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disintegrating enchiladas

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  • tarabell Oct 18, 2005 06:54 PM
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I'm making chicken enchiladas tonight and would like to know how to keep my corn tortillas from disintegrating into a mushy mess.

I let each tortilla fry a moment in a little hot oil before adding in my chicken, cheese and sauce. By the time they're filled, I notice the tortillas are already practically falling apart. And after they've baked in the oven 15-20 min, the tortillas have lost all form and are practically cornmeal mush. What am I doing wrong? Maybe flour tortillas work better?

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  1. My only thought is the tortilla itself. Do you always use the same brand? I've never had this happen. Flour tortillas would just be wrong for this, IMO.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Liz K

      I agree with Liz K...you would only want corn tortillas for enchiladas...PERIOD. I'm also suspicious of your brand of tortillas.

      1. re: Val

        wWll if it is made with a flour tortilla it is not an enchilada period. But the poster said her tortilla turned in to cornmeal mush. So i don't think she is using those flour things. Yo meit is not even a tortilla if made with flour.

        1. re: Candy

          Actually, there are enchiladas made with flour tortillas. In general, don't speak generally about Mexican food, as there are so many regionalisms.

          I have to agree with the other posters that it sounds like it needs a few moments longer in the oil. I think I usually have mine in for a little less than 30 seconds in a medium hot frying pan, flipping once or twice. Personally, I dip mine in the sauce first (as my grandmother did, so I figure that's legit) and then the quick oiling serves to soften the tortilla as well as cook the sauce into the tortilla a bit.

          1. re: joypirate

            If you will look at my first response, I suggested that she is not frying the tortillas long enough. I don't know where you are from, but I am originally from Douglas, AZ. right on the Mexican and New Mexican borders and grew up with enchiladas etc. as comfort food. No enchilada was made with a flour tortilla. I think they might do that in some parts of Texas though. A Chimi or Burro will be made with flour things but not an enchilada or taco

            1. re: Candy

              Oh no, I was agreeing with you on the point regarding more time in oil.

              As for enchiladas with flour tortillas, see link below and scroll down article, that recipe (at least for the enchiladas, not the sauce) is very similar to how my Mexican grandmother used to make them (without the olives).

              Link: http://www.vvdailypress.com/food/toda...

              1. re: Candy

                That's why Taco Bell invented the "Enchirito." An enchilada in a flour tortilla.

      2. You need to fry them a little longer, they need to be a bit leathery, still able to roll and certainly not crisp but just a quick dip in oil is not sufficient.

        12 Replies
        1. re: Candy

          That's what I'd try first, new brand of tortillas if that doesn't solve it. I'm also curious about the sauce...how are you making it?

          1. re: nja

            I did see Candy's tip before I made them and thought that must be it because I have been afraid to leave the tortillas in the oil too long and make them greasy. And maybe it's the oil that "seals" out the water in the sauce. So I instructed my husband (who was assembling them) to make sure the tortillas were fried a while. I still don't think he did them long enough--maybe 30 seconds on each side, but the enchiladas did hold together better this time. They still were a bit mushy at the center of the dish, but firmer out at the edges. I like to still be able to bite the corn tortilla. I think the sauce also tends to soak into them and make them fall apart and so yes, baking them too long would probably contribute to the saturation effect--ours were in a 350 degree oven about 15 min so next time I'll try the broiler method.

            I rarely make them, but tonight we had leftover Costco chicken and we decided it was a good excuse to get rid of that old can of La Palma enchilada sauce. So this wasn't intended as any gourmet effort here but was mainly hoping the tortillas wouldn't disintegrate again. I have no idea if it's the brand, but they came in your normal bagged-stack of 50 or so (and yes they were corn) like you see in any supermarket, nothing weird or whole-wheat or anything like that.

            Some have mentioned also dipping their tortillas in sauce after frying, which I think I tried once and I remember the tongs tore them up a bit and I had a hot slippery mess on my hands. My husband thought microwaving them a few seconds should be all that was needed to make them pliable enough to fill. So I'd still love to find out what method keeps those tortillas fairly intact. Maybe Cooks Illustrated will do some research on this.....;-)

            1. re: tarabell

              Some of the problem might be caused by the sauce. My grandmother-in-law, the best Mexican cook I know, is willing to use a number of shortcuts (e.g., jarred mole), but she refuses to ever use canned enchilada sauce. I can't be sure, but the sauce might be a problem. In fact, I had an experience recently that supports that theory. Left over from another meal, I had about a cup of blended and reconstituted dried chiles, to which I added salt and spice. But I didn't have time to add all that to a roux like I usually do for enchilada sauce. The finished enchiladas were a lot mushier than usual. In fact they kind of disintegrated.

