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The best of New Mexican Cuisine
The flavors you’ll taste in this recipe for Christmas style enchiladas is the best of the best of New Mexican Cuisine. As a native New Mexican, I personally love to introduce people to the true flavors of the southwest, and I enjoy teaching them how to re-create New Mexican Cuisine in their homes in my cookbooks and recipes like the one down below!
The state of New Mexico still remains a largely undiscovered gem hiding in the Southwestern United States, between Arizona and Texas, despite its famously delicious Mexican/Native American cuisine.
Hopefully, more people than ever are discovering “The Land of Enchantment” thanks to a large marketing push from the state’s tourism department over the last few years (I’m talking about you #NewMexicoTrue).
I talk to people all the time who say they’ve driven through New Mexico, but have never spent any time exploring it (other than pulling off the interstate to top off the gas tank). This truly saddens me. New Mexico, despite tourism being the number one money maker for the state, is still largely unknown to the majority of the country.
Where do Christmas Enchiladas come from?
Enchiladas are originally a Mexican dish, and New Mexico was originally, well, part of Mexico. So people have been cooking with tortillas and chile peppers (red=ripe, green=unripe) here for hundreds of years!
Christmas enchiladas come from the rich Mexican heritage of New Mexico and the coincidence of the local chile pepper colors being red and green. These chile sauces have been incorporated together into several local Holiday recipes, including enchiladas.
So, it is common to see enchiladas and other dishes with both red and green chile sauce around the holidays in New Mexico. However, you can eat your enchiladas Christmas style any time of year! How? Read on and I’ll explain.
What do New Mexicans mean by Xmas style?
New Mexican cuisine has one famous question, “Red or Green?”, which refers to the type of chile sauce you’d like with your food. “Christmas” style (or Xmas style) enchiladas doesn’t (usually) refer to the holiday, but instead refers to having both red AND green chile on your entree any time of year.
So if you’d like to try both flavors of chile sauce on your entree, just answer “Christmas” when responding to the red or green question above, and the waitress/waiter will know exactly what you mean :0)
What sauce is normally on enchiladas?
The most common type of sauce used to make enchiladas is a sauce blended from rehydrated red chile peppers, fresh onion, fresh garlic, and herbs. This is traditionally how enchiladas were made for hundreds of years.
Today, folks stateside have taken quite a creative license with enchiladas, smothering them in all-sorts of sauces that I’m sure are delicious, but not authentic. And hey, that’s totally fine. If it tastes good, I’ll eat it!
Many (many) years ago, enchiladas were most often a vegetarian dish, filled with fresh cheese and diced onion. They are still often served this way in Mexico, placed into a tortilla soaked in red chile sauce and gently fried in oil to make it pliable so it will roll up. (And add flavor too!)
What tortillas for enchiladas?
Use Corn tortillas for an authentic Mexican taste. Corn was cultivated and held sacred by ancient native tribes in central America, and they ground it to make their tortillas. Enchiladas were always made with corn tortillas, until the Spanish came and introduced wheat flour.
Today, a lot of people choose to use flour tortillas instead of corn in enchilada recipes because flour tortillas are naturally more pliable (bend without breaking). The inexperienced home cook may try to roll a raw corn tortilla like a flour tortilla, and find it will tear apart when they do so.
Corn tortillas must be cooked in hot oil for a few seconds to add moisture (and flavor) in order for them to become pliable and roll up easily. Personally, I find using corn tortillas just adds a terrific flavor to any enchilada recipe and it is worth the little extra work to use them.
What are Hatch Chile Peppers?
Hatch Chile peppers are world famous for their delicious flavors, produced by the unique climate and soil composition that exists only in the Hatch valley of Southern New Mexico. These factors combine to grow exceptional tasting chile peppers with smoky, sweet and hot flavor notes. More people discover Hatch Chiles each year, and their popularity continues to grow.
