I can’t believe all this time I haven’t really cooked Mexican food. I love Mexican food and am surprised I didn’t learn to cook for the sole purpose of eating tacos every night.

I still remember what my first encounter was with tacos, or at least what I remember it as. When I was a kid, every Tuesday night my dad was off of work so we had “family night” and would go out to eat and see a movie, etc. One Tuesday we wound up at the (now infamously defunct) Chi-Chi’s restaurant. I guess when I was a kid I had certain expectations of tacos and how this place was going to be, and I was super excited about eating tacos. I remember the waiter coming with our food and me wanting to cry (okay, maybe I did. My memory gets jumbled) because the food he brought (soft shell fajitas) were not like the hard shell tacos that I had pictured coming, and… well, as a kid I guess I cried a lot when my taco expectations were not met.

I got over it though and Chi-Chi’s became a “thing” – they were always open on my birthday (a holiday when a lot of stuff was closed) so most years I wound up wearing an awesome sombrero and while the wait staff sang happy birthday to me. I am sure there are quite a few Polaroids kicking around of this! Also, when my oldest brother was old enough to drive, probably about once a week for quite a while just him and I would go to Chi-Chi’s for dinner after school and hang out and eat. Chi-Chi’s: some people got Hepatitis, I got lasting warm fuzzy family memories.

It is no secret that the state of Mexican food in Buffalo is sad, save for the days I can shoot out of work for lunch to go to Lloyd Taco Truck. Places like Moe’s Southwestern Grill, Salsarita’s and Chipotle don’t do it for me and we rarely eat at chains anyway. I have found most of those places the only difference in food is if they put the cheese on top of the meat on top of the tomatoes or the lettuce on top of the meat on top of the cheese then the tomatoes, and so on – same generic ingredients just in a different order. I find Gramma Mora’s to be one of the worst places to eat despite multiple tries thinking “Maybe it will be different..” which it never is and I have never left that place happy. Ever. When we need a Mexican fix on a whim, we usually wind up at La Galera in Niagara Falls. It isn’t the best Mexican food in the grand scheme of things, but is the best I have found in the area.

So I have no clue why it’s taken me almost a year to think “HEY! I can sort of cook now! I will make Mexican food!” I scoured the internet for Mexican recipes and came across a steak enchilada recipe with homemade red sauce and knew it was going to happen and it was going to happen SOON. The next day I got all the ingredients (and forgot to make sure I had the right amount of peppers – thankfully Luke offered to shoot to Wegmans to pick me up more, then drop them off at my house so I didn’t have to go there again. Plus 20 boyfriend points) and off I went to make the red sauce. I let it simmer for over an hour and a half and was already going insane with how amazing my house smelled. I’m not going to lie – I try to NOT get myself hyped up about a recipe in case it winds up a dud, but before I even started I was super giddy over the thought of me shoving delicious enchiladas in my face hole. As the sauce was finishing up and reducing I started chopping up my meat (with some great new knives my dad gave me!) and getting that ready. I browned the meat using lard and it was the most PERFECT browned meat I have ever done – something that I seem to usually have a problem with so was happy it all came together nicely. I find myself grabbing the lard for a lot more these days and have never been disappointed in it – I know even the word lard sounds so gross and conjures up all sorts of greasy, gross imagery for a lot of people, but seriously – it has been fabulous for cooking things at a high temperature, and being that you only need a tiny bit I don’t see it being that much more fattening/bad for you than oil or butter or whatever else one may cook things in. I actually have to make a mental note to read up more on the specifics of that.

Finally, the sauce is thickened. The steak is perfectly cooked. The oven is preheated. The corn tortillas are lightly fried so they are crisp and I assemble the enchiladas. I shove the pan in the oven for 15 or 20 minutes after putting some shredded Monterey jack cheese on top, cross my fingers and busy myself making some bagged Mexican rice as a side dish.

If you like Mexican food and you don’t make this recipe, you are missing out BIG TIME. I plopped some guacamole and sour cream on mine, but it didn’t need it. I can’t even describe how amazing this dish turned out. It. Was. Phenomenal. There wasn’t a single thing I changed in the recipe and there isn’t a thing I will change the next time I make it. I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting my own horn, “Oh, I am such an awesome cook, these were so great!” because the RECIPE is great and I really think anybody could make these. I will NEVER be able to make enchiladas with the canned red sauce again, being that this red sauce was a thousand times better – and I won’t ever have to use the canned stuff either, being that the recipe makes enough for probably 8 pans of enchiladas AND it freezes well, AND after making the sauce I have homemade chili paste. There is no downside. We stuffed out faces so fast saying “OHMYGODTHESEARESOGOOD” that we forgot about the rice entirely and didn’t even care. I always ask Luke on a scale of one to ten how the food is, and usually he has suggestion on what it may be missing, what it could have used more or less of, what could have been different, etc., but his answer was “off the charts” and there was nothing he’d change either (which is awesome – he’s not a picky eater at all, but he is picky about how stuff tastes, quality, and so on.)

