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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.

                  1. I'm NM born and bred (and fed). Enchiladas were always - always! - flat. Moved away years ago, but never saw a rolled enchilada in the Land of Enchantment. I dunno, maybe bootleggers from Lubbock bring 'em across the state line, but I can't imagine that they make it any further than Clovis...

                    19 Replies
                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      Al, isn't funny that we, or at least I, feel that rolled enchies are the poor cousin to Sonoran/Rio Grande style. Geocentric food chauvinism strikes again!
                      But Tata, thanks, for the suggestion. I brought up some Hatch chiles from the cellar and took some pork out of the freezer. Tomorrow night, New Mex enchies. I can't wait to hear those eggs sizzling in the fry pan. The enchiladas are ready!!!

                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                        That's so weird—I didn't grow up there, but it was/is my 2nd home (grandparents lived there, parents met there, father returned there in 88), & I swear I *only* saw rolled in ABQ and Santa Fe. Could it be an urban v rural thing?

                        1. re: tatamagouche

                          Sorry, the only place I saw rolled enchies in Albq. or Sante Fe were at Don Pancho's all-you-can-eat for $1.19 ( raise the flag for seconds!) or my elementary school cafeteria. The Shed, The Pink Adobe, Guardunos, Padillas, Jaramillos, etc. stacked. I taught at Rio Grande HS in the south valley, rolled meant mugged.

                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            Truth is I don't order enchiladas a lot, so that may be part of it...but I *know* they're rolled at Charlie's, I'd swear they're rolled at Cecilia's, they're rolled even in the photo at Frontier...

                            I've still never been to Padilla's. Next time you're down there—road trip!


                            1. re: tatamagouche

                              The Frontier, my first stop off the plane! I ate there nearly every day durniong my time at UNM, but never the enchies, only green chile stew and green chile burritos. Notice that I did not list the Frontier on my list.
                              There is a new place in Milan that is supposed to make dynomite red chile enchies.

                                1. re: tatamagouche

                                  I'm a spice junkie, not a sweet one. My wife makes the best sticky buns ever!

                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                    Me too, for the most part, but I can't resist those or sopaipillas w/ lots of honey. My heart breaks for anyone who's never had the latter.

                                    1. re: tatamagouche

                                      Man, I can't wait to sink my teeth into a green chile pork stuffed sopapaipilla, chased by one w/ honey for dessert.
                                      If you visit Las Vegas, the one in NV., not the real one in NM, hit Carlito's Burritos for real New Mexican chow, including stacked green chile enchiladas!
                                      Watch the clip on how to make a stuffed sopapailla:

                        2. re: Passadumkeg

                          We're having red enchiladas for dinner tonight. Chiles are toasted and soaking, I picked up some good tortillas, and there's plenty of leftover roast chicken for filling. Add some sweet onion, a little cheese, and a fried egg - doesn't get any better than that.

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            You forgot the beer! What brand? We had Wingwalker Lager tonight. Do you ever drink buttermilk w/ Mexican food?

                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                              The beer goes without saying. Stayin' local with that - Sierra Nevada Summerfest. Have to be in Chico tomorrow morning; if all goes according to plan, lunch at the brewery will be in order.

                              Never been a fan of buttermilk. It'd probably be perfect for taming the burn when you get those extra-hot chiles, though.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                I *love* buttermilk, but never thought about the pairing. Sounds ideal, I agree.

                                1. re: tatamagouche

                                  I like horchata to tame the burn.

                                  In southern colorado right on the border I see rolled on the menu with stacked sometimes as specials or on buffets. I'm guessing this is for ease of prep of the larger amounts. The Hispanic population here are not recent immigrants but the old Spanish settlers going back hundreds of years.

                                  I never saw layered ones growing up in Omaha in the 70's (in a Mexican family) We always made them rolled & flour tortillas were used for everything made at home.

                                  In Des Moines I've only seen them rolled. These are restaurants run by 2nd & 3rd generation and little carts run by 1st. Both my step-dad & a lot of the new immigrants to Des Moines are originally from the Jalisco area.

                                  At home I make rolled with flour & stacked with corn. The corn tend to crack when rolled unless you soften them with oil or sauce first. Layering them lasagne style saves time.

                        3. re: alanbarnes

                          I believe the farther west you go in NM the scarcer rolled enchiladas become. You can find them in Roswell with no problem. Lordsburg or Socorro or Farmington could be a different story altogether.

                          I gotta tell you though, the influence--what there is of it, anyway--doesn't seem to flow both ways. Hence, rarely, very rarely, will you see an enchilada bedizened by a fried egg in West Texas. Such a radical innovation could well provoke a full-scale brouhaha, and we wouldn't want that.

                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                            That is because eastern New Mexico is commonly referred to by the rest of the state as "Little Texas"!

                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                On the hand, however, I will gladly eat a rolled enchilada instead of the New England boiled dinner. Grrraack!

                          2. re: alanbarnes

                            ...where they stop for lunch! So look out for cars with Texas plates, and drivers with enchilada residue in their mustaches...

                          3. I've been eating stacked (flat?) enchiladas since I was a little kid growing up in San Diego County, and I'm sure they predate my 76 years by a bunch! Like dishes of any country, they vary greatly from region to region, as well as from home to home and restaurant to restaurant.