              Anyway, I do also recommend dipping the fried tortillas in sauce. It takes a bit of practice to minimize tearing but it's worth it. I usually set up a little system on the stove where I take one tortilla out of the oil, drop it onto a paper towel, throw another tortilla in the oil, blot the first tortilla (which has now cooled a bit) with the paper towel, dip it in sauce, then fill and roll. Dipping in sauce *before* frying make for great enchiladas, especially if you're making the street vendor style (folded up with maybe a touch of cheese) rather than the stuffed, rolled, and baked style. But it makes a hell of a mess to fry the tortillas with sauce on them. That stuff splatters everywhere.

              1. re: nja

                I use the Las Palmas canned enchilada sauce for a couple of my enchilada recipes and don't have this problem of the tortillas falling apart. maybe there is too much moisture in the filling itself? I make a very dry filling, and I fry the tortillas about 10 seconds (I don't flip, only push them down so both sides get dunked), and I also dip the fried tortillas in sauce before filling and rolling.

              2. re: tarabell

                Microwaving doesn't really work. I read online somewhere that if you sprinkle a little water on them and microwave them it sort of steams them into pliability. I tried it once when I was making flautas and they were slightly more pliable than when non-fried/non-dipped but not really pliable enough to hold them together.

                1. re: joypirate

                  I've been microwaving mine for years. Double paper towels on the plate, 4 tortillas spread out as much as possible, another layer of paper towels and 4 more tortillas, heat for 1 - 1.5 minutes, dip in canned sauce, add filling, roll and place on baking sheet. When they're all rolled I top with a layer of cheese and heat in the oven till the cheese melts. Works fine for me.

                  I used to soften them in oil first but find the MW method much easier and cleaner. I've never had the problem of them disintegrating but they do crack if not softened enough.

                  1. re: Rae

                    I also don't fry them (I just warm them over steam for seconds, we don't microwave,) and have never had them turn mushy or fall apart. It sounds like too much moisture to me.

                    1. re: Rae

                      I just put a stack of them wrapped in paper towels in the microwave and they've always worked fine. Once in a whiel I'll get a crack or something, but then I'd just use another one.

                  2. re: tarabell

                    I'm with Tarabell. I'm cooking Diane Kennedy tomatillo sauce enchiladas. Frying them for 30 seconds until almost too stiff. Filling them with chicken, then covering them with tomatillo sauce, then some cheese, then letting them heat for 10 minutes, covered, as directed. And they come out mushy. How do you make corn enchiladas that are firm like in any good tex-mex restaurant?

                    1. re: tarabell

                      I suspect your oil might be too cool, as well. Hotter oil (not smoking, though) means less oil absorption. Cooking something in oil below 325 degrees or so is asking for oily, soggy stuff.

                      1. re: tarabell

                        Tarabell (six years after your post) regarding Cook's Illustrated tortilla treatment for enchiladas, Cook's Illustrated spread the tortiallas on a baking sheet, sprayed them on both sides with cooking spray, and baked them in a 300* F oven for 4 minutes. Then they filled the toritllas with a chicken filling that included sauce. The filled tortillas are rolled and placed in a baking dish. Sauce is put on top of the echiladas and then baked. Note that Cook's Illustrated did not fry the toritillas in oil nor did they dip the tortillas in sauce. See the recipe at the following link for more info:

                        http://www.tastebook.com/recipes/1510...

                        1. re: Norm Man

                          Just wanted to add that, since making this CI recipe a year or two ago, this is now the method I always use for prepping my tortillas. It works great.

                  3. Well, I make Enchiladas the old skool Mexican way, which is just to fry until just bendy (So it has a crisp edge to it) and coat in sauce and serve right away.

                    If I can't serve them right away, I place them in a baking dish and place them in a WARM oven, just to keep them warm, NOT to finish baking...

                    I also suggest you might try another brand of tortilla.

                    The truth is, Enchiladas are best served fresh or at most a few hours after being made. If I have leftover Enchiladas, even if they never ENTERED the oven (I Just rolled and packed them away for lunch the next day) they always end up falling apart because of the sauce...

                    --Dommy!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Dommy!

                      I'm with you on fresh enchiladas. I assemble the meat/cheese filling with (quickly dipped in oil) tortillas, holding them in a pan in a low, warm oven, but sauce them on the plate right before serving.

