It’s that time of year when tomatoes are about to say farewell, and I’ve been eating them as often as I can. One of my favorite meals with said tomatoes is a batch of entomatadas.
If you’re not familiar with entomatadas, they’re like enchiladas—rolled tortillas filled with cheese, chicken or beef, and covered in a savory sauce. But as the term enchiladas refers to the chile sauce that covers the tortillas in that dish, the term entomatada refers to the tomato-based sauce that covers the tortillas in this dish.
The last time I had entomatadas in Texas was at a Mexican cafe in downtown Victoria called Mi Familia. There was a chalkboard outside that listed the specials, and in big letters was the announcement they were on offer that day. While I’d never eaten at that restaurant, when I walked inside it was bright, cheerful and smelled heavenly. I knew it would be good.
When the waitress came to my table, I asked her about the entomatadas. She said they were an old family recipe and that if I ate them it would be like eating in their home. How appropriate, I said, considering the restaurant’s name. She agreed and said I should definitely order them. I’m glad that I did. They were made with love and soul, and definitely made this stranger feel warm and welcome.
Now, entomatadas aren’t the most common dish in Texas and you’ll usually see them only in the southern part o the state. But that’s okay because the mild yet flavorful entomatadas are perfect for home cooking. They’re the Tex-Mex equivalent of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.
Making the sauce doesn’t take much, as it’s one of those recipes where you just throw everything into the blender. I add a step by roasting my tomatoes and aromatics under the broiler before pureeing, but this extra effort is worth it as it adds flavor. Then you just fill the warmed corn tortillas with cheese, smother them in sauce, and bake until the cheese melts. To serve, I top them with slices of avocado and like all things Tex-Mex, they’re best nestled between Mexican rice and refried beans.
Sure, entomatadas may not boast the most heat or sizzle. But if you're craving something simple and flavorful, it's hard to go wrong with this simple yet soulful dish.
Now then, in a couple of weeks I’ll get my fix of Texan home cooking as I travel across the state for book events. Here’s a list of where I’ll be and I look forward to meeting you!
Entomatadas with cheese
For the sauce:
2 pounds tomatoes, cored and cut in half, lengthwise or 2 15-ounce cans of diced tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
1 jalapeño, seeds and stem removed, cut in half lengthwise
3 garlic cloves
1/3 medium yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon vegetable oil or lard
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
For the entomatadas:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or lard
12 corn tortillas
4 cups grated Monterrey Jack or Muenster cheese (16 ounces)
Avocado slices for serving
Heat up the broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Place the tomatoes seed side down on the sheet, along with the jalapeño, garlic, and onion. Place under the broiler and after 4 minutes, take out the jalapeño, onion and garlic and place in a blender.
Continue to cook the tomatoes for 5 more minutes or until the skin blackens. Take out the tomatoes, and when you’re able to handle them, remove the skin and seeds. Place the tomatoes in the blender. (If using canned tomatoes, skip the broiling step and just add them to the blender.) Add the cumin, allspice and puree until smooth. Heat the oil in a pot on medium low, pour the sauce into the pot, add the chicken broth and turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cilantro, adjust seasonings and add salt to taste. (Note, if your tomatoes are especially juicy, you may forgo adding the chicken broth if you prefer, or add less than one cup.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a large baking dish. In a skillet, heat up the oil or lard on medium-low heat. One at a time, heat up the tortillas in the hot oil until soft. Keep them wrapped in a cloth or tortilla warmer until all the tortillas are heated.
Take each tortilla and place 1/4 cup of the cheese in the center. Roll the tortilla and place in the baking dish seam side down. Repeat for all the tortillas. Cover the tortillas with the sauce and the remaining cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese on top is brown and bubbling.
Yield: 4 servings