drizzle and enjoyed the BEST back of "Frui-tos" in my life...

Speaking of anyone ever put Tom's peanuts in a bottle of DP?? And at the laundry mat with your Memaw?

I love Texas! -Kim

Lisa said...

Alright, you went and did it now. I *had* to make enchiladas last night. I was planning on tacos, so I already had my favorite corn tortillas on hand. Everything else was pretty much staples (along with an overabundance of cheese due to a grocery purchasing error earlier this week).

I found the chili gravy to be more chili powder-y than the ones that I remember eating. But that's easily adjusted. Soooo good to get that flavor again. Yum!!!!

I'm coming back to Texas for a visit of Christmas. Can. Not. Wait. :)

Anonymous said...

Another Expat Texan suffering on Wednesday nights. Moved to the foothills of the Ctskill mountains 10 years ago. now I have to wait until I GO HOME each year to bust my stomach on El Fenix enchiladas and gravey.

I have perfected the enchiladas using longhorn cheese and cooking them at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour in a steamtray. I use a shallow lazagna pan inside a deeper tray creating a water bath I cover both pans with "Release" non stick foil so it comes off clean.

However the gravy is still eluding me even though Rob Walsh's comes real close. I hope one day to catch a cook from the kitchen at one of the resturants and get the real receipe. The meat that is used with it is very slow cooked beef. I think the meat is the real key to the final gravy. It is a fatty cut that must be slow cooked because it melts in your mouth with the gravy.

I can't wait to review the rest of your site.

Homesick Jim "Misplaced Texan

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled upon this blog and had to add my 2 cents. I too use a recipe from Robb Walsh's book from my personal favorite restaurant, Molina's in Houston. However, I've found the best Tex-Mex cheese to use is American. I go to the deli counter at my neighborhood NYC Food Emporium and get a big block of Boar's Head yellow American cheese. It melts perfectly (as well as Velveeta, but not as salty tasting). Sometimes I use a little Longhorn or cheddar mixed in, sometimes not. Now if I could just find out how to make Molina's salsa!

Pat said...

For those interested in New Mexico red chile, which is a lot earthier and hotter than the Texas equivalent, here's a link to a cookbook website from New Mexico's largest power company, with decent home style recipes.

http://www.vivanewmexico.com/food.recipes.cocinas.html

NM red chile isn't made with chili powder. Instead dried red chiles have their stems and seeds removed, and the pods are whirled in a blender with seasonings, and stock or just water (stock is better). There's also green chile, but the green chiles are harder to come by outside of New Mexico than the red pods.

MrsCLeeC said...

Chili Gravy!! In Oklahoma there is no such thing and I have missed it on my tamales!. I'm from the NW side of Houston, and even just on the north side of the Red River, the Tex-Mex is different (and still called Tex Mex!). Althougth I have discovered chicken tamales with sour cream sauce . .yummy yummy!

*Chrisie* said...

Oh GOD BLESS YOU!! I am DYIN for some Tex-Mex! I was raised in San Antonio and now live in Chicago. The "Mexican" food here is HORRIBLE! It is sweet and sugary and they use swiss and mozzarella cheese....I bet my my ancestors are rolling over in there graves at the thought! I am making this dish tonight and when I gain 15lbs, I promise not to blame you! Thanks again!

Annette said...

Help! I'm a 6 generation TEXAN living in Florida without my chili con queso! I can't find a recipe anywhere that taste like Lupe's Mexican restaurants (East Texas) or Pulido's. I grew up with beef chili on my enchiladas.(*sigh*)

vinylhabit@tx.rr.com said...

Hey Robb, I think you are on the right track. I have experimented around and found that if you reconstitute a package of dried Ancho peppers with a can of Campbells beef broth and then blend them up with 3 teaspoons of garlic juice and 2 teaspoons of cumin, you will have a wonderful chili toppin for cheese and beef enchiladas. Be sure to remove the white seeds before you reconstitute the peppers. You can always add some hamburger meat for some great chili con carne topping. Add some onions that have been glazed in butter if you can stand some more flavor and calories. Try it and let us all know what you think!

Anonymous said...

Im an Austinite about to move away. I have fallen in love with a certain cheese enchilada and gravy recipe at a recipe called La Posada in north austin. The enchiladas you order are baked in their own little dish, so all the gooey goodness stays with your enchiladas...and they drench it in gravy and top it with cheese. So, I was looking for a recipe that I could take and prepare away from this beloved little joint, I think I found it! thanks!

Mary and Bill said...