                    2. they do not have to be cooked, just softened enough to roll. Dip in hot oil for a second, or place on a warm griddle and cover with a towel for 30 seconds or put in a covered dish in the nuke for 15 seconds.

                      do not add sauce, just what adheres to the main ingredients. If you want to add sauce add it on top.

                      they do not have to be baked, everything is already cooked, just broil to melt the cheese

                      1. Hmmm. I've always dipped them in simmering stock for about 10 seconds. I've never used oil to fry them first.

                        1. the other posters' suggestions are good. I know this may not be an option and certainly isn't the easiest solution, but have you ever made your own corn tortillas? I find that when I make my own, they surprisingly hold up better to sauces. Even if they are baked at 350 for 20 minutes or so, there is still bite left in them. Plus, they have a much deeper flavor.

                          Anyhow, I know that isn't an option on a quick food night. But some food (literally) for thought.

                          Good luck.

                          1. my mom dips them in oil then whole milk. I don't know whether this will help, but her enchiladas suizas usually stay intact. although I am often shoveling them in too fast to notice.

                            1. Have you ever tried Sonoran enchiladas? They are not rolled but stacked. Lightly fry the tortilla, blot, dip in sauce and place flat on a plate. Then top with cheese, etc. fry another, blot, dip in sauce and dress again. When you have as many layers as you would like heat in your oven until cheese is melty and top with a fried egg. That is pure comfort food. My mom used to just layer with cheese, shredded iceberg lettuce and chopped onion. It wasn't until I was visiting a relative in Calif. in my teens that I ever encountered rolled enchiladas.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Candy

                                I have seen this and think it's a great idea for my next attempt. My mouth really doesn't care if it's stacked or rolled. In fact this gives me the visual of Mexican lasagna. Love the idea of a fried egg.

                              2. The first enchilada recipe I ever followed gave this procedure, which I have followed ever since: heat up a DRY griddle or pan to just about smoking. Have your stack of tortillas on one side, a bowl of enchilada sauce and a brush and a clean plate on the other. Heat a tortilla for 10-15 seconds on one side. Turn it over, brush a very light coating of sauce over the cooked side, then turn it over again onto the plate and brush sauce on that side while the next tortilla is heating on its first side...and repeat until you run out of tortillas. I usually turn the whole stack over when I'm assembling the enchiladas so that the ones I cooked first get rolled first, because they will sort of delaminate and get messy if the sit stacked up long enough. As for the tortillas, I use whatever they have cheap at the neighborhood Latino market, which is usually the same thing you can get at any supermarket.

                                1. Your tortillas might have too much moisture in them. Set them out on the counter to air out and dry up a little bit, then fry in very hot oil.

                                  1. I am having the same problem with sour cream chicken enchiladas that are very delicious, but a bit soggy..Recipes always tell you to coat the bottom of the pan with some of the enchilada sauce, then put in the rolled enchiladas and then cover them with sauce, cheese, and bake...I have been thinking about it, and wondering what it is that they do in Mexican Restaurants with so many different "sauces", for a chicken enchilada...There are those with sour cream sauce, some with mole, some with green chili sauce....I am thinking that it is possible that they have the chicken enchiladas rolled up (yes the corn tortilla is quickly put in hot oil to be pliable before it is filled), but the difference is that maybe the enchilada is put in the oven and heated up and THEN the sauce and the cheese are topped on them and possibly put under a broiler....It is the only way that I can imagine that that theirs are not soggy, and ones made at home are...it's the only thing that could make the difference...Also, the plate of enchiladas in a restaurant always comes to the table sizzling hot...More support for my theory...Well, I am going to try it next time I make enchiladas and if it works, I will report it....

                                    1. After years of experimentation, we have found a way to avoid the soggy enchilada. The problem is the restaurants make enchiladas up fresh (except for NM- they found a short cut) and heat them on the plate they are served on- the tortillas do not have time to get soggy.

                                      Here's the tip: Heat the tortillas in oil and dip in sauce if you like as described elsewhere. Fill the tortillas with your favorite seasoned fillings and place the rolled tortillas in a shallow lightly greased pan. DO NOT OVERCROWD AND DO NOT PUT SAUCE on enchiladas in the pan. If you crowd slightly, that's ok. It is more important to NOT put sauce at this point. Have the enchilada sauce heating on the stovetop. Place enchiladas (NO SAUCE) in oven and heat for 15-20 minutes.

                                      Remove the sauceless (except for the tortillas if you dipped them) enchiladas.

                                      On another shallow baking pan, remove enchiladas by 2s, 3s, or 4s (a serving portion). You can group several portions, separated from one another. Put your favorite mexican cheese on the enchilada portions. Pour heated sauce over the nechiladas.

                                      Place the enchiladas under the broiler for a few minutes.

                                      Remove, serve, and enjoy! This is as close as you'll get to restaurant style enchiladas without a commercial kitchen. Now you an concentrate on making an awesome home-made enchilada sauce (please send it to me when you do- just kidding).