All that was on my mind today, aside from when the next time I can make these, is WHY is it possible for me, someone who has been cooking just shy of a year, to make such an awesome Mexican dish at home with no problem, but not able to go anywhere in the Buffalo area to eat enchiladas of this quality and taste? It’s certainly not because there isn’t a demand in Buffalo for a place like that – there absolutely is! I have eaten a fair amount of Mexican food, but this is the first time I’ve had REAL enchiladas. (I don’t even know if this recipe is “authentic” or not and probably shouldn’t be throwing around dangerous words like “real” – but I do know I have never eaten anything in a restaurant in WNY like that before.) Maybe I’ll open a place and the only dish on the menu every night will be these enchiladas!

13 Responses to “Enchiladas”
  1. djjarak says:

    I know what you mean. There used to be some great Mexican restaurants around here. I really miss Don Pablo’s. The food and service were outstanding. A few places have opened up in the area, but they’re terrible and never stay open long. I make a good Mexican dinner at home though. Still, it’s not the same.

    • Luke Copping says:

      Saying that Don Pablo’s makes good or even remotely authentic mexican food is like saying the Olive Garden has the best italian food around. Good riddance to another overpriced theme chain with awful mass produced pre-packaged ingredients.

      • DJ Jarak says:

        By “good” I mean, tasted good. As for authentic, I’d never use that word when it comes to partially Americanized food. I’ve been to a few truly authentic Mexican restaurants in my life but, they were all closed due to the fact that they were being run by illegals. Very sad.

  2. Oh man these look sooooo good. Since moving to WNY from TX I have been having serious Mexican food withdrawals. I make enchiladas at home but nothing that looks as good as these! YUM

    • 29andhungry says:

      I can’t even imagine moving from TX (which I picture having AWESOME Mexican food) to Buffalo (virtually none!). I don’t blame you for going through withdrawal. You should totally try this recipe – I would be curious to see how it stands up to someone who has lived in a place with oodles of Mexican options!

    • Luke Copping says:

      I can attest that these enchiladas were fantastic – taking time with the sauce really gave it a lot of character and depth rather than just the sharp metallic tinge of the canned kind, This were good solid comfort food in the best way. I would have killed for some pork ones but I have tasked Erin with the mission of learning to make Carnitas so that I can get my fix when required.

      Honestly – these were so good we totally forgot about the rice we made to go with them until after we ate – it just sat on the stove untouched.

    • Luke Copping says:

      There are some OK small places around here if you look (though not Austin good)

      We like La Gallera in Niagara Falls – which despite being in a serial killer motel has some pretty good fare (for WNY) and Lloyd taco truck is damn good


      • 29andhungry says:

        Serial killer motel is an understatement. I remember the first time Luke took me there, the conversation was like “oh, let’s go out for Mexican! This place is attached to a motel in Niagara Falls but don’t let that fool you” and upon arriving and seeing that there was a gazebo in the parking lot full of old mattresses…. WELP, what can I say. I mean, I ate there anyway, but still, it sounds so gross. I just remind myself it is the MOTEL that is gross and not the resturant that just HAPPENS to share a parking lot with it!

      • I’ve heard Lloyd’s truck is good- haven’t had one yet. Honestly… the roachier the better sometimes so I may have to check out this serial killer hotel you speak of.:)

  3. Luke Copping says:

    These were awesome but when do I get my Carnitas – I need a pork fix.

    I am also really feeling pakistani / mexican fusion as I really think that pakistani brisket recipe you made would be a killer burrito filling with some paneer and yogurt sauce.

    • 29andhungry says:

      Patience, my dear. You know how I like to research one recipe for the 900 different ways to do it before actually taking the plunge on making it! But soon. I’ll make you pork carnitas and make steak for myself.

  4. Richard says:

    Nice! You might like Alton Brown’s marinade. I’ve used it for Carne Asada based dishes with good success. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/skirt-steak-recipe/index.html

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