Growing up in New Mexico where chile peppers are an integral part of the culture, I know that Hatch chiles have earned a reputation for being the best of the best. I personally only use authentic Hatch in all my cooking because it simply tastes amazing. You should be able to find canned Hatch chile in any supermarket these days, or you can order it directly like I do. Frozen chile is much, much better tasting than canned!
The Hatch Chile Store is the premiere website for ordering your Hatch chile– they are incredibly good at shipping fresh authentic chile right to your door, whatever variety and hotness lever you prefer. It’s where I get all my Hatch Chile, and I must say the flavor really does stand out above any other chile pepper variety.
Head on over now to The Hatch Chile Store to stock up on the most delicious Hatch chile you can buy anywhere- they’ve always got great deals on your favorite products!
How to make New Mexico Style Christmas Enchiladas
I wanted to create an enchilada recipe that would be positively delectable, while showing off the beautiful colors of the red and green Hatch chile sauces that are so central to New Mexican Cuisine.
Other Christmas enchilada recipes will pour red chile down one side, and green down the other. I wanted to incorporate the taste of both chile sauces in every bite. So I cooked my tortillas in red chile, and baked them in green, then smothered them in more cheese. Detailed instructions to follow:
Make your red and green sauces first.
I had a jar of Hatch red chile puree, so I decided I’d just use it and save myself the time of re-hydrating dried chile pods. I just added in a few dried seasonings to the pureed sauce and simmered it for a bit to get the ‘enchilada’ sauce taste. Dried oregano, garlic, onion, cumin and ground coriander, along with a pinch of salt gently simmered into the chile sauce puree was perfect.
I have a freezer stocked with roasted Hatch green chile, so I used it to make my green chile sauce from scratch. I used my famous recipe right here. Once it was cooked, I transfered it to a blender, and blended in more fresh chile and an extra pinch of salt. The taste was outstanding!
Now it’s time to prepare the filling.
I love ground beef enchiladas, but I’m not a fan of raw onion being mixed into my filling. So I saute my onion to a nice golden brown, then stir in my ground beef to cook with the onion. I prepped my cheese by simply crumbling it by hand into a separete bowl.
Preparing the corn tortillas- don’t skip this step
This step is important because it adds flavor, and also keeps them from ripping apart when you roll them up!
Whisk in approximately 1/4 to 1/3 cup water into the red chile sauce to thin it. Dip each tortilla into the sauce, coating both sides, and set aside to soak. Heat up a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet until hot, and quickly fry each red chile-soaked tortilla for about 5 seconds on each side. Lay fried tortillas onto a plate or baking sheet.
Pour approximately 3/4ths of the green chile sauce (about 2-3 cups) into your casserole dish and tip it to completely coat the bottom. Be sure to save some to pour over the tops of the enchiladas as well.
Fill each tortilla with about 3 spoonfuls of ground beef and 2 spoonfuls of crumbled queso fresco, as shown below. I used king sized corn tortillas, which are approximately 6 inches wide.
Roll up each tortilla and place into the baking dish in a nice row.
Once you are out of tortillas or your baking dish is full, (hopefully both!) You’ll pour the rest of the green chile sauce down the center, and cover with shredded cheddar cheese.
Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 25 minutes uncovered, to melt the cheese and heat the enchiladas through.
Once they have cooled for a couple of minutes, garnish your enchiladas however you like. I used slice olives, crispy tortilla strips, chopped tomato, chopped avocado, fresh cilantro leaves, sliced jalapeno, and Mexican crema. I also had some shredded lettuce to add once the enchiladas were on individual serving plates.
These Christmas style enchiladas were absolutely, stunningly, delicious and oh so pretty. I am in love with my new creation. I have to say these really were the best enchiladas I have EVER tasted. Super serious. I hope you love them as much as my family and I did.
You will not be dissapointed!
Did you know I have a full-color cookbook with lots more easy and delicious New Mexican recipes? You can learn more about it here!Print