Thanks for the recipe, I can't wait to try it. I am a South Dakotan living in NM now but looking at moving to Texas shortly, wife is a traveling RN. I have been trying to find a good recipe and my first attempt although spicy hot had little to no flavor.

I think adding the stock will be a great improvement. Thank God I like to cook. Short of going to my favorite place to eat here in Taos and beg for lessons it looks like this is a trial and error process.

Mindy said...

This is a wonderful recipe! You're right--the secret IS the chili gravy (which must be why my previous attempts at Tex-Mex enchiladas have not worked out). I ended up used half velveeta and half shredded Mexican blend cheese and it worked out nearly perfectly.

Thanks for making a homesick Texan stranded in South Carolina happy.

Anonymous said...

Ohh, that looks sooo good!

Judy said...

God bless ya for this recipe! I am a fellow hst currently in PA and was wandering about the internet looking for a recipe to Molina's pecan pralines. Your site popped up and I am glad it did. Now to root through your Tex Mex files...Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I stumbled accross this blog over 6 months ago. In hopes of finding a recipe like that of the El Fenix enchiladas. To my surprise I found your recipe. I live in Colorado Springs, CO and grew up in Rockwall, TX. Every Wednesday my family and I went to El Fenix. I dislike Colorado Green Chile. Nothing tops Tex Mex.
Also, I add cilantro, bay leaf and at times ground beef to the sauce and seems to work well. Thanks for the recipe.

Anonymous said...

What a great site! I live in San Antonio, so I can't say I miss TEX-MEX. However I have always wondered how to make the recipes myself (growing up in Louisiana we did not have this type of cuisine). I made your King ranch chicken casserole the other weekend, and the native SAn antonian's in my house LOVED it! I'm trying your cheese enchilada's this weekend...I'm sure they won't disappoint!

Thanks and keep 'em coming!

fishandchipsandsalsa said...

I just made these last night. I would have commented then, but I was in a cheese induced coma of pure tex mex bliss. These were wonderful! I had tried to do enchiladas before but they just weren't right, but these hit the spot. If we weren't already married, these enchiladas would have sealed the deal. Thanks for making this expat Texan feel at home!

sixfeet said...

i'm making this tonight (maybe adding chicken -- not sure yet. leaning towards just cheese ... yah, just cheese)! thanks so much for this recipe. i spent a lot of time with relatives in san antonio when i was growing up and my aunt teresa made the BEST cheese enchiladas. sadly, i never got the recipe. i'm sure that this will be as close as i can get.

to kim brown ... peanuts in the coke bottle. SO good. i haven't thought of that in years. now, where can i find a coke -- in a bottle? i dunno, but i WILL.

bsmanning said...

It is really amazing how many don't realize that Tex-Mex cooking uses Velveeta! My friends look away in disbelief and snarl their noses! LOL. When they taste the enchiladas I make, they don't complain!

I'm convinced you can't find good Tex-Mex cheese enchiladas out here in the OC (California), except possibly at On The Border.

Anonymous said...

Thank GOD I found your blogspot. I think maybe we were seperated at birth. I also found the Blue Goose Cantina recipe for Sour cream chicken enchiladas if you're interested! It's authentic!

Cristine Billings said...

Awesome! I thought I was going crazy when I couldnt find "real" cheese enchiladas. Im from Dallas and thought this was the only way they came!!

Lisa said...

CHILI GRAVY RULES! I hate it when I'm looking forward to ooey gooey cheese enchiladas and they come out with a tomato-y sause. It's just not the same. I'll be tryin this recipe out soon!

About the Chili con Queso like they serve in TexMex restaurants, I managed a reasonable copy by chopping some onions and jalapenos, and saute' in some milk, maybe 1/2 a cup to start, add more as it evaporates. Then add to cheese mixture. Base of velveeta, maybe some monterey jack and longhorn grated in there. Plain velveeta works for this one. A little more milk if it's too thick. Sincerely open to tweaking. I feel that the simmering in milk evens out some of the stronger flavors in the onions/peppers, but keeping the simmered milk in the mix you don't lose that flavor. Give it a try. I like leaving the jalapeno and onions large enough so you have something to scoop out with your chips.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog yesterday... love it! I'm a displaced Texan, living in Las Vegas NV and I miss Tex-Mex more than my Pennsylvania-raised husband can understand. So when I saw the picture of your enchiladas, they looked like the real thing and after reading your write-up, I knew I had to try them. I made them for dinner last night and served them up with a big pitcher of margaritas. Hubby couldn't believe how good they were and I had tears in my eyes when I put the first bite in my mouth--It was like being back home in Texas! THANK YOU!!

elyse said...