                                      1. Realizing this is a pretty old thread, still has lots of good information. I've made many many enchiladas, you name it, I've stuffed a corn tortillas with it. I often make two dishes, and freeze one. I can only think that the problem with disintegrating tortillas, has to be the tortillas not the way you're cooking them.

                                        They will break apart if they're not cooked properly. I use either a flat top cast iron griddle, and while ones being rolled the other is cooking- flip and cook the other side. A little oil, not dripping, and the reason is you have to cook the tortilla otherwise it's raw. I drain them between paper towels and work very quickly with hot ingredients. Meat goes down first, a little sauce, and then cheese, roll and tuck seam side down into a baking dish with a scant amount of sauce on the bottom. Don't over crowd or when you cut into them, you'll possibly cut into the one right next to it. When they're all rolled, I cover with sauce and cheese. Cover with plastic and either they sit on the counter or go into the fridge depending on when we eat. I usually make these in the early afternoon for dinner, starting on the stuffing part, in the morning. I've tried dipping them in sauce, but found that I'm too messy with that way and it burns my finger tips way worse than using tongs and quickly rolling. I don't cover the dish with foil if I'm baking the freshly made dish.

                                        If you freeze a tray, understand they will not be nearly as good as the one tray that you make and eat that day. I'd add the sauce to the top, and not the cheese, only adding that right before you heat them covered with foil.

                                        Hopefully this information will help anyone looking for a tip that's new at making enchiladas one of my favorite comfort foods.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                          I think the problem is the tortillas themselves and I would bet they are old because that is the only time I have had problems with them falling apart...lucky for me I get tortillas from around the corner while they are still warm. I use no oil but heat each one over a gas burner before dipping it in hot enchilada sauce for just a moment, then lay on board, fill and roll--always quickly since the tortillas is hot. When all done in the oven.

                                          1. re: escondido123

                                            that tends to happen if you aren't able to get good fresh tortillas. I live in CA, the turnover is so fast they can't stock the shelves fast enough.
                                            " use no oil but heat each one over a gas burner before dipping it in hot enchilada sauce for just a moment," you must have asbestos fingers! Tried it and I suffered greatly!

                                            1. re: chef chicklet

                                              You have to be quick, really quick, over the burner! But I lift them out of the sauce with a flat pancake turner and let them drip for a minute before filling. And the cool filling helps to take the heat away so not too many problems.

                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                oooooh, dummy here uses her fingers like she's washing her dainties!!! hahaha!

                                        2. At work sometimes we order in a bag of tortillas for the staff to make tacos. For a while we ended up with really thin, dry tortillas that fell apart when we tried to make tacos and were really disappointing. Then finally we noticed that those were 'chip' tortillas - meant to be fried into tortilla chips - and once fried they did make great, thin crispy chips. None of us gringos had known there were different tortilla formulations for different purposes, we always thought chips were just made out of the leftovers. I can imagine getting the results the OP was getting using the chip tortillas instead of the thicker, moister taco tortillas.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: babette feasts

                                            I'm wondering about the thickness of the tortillas. There are many different types and some are very thin, to be used only at the table to eat like bread. You want a thicker kind for enchiladas, I would think.

                                          2. Years later, I was still looking for the solution, so I thought I'd post. I spent some time experimenting, and I think I have it. The oil should be HOT (so a drop of water can't penetrate the oil, but skitters across the surface). Next, don't be afraid to fry them a bit. You're not really trying to soften them--you're trying to strengthen them. They need to be a little leathery. It's better if they crack around the edges a bit when you roll them than if they're soggy. So fry them for 20-30 seconds per side. They should bubble and puff and the edge should just slightly brown. Tortillas are cheap--buy some and practice. 10 or 15 minutes of trial and error and you'll have it down.

                                            One other tip: Resist the urge to drench them with sauce after they're rolled and in the pan. Many cooks like to pour sauce over the top before they go in the oven. That's a recipe for soggy enchiladas. If you dredge them in sauce before you fill them and there's sauce in the filling, that's plenty of sauce. They'll crisp up in the oven and the cheese on top will melt, and they'll be perfect.

                                            One last tip: If you're making cheese enchiladas, use a combination of cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Philadelphia cream cheese. Mix the cheeses together in a bowl with some of the sauce and you'll have an awesome filler. And spend the extra fifteen minutes or so to make your own sauce. I make mine with a 5:1 mix of anchos and chipotles. It's a great combo.

                                            1. For what it's worth, I have the same problem. I use El Milagro brand corn tortillas, made fresh every day in Chicago. I love them but they do go to mush when I use them in enchiladas or anything else. Everything else, actually.