                            The kind I grew up on are stacked three tortillas high, and the method is this; Traditionally, you dip the tortilla in your enchilada sauce of choice, THEN fry it. It splatters like mad, can burn you and makes a real mess. Which is probably why a lot of old fashioned Mexican cooks cook outside. Smart people! So my mother (and I) reverse the process and fry the tortilla in oil to soften, THEN dip it in the enchilada sauce. The flavor isn't quite the same, but I'll trade that small loss in flavor for unburnt arms and two hours of kitchen cleaning any day! Three tortillas to a serving, so multiply how many people are coming to the table by three. I do the tortillas all at once and stack them on a warm plate. They stay warm with no problem. Then I have all of the "fillings" at hand. They MAY include refried beans, they MAY include chicken premixed with chopped cooked chiles and carmelized onions, OR I may use beef of some sort (shredded, ground, fajita stle), sometimes seafood. ALWAYS cheese but it can be one (or more) of several types, often grated and mixed with finely chopped onions. Then diced tomatoes, diced avocado is optional, and a fine chiffonade of lettuce. Some folks add more diced or sliced onions.

                            The assembly process goes like this: Place one pre-sauced tortilla on a warm plate. Add fillings as desired. I start with either refried beans, or if I don't want beans I may start with chicken, beef, or seafood. AAlways spread each topping in a fairly thin later. Top that with the shredded cheese. then finely diced tomatoe, avocado (or guacamole, or none), a thin layer of fine chiffonade of lettuce, a generous dollop of enchilada sauce, then the next tortilla. Repeat for the middle tortilla. Top it with the final tortilla, but only spoon on a little more enchilada sauce. If you want to get fancy, you can add a bit of crumbled or grated cheese and run it under the broiler for a minute. Then top with a perfectly fried egg. Sunny side up is traditional, but I've been known to baste the eggs in hot oil for the squeemish. Of if you're on a diet, a poached egg works. Serve with salsas. It's a LOT of last mintue work, and I never make it if there will be more than three people at the table, but my mother used to make it for TWELVE....! (She ate at midnight!) Oh, and sour cream or Mexican crema agria is always optional.

                            Lots of places use NO lettuce or tomatoes or avocado in theirs. I have had them with cabbage/slaw. I have had them with fish and shrimp. And (blech!) I have had them "naked"! Just the tortillas dipped in enchilada sauce and stacked, fried egg on top extra. And they charged the same price as places that loaded theirs! Never went back there a second time!

                            My mother was an immigrant from Ireland/England, and learned to make stacked enchiladas from Mexican friends in Los Angeles in the 1920s or 30s. We moved to San diego when I was five, and this is pretty much the way MOST of my Mexican girlfriends' mothers made them, but some didn't include the raw vegies. Blue corn is definitely New Mexican, but stacked enchiladas are not exclusively New Mexican by any means. I have had stacked enchiladas in Mexican restaurants in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Unfortunately, they have not been universally delicious. I suspect they can be found other places as well. Not to mention lots of places in Mexico!

                            For a crowd, roll 'em! '-)

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Caroline1

                              Well done C1! I've found New Mex. and Ariz. enchies to be similar. I prepare my enchiladas much like your mom, but fry then dip. Tonight I'm making red pork chile from dried Hatch or Deming pods. I roast, de-seed then soak the chile in boiled water in the blender for an hour, add some garlic cloves and blend. Meanwhile, dice and fry the pork, add the chile and stew fr an hour. I use only the chile, topped by cheese, jack or cheddar and diced raw onion. I usually top w/ fried egg or sour cream. This is quite probably my favorite meal, served w/ a side of refried and a salad. Cold beer or buttermilk as beverage.

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                Okay, dammit. that does it. I've got a bag of boughten tortillas, some Pico Pica to use as the enchiladizing agent, a pound of shrimp, a bunch of green onions, and a mighty hankering for an ocean-scented version of Enchiladas Suizas. A bottle of crema agria and a bunch of cilantro is all I need. Thanks, you guys...

                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                  Passa, you and Will have warmed my cockles! My recently terminated but much loved housekeeper (who would disappear for days at a time with no communication, hence departed) was from Mexico, spoke no English, and I only speak Taco Bell, but she made GREAT cheeese enchiladas, which I will sorely miss. But what she taught me was to grate the cheese, put it in a plastic container with a lid, chop the onions, or mince them, but not watery, and put them in the bowl with the cheese, pop the lid on tight, then shake the bejeezuz out of it to mix them well. It's the perfect filling for rolled cheese enchiladas, and has just the right amount of onion for stacked! First time this old dog has learned a new trick in quite a while! '-)

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    How about your mussels? They warming up too? But seriously...

                                    That cheese/onion premixing thing is something a friend of mine showed me back when she was working at Anchorage AK's first taco joint out on Fireweed Lane. That's how they got those wonderfully complementary flavors to mingle so well, and it seems to diminish the sharpness of the onion, too. I'd actually forgotten about that until you reminded me, so thanks!

                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      You're welcome! And yes, it's like magic on taming the onions. I love it. Making cheese enchiladas for dinner....

                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        Just for future reference, as long as we're swapping tricks here: a lovely cookbook I got with some Cypriot recipes in it uses sliced raw onion in some salads, and calls for the slices to be salted and then covered in a bowl of cold water for at least 30 minutes. Amazing how the sweetness stays but the edge goes away. "Falling Cloudberries" by Tessa Kiros.

                              2. Where I live, the Salvadoran and Guatemalan enchiladas are flat fried tortillas. I have not seen them stacked. Toppings vary. A Salvadoran veggie enchiladala might be like a salad with marinated cabbage, tomato, hard boiled egg, jalapenos, sticks of hard cheese and grated dry cheese. No sauce.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Steve

                                  Those sound more like Mexican tostadas - taco like fillings on a flat crisp tortilla.

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    You're right, one of the differences between Mexican and Central American.