Just had to post and say that these are DIVINE. I'm not really a Texan - born there, but raised in Alabama, now in NY - but I have a soft spot for Mex/TexMex and these are the perfect, perfect enchiladas. I added ground beef (yay protein) and just.. wow. They are 500% better than the sum of their parts and I'm in heaven. Thank you! :)

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU! I made this recipe and when I served it to my husband, he said, "El Fenix!" I have tried other recipes that were not quite right, but you have the perfect recipe for those who know what they are looking for in a decent cheese enchilada. Thanks for sharing the secrets with us!

Susie said...

I can't wait to try this recipe! I've been searching for so long!! I am a native Texan, still here, and grew up going to El Fenix every Saturday night. It is still my favorite! I judge Tex-Mex restaurants by their cheese enchiladas & chili gravy (we always called it chili sauce), and their guacamole!

Thanks for this recipe! I will get the book!

Anonymous said...

The lady who ran our favorite mexican restaurant just past away and too her recipe with her. Her family closed the restaurant, and needless to say there are many in my family that are mourning her loss as well as the loss of her secret recipe. If this works there will be many happy people in my family. I live on an Indian Reservation in Idaho. Have you ever had an Indian Taco?

Anonymous said...

I am also a homesick Texan in NY and am very grateful for all of these wonderful recipes. I cannot wait to try some of them out... tomorrow! I also appreciate the suggestions on where to get a good chicken fried steak... If I see one more piece of meat with brown gravy all over it I will scream! ;-)

Andy said...

these were awesome. thanks. i was a little confused about the heating up the tortillas part but it didn't make any difference in the end result. what was i supposed to do?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Hi Andy, corn tortillas aren't very pliable unless they're heated.

Memória said...

Oh, boy! These enchiladas were so goooooood! I used leftover Velveeta and some medium cheddar cheese. Everything was perfect! No. Beyond perfect. I also added ground beef and placed the enchiladas on top of some yummy, homemade Mexican rice.

I plan to blog about it in a few days, if any good pictures come out :). Thanks!!

existential_crisis said...

I just made these tonight for supper, and OMG! Where have they been all my life? Something so simple, yet so perfect... especially the little onion chunks! And chili gravy is such a novel idea to me. I will definitely make it again! Thanks!

Shelley Gerik said...

Yum! Finally, I've found the perfect enchilada recipe. Indeed, this reminds me of Texas. For the first time ever, my Texan boyfriend raved about my enchiladas. The way to someones heart truly is through their stomach.

stellatexrecipes said...

Robb Walsh's brown Chili Gravy changed my life. Just as you say. After I made it, everything just made sense.

Charlene said...

Just made this for dinner, and am so happy and also a little horrified. Happy because these were maybe the most delicious enchiladas I've ever eaten. Horrified because I'm an itty-bitty lady, and I wolfed down, like, five. Must try more of the recipes on this site!

Yet Another Displaced Texan said...

Thank you! I grew up in Houston, and I still have fond memories of the cheese enchiladas w/chili gravy from Los Tios. I'm living in NYC now for residency and for the life of me, I can't find a decent Mexican (uh, Tex-Mex) restaurant. I plan on trying this recipe soon :)

physicschick said...

OMG! I made beef enchiladas tonight with this chili gravy, and I'm in heaven! The only problem is... with enchiladas this good at home, my husband's never going to take me out for tex-mex again! LOL Thanks from Houston!

http://www.ifyouloveitfeedit.com

Anonymous said...

This is going to be a labor of love! Not only is it nearly impossible to find a decent chili powder here in Canada, there are no corn tortillas to be found! Mexican oregano? Nope. I did manage to find a block of velveeta on a local store shelf today. It expired last year and they still wanted over $8 for a pound! Seriously thinking I'm going to have to take a drive to the border and find some ingredients in NY! I so miss Tex-mex!

Lis said...

Just realized you can order almost all of the (hard to find) ingredients from Amazon! Woo! The first time I made this chili gravy I actually cried because I finally had found one that tasted like home. Sigh. At least I'll be going back in May! El Chico here I come!!! No onions please!

deena said...

I made this last night to top some impromptu clean-out-the-freezer enchiladas (filled with corn, chili and nopales). It came together in the time it took me to find and thaw the filling elements. I simmered it a bit longer than called for, and also threw in a spoonful of tomato paste and a wee bit of brown sugar and cider vinegar (hopefully I didn't violate its authenticity). So rich and delicious! And so easy to make with pantry ingredients! I had to stop myself from sticking my finger in the tray to grab more...

hannah said...

