Friday, January 20, 2012

The Mexican Test


While we were in Palm Desert for New Years the "check engine" light went on in my car.  Makes sense, it'd been a full 2 weeks since something was wrong with one of our cars.  We brought it in for repair, which happened to be in a part of town near where I worked several years ago.  While we waited to pick up my car I dragged Thatboy over to my old lunch spot.  
If there's one thing San Diego is not lacking in, it's Mexican restaurants.  But not all restaurants are created equal.  Inevitably it's the little hole in the walls that are the best.  This one doesn't even have a name on the outside.  But it's delicious.  As I got my typical pastor burrito, Thatboy ordered the chicken enchiladas.

"Enchiladas?  Really?  I'm surprised."  Which is when he informed me that he always orders enchiladas at a new Mexican place - to test and see if the place is any good.  It's amazing that after almost 12 years you can still learn something new about someone.  

Personally, I think that's a weird test food.  Firstly, because enchiladas aren't all that difficult a dish to prepare.  Secondly (and this is related to the first), I can make enchiladas at home.  And I do.  All you have to do is make a sauce, toss together a filling, roll, and pour.  And now that I have an all time favorite sauce, making enchiladas are even easier (and tastier).  To switch it up from the chicken we recently had, I made these enchiladas vegetarian.  Mashed black beans need little accoutrement other than heating.

It's hard to mess up enchiladas - but you go ahead and test out this theory yourself.

Black Bean Enchiladas
2 medium onions, chopped fine
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped fine
2 tsp canola oil
6 medium cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp sugar
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 large beefsteak tomato, seeded and chopped
1 can black beans, drained, rinsed and mashed
½ cup minced fresh cilantro
¼ can diced green chiles
Salt and pepper
12 corn tortillas
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 450. Combine half the onion, jalapeno, and half the oil in a large saucepan.
  2. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions and peppers have softened, 8-10 minutes.
  3. Stir in half the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar, and cook until fragrant, less than 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in the tomato sauce, water, and chopped tomato. Bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, 5 minutes.
  5. Strain the sauce through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing the onion mixture to extract as much liquid as possible.
  6. Heat remaining oil to a large skillet. Add the remaining onion and cook until translucent.
  7. Stir in the remaining garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  8. Stir in the black beans and cook until warmed through.
  9. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the sauce, cilantro, and canned chiles.
  10. Heat the corn tortillas until pliable (I use the burners on my gas stove for this - gives them a nice char too!)
  11. Divide filling between the tortillas, roll, and place in a 9x13 baking dish.
  12. Pour remaining sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese. Cover and bake 2o minutes.
  13. Remove cover and bake an additional 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly.


  1. I think similarly when I am out. I like to order something I don't make. I don't enchiladas often, but these sound pretty down delish! I love that they're vegetarian. :)

    ~Chris (

  2. I'm totally in agreement with you...I'll actually never order enchiladas again because I can make them at home! I love that mashed black bean filling...totally doing that with my next batch.

  3. I will eat as many enchiladas as possible to check out ThatBoys theory:D

  4. I know a few people who could easily mess up enchiladas (smile). The best Mexican food I ever experienced was tamales roadside in Northern California. They were amazing-inexpensive too.

    I hope you cars have been cooperating more lately-it sucks when they don't.

    Hope all i swell.

  5. I miss SD Mexican food. Yum yum yum. My husband loves enchiladas and I actually suck at making them. I can't wait to try these. Love the veggie alternative. My kids love black beans.

  6. I must pick up some corn tortillas. I think, we would enjoy a change of pace.

    You have put a lot of work into this blog. I like your cast of characters.