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May 31, 2010 02:51 PM

Rolled v. flat enchiladas

I should know this, living in the Southwest, but I guess I don't. Flat enchiladas don't sound like enchiladas to me at all, which I thought were rolled by definition, but rather, essentially, like tortilla sandwiches or lidded tostadas, if you will?


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  1. Flat enchiladas are the more rustic/homemade style. They're usually stacked 3-4 high: more of a torte than a sandwich. And if you're very lucky, they're served with a fried egg on top.

    "Enchilada" just means "Seasoned with chile," If it's a corn tortilla that's dipped in a chile sauce and then filled, it's an enchilada. It doesn't matter if it's rolled or not.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

      I'll take a stack, please, with an egg on top...

      1. re: Jenny Ondioline

        Thanks Jenny...Well, I feel silly that I didn't really know that, NM having been my second home all my life. Granted I almost always order green chile chicken enchiladas when I order enchiladas at all, which isn't often...could it be that that type rarely comes flat?

      2. The flat kind was introduced to me as the "Texas enchilada" by a friend who'd learned about them from a guy from (surprise!) Texas. Whatever they're called, I immediately fell in love with the range of possibilities, such as the egg option mentioned above. For a while there we were doing regular enchilada feasts with any kind of filling we could come up with, mostly homecooked refritos, cheeses, meats, fresh and pickled peppers... and of course plenty of beer.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Will Owen

          I've lived in Houston my 50 some odd years, and have never seen them in a zillion TexMex places I've been to. I called a friend who said he had them at a Texas chain called Chuy's, which we are not fond of, and they now have two restaurants in of all places, Tennessee. However, i did not see them on their menu from Houston. I did a search, and Handbook of Texas says they are mainly a west Texas dish, made by Hispanics that relate more to New Mexico than the rest of Texas, which has many disparate regions.

          1. re: James Cristinian

            I think the Texan in question, a surgeon by trade, was in fact a west Texas boy. As he is no longer with us I can't ask him, but I might be able to get further enlightenment from the friend of whom I spoke, as we are still swapping recipes after all these years.

            1. re: Will Owen

              Tex-Mex enchiladas are typically flour tortillas, rolled around a filling of cooked meat or cheese, placed in a baking dish, smothered with a sauce then sprinkled with yellow cheese and baked until the cheese melts. Those are common through most of Texas but in West Texas and New Mexico the stacked presentation prevails.

              In Mexico, enchiladas typically involve (stale) corn tortillas, lightly par-fried to make them more pliable then 'enchilied (dipped in the chili sauce),' folded over in half maybe with a little crumbled white cheese inside, layered, overlapping, side by side on a plate, drizzled with more sauce and some more crumbled white cheese and served with a meat such as chicken breast, thin steak, quail or other meat, served with refritos and some sauteed vegetables. Sometimes they are enchilied before being par-fried. Sometimes they are folded over twice and then are called dobladas I think but there's no baking involved and they aren't smothered by the gravy or sauce or whatever.

              Obviously the oldest preparation is the Mexican one but it would be interesting to know how the other preparations evolved.

              Of course you can put a fried egg on any of them.

              1. re: dexmat

                For the record, I'm more than ready to drop a fried egg on anything this side of a banana split... ;-)

                So the enchilada appears to have been conceived as a way to use up stale tortillas, kinda like chilequiles and tortilla soup. AND chips. I did not realize or remember - as my principal exposure to actual Tex-Mex was during USAF Basic Training in San Antonio, ca. 1959 - that their enchiladas were made with flour tortillas. That sounds tasty enough but lacking the flavor characteristics I expect in an enchilada, rolled or stacked. Aside from that, though, your description of the typical enchilada coincides with the way I do most of mine nowadays, up to and including the sauce and the cheese, yum yum.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  Let me correct myself - corn is the more usual choice for Tex-Mex enchiladas. I've got to stop hanging out on these boards and posting when it's way past my bedtime.

                  Also, in preparing the folded type, the pliability is important and if you have access to freshly made corn tortillas then the frying step can be by-passed. This would probably be the way they were made originally but when mostly what you have access to are store-bought, machine-made tortillas the limbering up step becomes important.

                  Sorry for the misstatements.

        2. I've found that flat enchiladas are more common in Santa Fe and are made of blue corn. The Shed and Rancho de Chimayo are places I have had them. Maybe Tomasita's too but it's been awhile.

          1. The flat enchilada w/ corn tortillas are very typical in New Mexico and are also known Sonoran.
            I only make NM or Rio Grande style unless I need to take something to a social event and then I make a pan of rolled. I even make green chile chicken stacked w/ a dollop of sour cream on top. Here's what The Book of New Mexican Cooking (Jane Butel) says on the big enchilada:
            "Enchiladas are a definite favorite on both Mexican and Southwestern tables. These "chilied" tortillas are extremely versatile. The traditional Mexican enchilada consists of a lightly fried tortilla dipped in Red Chile Sauce, which is then filled with cheese and possibly onions, rolled and baked with more sauce spooned over it. But authentic Rio Grande enchiladas are served stacked open-faced with filling between the layers of tortillas...and a poached or sunny-side up egg on top."
            Clear as mud. Regional difference and ease of preparation are the main differences. But I find it funny that if I am served a rolled enchilada, I just feel it is just wrong.
            I've included a photo of a Sonoran stacked green chile pork enchilada from Ariz. upon which you may feast your eyes.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Passadumkeg

              Isn't it silly, Passa, that I somehow completely missed them in all my time in NM? It's like that old poem, "The Man Who Never Heard of Frank Sinatra."

              1. re: Passadumkeg

                You kinda gotta watch what Jane Butel says; I like her stuff, but when you crank out that many books you can get a bit, ummm, imprecise. Anyway, her description here sorta misses the boat as regards my own favorite enchilada, the Suiza. Neither cheese nor onion inside, except for the chopped scallions I like to throw in, but plenty of chicken and cilantro and cream. I've never made those flat, come to think of it, but now that I've thought of it...!

                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                    Always ready for another one, and I don't have her New Mexico book, so sure.

                  2. re: Will Owen

                    Good point. My enchiladas Suizas recipe doesn't even call for the tortillas to be dipped in ranchero sauce. Instead, they are dipped in a combination of warm cream and chicken stock. Technically, I suppose, they are not even enchiladas.

                    PS--My understanding is that in Mexico the natives refer to all dishes made with cream as "Suiza."

                1. I've lived in West Texas 37 years and don't think I've ever encountered flat enchiladas on a resto menu. Now they may be common in the Trans-Pecos region, but not north and east of there. I have seen flat enchiladas frequently in New Mexico, however.