Being from Ohio, I've spent most of my life eating crappy "Mexican" food from chain restaurants, thinking to myself that there has to be something better out there. While i know of (and frequent) a number very good taquerias, I want to explore more of tex-mex and mexican cuisine than carnitas, carne asada, etc. I'm thrilled that I found your site and even more thrilled that this is the second recipe I've tried (the first was carnitas, houston style, and my boyfriend and I nearly ate all three pounds of pork butt before our guests arrived. enough said). Anyway, I'm so happy to have found some real, homestyle recipes such as these enchiladas with simple DELICIOUS chili gravy to add to my repertoire. And I love the stories you tell behind each of them. thanks!!

Keeley said...

I found your blog while searching for flour tortilla recipes. I'm not from Texas, but I've visited twice and I LOVE the food! A flight attendant told me to try the cheese enchiladas in San Antonio and I am still thinking about them one year later.

I'll be making these. I'll also be following your blog.

Anonymous said...

I make a double batch and freeze whatever is leftover. I also add onion powder and use some tomato sauce. It makes a very flavorful deep rich sauce like home!

Anonymous said...

You have made my life in the kitchen complete. This is the stuff I've looked for, for at least 50 years. I can die happy now. Enchiladas are my go to meal when I want comfort food, and now that I have to live nearly salt-free, this is a dream come true. Thank you so, so very much!

Anonymous said...

This is a good base that is pretty close (to my taste) to many joints in Texas. They are so many bad recipes out there and this one is good. I love Los Tios in Houston and would like to see their chili sauce recipe broken down. They have to be using at least a tiny bit of tomato paste in theirs. That may be blasphemous but it's what I taste.. I think ;)

LadyJayPee said...

I lived in East Texas for 5 years, and do miss the Tex-Mex from there. I made this tonight for a neighborhood potluck. It is DELISH! Love it! Don't want to bring it now. :-) Thank you so much for sharing your recipe!

Jen said...

I just stumbled on this blog and I am sooo excited. I grew up in Arizona, so perhaps there is some kind of chili difference (I didn't know the sauce was called chili gravy), but these look like the cheese enchiladas I love and have not been able to find outside of AZ and Texas. I went to San Antonio a few years ago and ate cheese enchiladas for every meal. I can't wait to try these!

Anonymous said...

ooooooh myyyyyyy godddddddddddddd........... i grew up in texas. i've been in montana for 5yrs now. i have really been missing the FOOD! kolaches, tex mex, cajun, sea food, texas steak (even though montana is known for it's cattle ranches it's just not the same.) The only reason i want to go back to texas is only for the food (and to see some old friends).
What do they call mexican food in montana?
Taco Bell.
What do they call cajun food in montana?
red beans and rice
What do they call sea food in montana?
boiled shrimp and marriana sauce.
What do they call kolaches in montana?
they've never even heard of it.
What-a- Burger?
doesn't exist.
How can i buy this cook book!?
I will cherish it above all my other belongings! i am so glad i found this site!
THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Anonymous said...

I’d like to give some Tex-Mex props to the creator for a great web site. I was actually searching for gravy recipes for my turkey and saw this interesting link in my Google search… Homesick Texan. Being from Texas I just had to click. I live in San Antonio, home of the best Tex-Mex food around (my opinion anyway). If you want some of the best tasting enchiladas this is the place to be. My daughter and I love the food and the one restaurant we keep going back to is Panchito’s on Hildebrand and McCullough. They have the best cheese enchiladas I’ve ever ate. Their sauce is delicious. Despite many attempts to get the recipe I haven’t given up. But I do know they create their chili sauce not with chili powder but with Guajillo chili’s. And the cheese they use is not cheddar. It’s American cheese. I think cheddar is ok, but too stringy. American cheese works well with the corn tortilla and is quite tasty. No strings! Although Diane Kennedy uses Guajillo chili’s in her recipes and is more authentic than using chili powder, the Panchitos chili variation is most definitely of Tex-Mex quality.

The recipe you give here is a classic chili sauce recipe. Almost the exact same as mine but in my cookbook is dubbed “School House Enchiladas”. Only because they remind me of the enchiladas I ate in elementary school. For some reason they would serve this dish almost every Wednesday with rice and beans and corn bread! Nice… I guess Wednesday’s was Tex-Mex day.

