One of the things I love most about Mexican cuisine? How you don't just have one of a good thing but rather a whole slew of very delicious things!
I mean, you don't just have one street taco, you have all sorts of street tacos with all sorts of variations from tortilla to chiles to filling to salsas all across the country. Another "family" of Mexican recipes that have almost as many variations: enchiladas.
Yes, at the most basic, any time a tortilla is dipped in a chile-based salsa you have an enchilada. And like tamales, enchiladas are a seriously historic dish -- it's believed that some variation on enchiladas have been around since Mayan times. But close cousins to the well known enchiladas are a bunch of other recipes where a tortilla gets dipped in goodness though not necessarily a chile sauce.
You can have tortillas soaked in mole that are known as enmoladas; when the tortillas are in a tomato sauce that doesn't have chilis, they're entomatadas; and enfrijoladas when tortillas get dipped in a bean salsa aka a chile-and-spiced flecked bean sauce.
You can find enfrijoladas throughout Mexico but two of the best known styles are the Veracruz-style where they get filled with scrambled eggs and chorizo or these black bean-smothered enchiladas, which you commonly see when you're traveling in the state of Oaxaca. And while you can find these enfrijoladas any time of year, they make a special appearance around Day Of The Dead when many an altar is adorned with a plate of them.
But there is no need to wait until the Fall to make these because they're a great addition to your regular weeknight cooking rotation. They seem like a lot of steps, but, once you get the hange of things, it's quick - I promise!
This recipe is the full deal step-by-step of how to make enfrijoladas. That's to say the beans are cooked from scratch and it adds quite a bit of time to the recipe. But you can make it with canned black beans to speed things up -- just go ahead and start at the "To Make The Bean Salsa" section.
Or you can make the bean salsa a day or two ahead of time then warm it up and pick back up with "To Make The Enfrijoladas" section. Also, if you can't find the dried chiles, you can use a couple of chipotles en adobo or chili powder (about 2 teaspoons) instead.
The recipe was written as is not just because it's more traditional but because I fully believe it is more flavorful this way. That's not to say that every time I make them, they're exactly as written here. I use what I have on hand and adjust as needed.
Speaking of changing it up, just like their cousin enchiladas, enfrijoladas know how to adapt. You can make them with canned beans instead of freshly cooked or make them with pinto beans or refried beans (though with refried beans you'll want to process the rewarmed refried beans in a blender with at least 1 cup of liquid so it becomes thinner).
You can serve enfrijoladas folded in half instead of quarters (though they'll get mushier even faster) and, yes, you can fill them and roll them up as you would with other enchiladas. Also, if you want to make them more of a meal, you could fold in shredded chicken, cooked chorizo, shredded cheese, or scrambled eggs. Though, to be honest, we find the recipe as is to be a complete meal!
For serving, feel free to eat them as is or go all out on the garnishes. I'm partial to garnishing with sliced onions, crumbled queso fresco, drizzled crema, and some fresh parsley or cilantro. Oh, and, though it's not traditional -- it's even more delicious topped with avocado. When it comes to serving, the most important thing is that you serve them immediately because they get drier and mushy as they sit.
or 1 dried avocado leaf
1 for cooking the beans the other 3 thinly sliced
or dried Ancho chiles, or 2 to chipotles en adobo (use 3 if you want it spicy)
or other dried oregano
or 1 sprig fresh epazote
or feta, for garnish
Cook The Dried Black Beans: Place the dried beans in a fine mesh sieve then sort and rinse and remove any debris or broken bits. Place the beans in a bowl and cover by 2 inches of water then set aside in a cool, dry location to soak at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.
Once the beans have soaked, discard the water and rinse them off then transfer to a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring the beans to a boil over high heat then skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low, add one half onion, one garlic clove, and two bay leaves then and simmer. Periodically skim off any additional foam that rises to the surface.
Simmer the beans, partially covered, until they're tender (adding more water as needed to just keep the beans covered), about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The beans are just tender when you blow on the surface of a bean and the skin peels back easily. Also, they should be easy to bite into but not so soft they're mushy. If you're going to use the beans to make the bean sauce (below), discard the onion, garlic clove, bay leaves before proceeding.
Real talk: you don't have to soak the beans overnight -- you can just start cooking them but they will take longer to cook. We like to soak beans because the end result is a superior texture, the beans hold their shape better, and they're easier to digest!
Make The Bean Sauce: When the beans are just tender, prepare the bean sauce. If using the dried chiles, place them in a dry cast iron pan or comal over medium heat and toast until they're fragrant. Place the chiles in hot water and soak for 10 minutes, or until soft. Drain and discard the soaking liquid then use kitchen shears to cut the soaked chile into strips (discard the stem).
Place a small frying pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Dice the remaining half onion and slice the remaining three cloves garlic then add both to the pan with a big pinch of salt. Stir to combine then cook until the onions are soft, at least 5 minutes. If using the avocado leaf, epazote sprig, dried Mexican oregano, add them now. Otherwise, add in the (non-Mexican) dried oregano and the pinch of fennel seeds. Add the onion mixture to the beans and continue cooking until the beans are very tender and the broth has slightly thickened, about another 10 minutes.
Remove the beans from the heat then strain the beans from the cooking liquid and reserve both. Transfer 2 cups of the beans and 2 cups of the bean cooking liquid (reserve the remaining beans and liquid for another use - you can freeze them!) along with the soaked and sliced pasilla chiles or the chipotle peppers, if using, to a food processor or blender. Blend for a long time (1 to 3 minutes) until you have a smooth sauce that resembles hot caramel.
If you're using canned beans, you can start here! Simply place 2 (15 ounce) cans of beans (with the liquid from the can) in a medium saucepan and add the sauteed onion mixture and cook for the last 10 minutes called for in this step. Then add in 2 cups of broth or water when you blend the sauce.
Make The Enfrijoladas: Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Meanwhile, transfer the bean salsa to a medium frying pan, stir in 1 tablespoon of the oil, and just bring to a simmer over low heat. Stir and let cook until the salsa is warmed through and just thickens so slightly that it coats the edges of the pan. Taste and add more salt, as desired then turn off the heat.
Brush the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil on one side of each tortilla and arrange the tortillas in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (it's okay if they overlap slightly). Transfer the tortillas to the oven and bake just until the oil is heated, the tortillas puff slightly, they're warmed through, and they're still pliable -- don't let them get crispy --about 3 to 5 minutes - then remove them from the oven (keep them on the baking sheet while you finish the recipe).
Before you begin to coat the tortillas, gather a serving platter, a set of tongs, and make sure all your garnishes are ready to go becuase you'll want to serve and eat these immediately!
To assemble the Enfrijoladas, use tongs to dip one of the warmed tortilla into the bean mixture and coat it on all sides. Allow any extra bean salsa to drip back into the saucepan, then with the help of a fork or using clean hands, fold the tortilla into quarters and place on a plate. Repeat with all the remaining tortillas.
Traditionally you would fry each tortilla in oil before coating it. We use this method because it's easier, less messy, healthier, quicker, and helps the final tortillas hold their shape a little better!
Serve The Enfrijoladas: Serve them topped as they would in Mexico with raw onion slices and crumbled cheese and a drizzle of crema. Of, if you want to up the ante (like we like to do!), add some fresh cilantro or parsley leaves and some avocado.
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