One of the best things about coming back to the States before we head off to Scotland is getting plenty of Mexican food. Growing up in the Southwestern US made it easy to take Mexican food for granted. I grew up eating some form several times a week. No joke. So when we ended up in Europe last Fall, I missed it.
In France there was none to be had. Then I visited my brother in Switzerland and we went to this fun little underground Taco’s Bar. Yes, with an apostrophe s. We ordered nachos to start and what they brought us was cheese powder coated tortilla chips and guacamole. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it made me doubt their authenticity. For my entree I stuck with food from the European continent and ordered steak tartare.
In Ireland we started to have access to more realistic Mexican food again. Every Friday at the farmer’s market in Clonakilty there was a stand selling burrito bowls, quesadillas and burritos very similar in style to Chipotle. Their burritos were delicious. Full of carne asada and great salsa, they really hit the spot. But I still missed my Dad’s enchiladas.
I grew up vegetarian, and the base combos so prevalent in Mexican style cooking lend themselves to great vegetarian meals. While today I can really appreciate a good steak fajita, lingua burrito or tacos al pastor, I still prefer my enchiladas vegetarian.
The ultimate in comfort food in my house growing up was my Dad’s enchiladas. He makes them with mushrooms and an intensely flavorful red sauce.
The secret is in the sauce. In fact, when I order enchiladas anywhere else I stick to the green or sour cream sauces. No one else makes red sauce that even compares.
Unlike other recipes with their thin watery and flavorless sauce, this recipe uses a full half cup of chili powder.
Don’t be scared, though. The chili powder sold in the US is flavorful, but mild, and the cheese goes a long way to chillin’ these babies out. I like to use pepper jack for extra kick, but if you are nervous, just substitute regular jack or cheddar or a combo of the two. The last time I made these, I used half local pepper jack cheese with extra peppers, and half garlic pepper cheddar. It was fabuloso!
Mushroom Enchiladas with Pepper Jack
Feeds a crowd.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 of a large onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
32 oz. tomato sauce
1/2-cup chili powder
1/4-cup natural peanut butter or other nut butter
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. salt
- In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally until onion begins to soften.
- Add tomato sauce, chili powder and cumin to the pan, and mix thoroughly. Turn heat to low. The chili powder blends available in the US are very mild, but the same ‘chili powder’ blend in Ireland was quite spicy, so please test the heat of your spices if making this recipe outside the United States.
- Add peanut or other nut butter to sauce to pan. As the nut butter warms and melts, stir to combine. Stir in salt and cover to let sauce simmer on low for at least 30 minutes to let flavors mingle. Make sure to cover the pan while it simmers! Enchilada sauce bubbles up like magma, popping molten sauce grenades. It isn’t pretty.
- After simmering, stir sauce and then let the sauce cool a bit for easier handling before assembling the enchiladas. The sauce can also be made further ahead of time, if desired.
For Assembling Enchiladas
1 to 1 1/2 pounds pepper jack cheese
8 to10 large mushrooms
2 or 3 Tbsp. olive oil
White corn tortillas, about 15-30
- Grate cheese and set aside.
- Brush mushrooms clean and grate into fine shreds using a cheese-grater or the grater attachment of a food processor.
- In a flat pan over medium heat warm tortillas in a small amount of olive oil, flipping once, until tortillas are warm and soft but not crisp. Repeat for the number of tortillas you are using. Place tortillas on a plate lined with a paper towel and let cool slightly.
- In a casserole dish, assemble the enchiladas by scooping about a tablespoon of sauce in a line along the center of a tortilla.
- Add about a tablespoon each of shredded mushroom and cheese filling then fold tortilla over filling with seam side down to keep from unrolling.
- Repeat until bottom of baking dish is completely covered.
- Top with a thick layer of sauce and shredded cheese.
- About 14 enchiladas fill a 9”x12” baking pan. This recipe makes enough to freeze some or to feed a crowd. After the first pan full, I keep assembling until my mushrooms, cheese or sauce is gone. Keep in mind you need to set aside enough sauce and cheese to top the enchiladas you fill.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly, and enjoy hot with Mexican rice and beans or a salad.