-Johnny (12/2/10)

Lisa said...

I'm a bit late to the party, but I found your recipe after trying a disappointing version posted elsewhere. I made it almost exactly as written, except for leaving out the salt because I had to use bouillion rather than broth. The chili powder I used was the cheapo stuff they sell at Aldi, but if this had been any better I don't think I could have stood it. I made it to go over sour cream & cheese enchiladas, but truly, I could eat it with a spoon, all by itself.

Jessica Rhodes said...

Snowed in for SNOWMAGEDDON 2011 so we decided to try the enchilada recipe. Very simple to make and we already had all the ingredients! The smells coming from my kitchen are amazing and the taste is just like home. Thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

Follow up: So enjoyed this gravy and these enchiladas that I HAD to figure out how to can the gravy and make tortillas!

Canning the gravy only required making it in quantity instead of just a 2-cup recipe. Since a pint = 2 cups, the finished recipe went into pint jars and was processed. Some friends and I have also experimented with using some ClearJel instead of the flour as a thickener, since flour is not recommended for canning recipes. (I don't like that option since part of the Tex-Mex taste is that roux, but my friends are very happy with it.)

Until today, I had always happily made the enchiladas with store bought tortillas. The home made ones were a little thick (perhaps my technique will improve with time?) so I made your recipe stacked instead of rolled. Delicious!

But you knew that! ;)

Really just wanted to let you know that some of the fans of your gravy recipe are now canning it! That you may not have known. ;)

Pete

Eleanor said...

made these for dinner last night and my boyfriend ate 6. i'm definitely doubling the recipe next time because I was looking forward to having these for lunch today left over!! haha

These were so easy, so cheap, and sooo good. just like home!

Ruston said...

I have been living in New England for almost two years and this website has been my saving grace! I wanted to ask you if I could store the Chili-Gravy overnight and use it the following evening?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Ruston--Absolutely you can make it the night before! You can also freeze it, too.

Anonymous said...

My husband thinks you are a hero because I make these about once a week now! There is only one problem: I have been layering the ingredients like a casserole because my corn tortillas crack and crumble into nasty bits when I try to fold them. Is this because I bought an inferior product? They taste fine as long as I make a texy mexy lasagna! What am I doing wrong?!?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--Not sure why they're cracking, as they should be soft. Maybe you're using too much oil. Try wrapping the tortillas in foil and place them in the oven set at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or so. That will make them soft, too.

Janus said...

There is one essential fact that Diana Kennedy has never seemed to consider. If I'm remembering my history correctly (and I know I am), Texas was once part of Mexico. So to my way of thinking, when she says that Tex-Mex isn't Mexican food, that is a load of . . . Let's be polite and say Bovine Stuff, shall we?

Jessie said...

Homesick Texan,

I happened upon your blog since I was making enchiladas. We don't make enchiladas with cheese often. They are usually ground beef and cheese. I needed the gravy sauce recipe. I have lived in South Texas, The Brush Country, small towns, all my life. Born and Bred, Texan of Mexican descent.

Your chile sauce is how m Abuela made it. The art of drying and making the chiles died with her. My husband loved them and they reminded me of my Abuela. I had to tweak it a little due to tastes but it was virtually the same. Tex-Mex is what the vaqueros created when working the ranches.

I want to thank you for your wonderful posts and the many times you have helped me cook dinner!

Brian said...

OMG! I grew up in San Antonio and was transplanted to Nashville and let me tell you, there were NO good Tex-Mex places to eat. Actually there were NONE expect El Chico (and the one here wasn't as good as a Texas El Chico) Then out of no where a Chuy's popped up! I use to eat Chuy's at least twice a week while living in Houston! I was so glad to have them here, but I still wanted that good ole Tex-Mex! I found your recipe on here for the Chili Gravy!! YUM YUM YUM YUM YUM! I have had it twice this week! Sunday night and Tuesday night! Sunday was to test it and see how I liked it! It was good but on Tuesday night I tweaked the recipe a little and made the gravy less thick and then it was PERFECTION! It felt like I was back in San Antonio eating at the hole in the wall mexican place! Thank you for putting this out there!! I will be testing some other recipes too!

Brian
Franklin, Tn

Erica said...

I just made this recipe including the homemade chili powder (my nose is still burning even with all the windows open)! Fantastic! I am in Xalapa, Mexico where Diana Kennedy will be thrilled to know there is not a cheese enchilada within 200 miles. I made a recipe of these for me and my boyfriend (he's at work) and sadly there are only 2 left for him.