This dish combines two wonderful genuinely Mexican foods: stove-top enchiladas and ranchera sauce. The sauce’s pronounced tomato flavor is delicious when served over these cheese-stuffed enchiladas that are cooked in the traditional way in a pan, not baked in the oven.
- 1 dried red chile (guajillo or Anaheim work well for this)
- Hot water for soaking the red chile
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil or pork lard
- 1 small white onion
- 3 pounds (1.3 kilos) ripe red tomatoes
- 1 green bell pepper
- 3 cloves of fresh garlic
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Approximately 1/2 cup cooking oil (for frying the tortillas)
- 8 corn tortillas
- 2 cups shredded or crumbled queso fresco or Monterrey Jack cheese
Prepare the Ingredients: Place the dried red chile in a bowl and cover it with hot water. It may float to the top, and that is okay, as it will still absorb the water. Let it soak for 10-20 minutes.
While the chile pepper is soaking, you can begin preparing the sauce:
Peel and dice the onion.
Prepare the tomatoes by cutting out the stem portion and roughly chopping them.
Cut the stem off of the bell pepper and cut it into quarters lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and discard them. Dice the green bell pepper.
Peel the cloves of garlic and roughly chop them.
When the chile is softened, cut the stem off with a knife or a pair of kitchen scissors. Cut the chile lengthwise to open it up. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and white stringy areas and discard them. Cut the chile into long pieces about ¼-inch across, and then cut the strips into ¼-inch size pieces.
Cook the Sauce: Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil or lard in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Swirl the melted fat around the pan to coat it.
Add the chopped onion and green bell pepper and cook them until they begin to soften, about three minutes.
Add the tomatoes, red chile, garlic, cumin and oregano and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so and adding salt and pepper to taste. Then you will need to cover the pan and keep it over low heat to keep warm while you prepare the tortillas.
Note: If you prefer a smooth version of the sauce, you can use a hand-held stick style blender to blend it in the pan until it is your desired consistency. If using a jar-style blender, let the sauce cool to near room temperature before attempting to blend it. You can then re-heat the sauce over low heat.
Assemble the Enchiladas: Add enough of the remaining cooking oil to a medium-sized frying pan to coat the bottom by about 1/8 inch. Heat the cooking oil over medium high heat.
Tip: You can test when it is hot enough by pinching a tiny crumb of tortilla off and carefully dropping it in the oil. If the crumb sizzles and floats to the top, the oil is too hot. You don't want to fry the tortillas crispy; rather, you want to just lightly cook them. Keep the oil at a steady temperature, avoiding large adjustments in the heat (such as turning it down to low in the middle of cooking.)
Place a tortilla in the hot oil, and cook it for about 10-15 seconds. The oil should be barely sizzling. Flip it over and add 1/4 cup cheese down the center. The cheese will begin to melt. Cook it for about another 10 seconds and remove the tortilla from the pan and place on absorbent paper to absorb some of the oil. Wrap one side over the cheese, and then the other side, so that the cheese is now rolled up inside of the tortilla.
Quickly cook another tortilla and cheese, place it next to the other one on the paper towels to absorb some of the oil, then place both hot tortillas on a serving plate. The cheese will continue to melt in the hot tortillas.
Continue until all tortillas have been cooked, adding more oil as necessary.
Serve your delicious Enchiladas Rancheras: Spoon about 1/2 cup of the sauce over the two cheese-stuffed tortillas and serve immediately.
If you need to make a large batch, keep the cooked cheese-stuffed tortillas in a baking dish in a warm oven (about 200 Fahrenheit / 93 Celsius) for up to 30 minutes.
These enchiladas are great plain or topped with pourable cream, guacamole, and/or a sprinkle of chopped fresh onions and fresh cilantro leaves. Serve alone on the plate on alongside some Mexican Rice and/or beans.