A friend and neighbor told me about this very special dish – her favorite at a Mexican restaurant. I knew I could do better. I have a recipe for my fave Chicken Enchilada with Ranchero Sauce, but this Enchilada dish is different. A fresh, tangy Ranchero Sauce over a Three Cheese Enchilada with Braised Pork on the side.
If you’re not familiar with Ranchero, it’s a perky “garden sauce.” A fresh, flavorful tomato and pepper based sauce, generally with a bit of sweet/sour flavor from its hallmark ingredients: a touch of sugar and a dash of vinegar. It can be long simmered, fresh, smooth or chunky. It generally isn’t “hot” and is often used for Huevos Rancheros, Chile Rellanos and Enchiladas.
Ranchero sauce differs from the more common Enchilada sauce, the often seen “Colorado” or Red Sauce, which is generally made by toasting Chile Peppers, blending them and cooking them down to make a thin, smooth sauce.
This recipe has become a go to whenever I have braised or pulled pork left over. Remember last week’s Pulled Pork? I stash away some of that precious pork just for this. It would certainly complicate things if you started from scratch. If you have one of those people who won’t eat leftovers? Don’t let them have any! 🙂
The cheese in this dish is your choice! I like to use an equal amount of Queso Fresco and Mozzarella or Jack with a little bit, say a quarter cup, of sharper cheese, a little shredded Romano or Parmesan. That sounds weird for a Mexican dish, but unless I can find a Mexican cheese at a great price, I’m looking for a balance and texture and taste to compare to some of the greatest cheese enchiladas I’ve had.
Queso Fresco is readily available and might not be too pricey. If it isn’t (and this sounds a little insane, but is easier than you’d think) I make my own, which I did for this recipe. If you don’t want to do that, use a bit of cream cheese or Ricotta. The mozzarella or Jack is masquerading as Asadero, a beautiful Mexican melting cheese, and the Romano or Parmesan? They’re thrown in for a little extra flavor and bite as a substitution for any of the harder, more flavorful Mexican cheeses.
Of course, if you wish to fill these enchiladas with a gooey, oozy Colby or Colby Jack combination, I don’t think the Enchilada police will hunt you down!
Three Cheese Enchiladas with Braised Pork & Ranchero Sauce
- 12 corn tortillas
- 5 ounces of Queso Fresco, plus extra for garnish
- 5 ounces shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 3 to 4 green onions, thinly sliced, save a bit out for garnish
- 1 recipe of Ranchero Sauce (I add a little extra vinegar and a pinch more cayenne for this dish.)
- two to three cups Mexican shredded or pulled pork (left over is fine)
- Oil for the tortillas, enough to come 1/4 inch up skillet
- Sour Cream for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grate and mix cheeses, add green onions, set aside. Heat Ranchero sauce to warm.
Prepare a 9 x 13″ casserole by coating with cooking spray and covering the bottom with about 1/2 cup of sauce.
Heat about a quarter inch of oil over medium high heat in a skillet just large enough to hold tortilla. Test for readiness by dipping an edge of the tortilla in the oil. If small bubbles form around the tortilla, the oil is hot enough. Lay out a large plate to place the tortillas on after their dipping and prior to being rolled. (If there is enough room in the kitchen, it is nice to have an “assembly line” of the oil, the sauce, the large plate and then the casserole.
(see photo, below, on color and texture of tortilla when it should be removed from oil)
Working with six tortillas at a time, and using tongs if possible, lightly fry each tortilla in a skillet with oil (about 1/4 inch deep) until it just begins to crisp and takes on a bit of a golden color, but doesn’t become totally crisp; it shoud be bendable, but the edges firm: place tortilla in oil, immediately turn it over and fry for a few seconds. When the edge begins to firm up and the tortilla shows a few bubbles, turn again and fry for a few seconds more. Tortilla should only have a slight crispness and still be quite flexible.
Immediately lay the tortilla in the skillet with the sauce and turn over, making certain both sides are coated in sauce, without a lot of excess. Remove and lay the tortilla on a plate. Repeat with the next five tortillas, stacking each on top of the previous one. With tongs, gently turn the tortilla stack over. (You will repeat, shortly with the next six, after these are rolled.)
Place a 1/3 cup of cheese filling on the top tortilla in the stack, roll and place in the casserole, seam side down, overlapping slightly. Repeat with the next five tortillas. If tortilla begins to crack, try rolling from a different edge, keeping the crack to the inside of the roll. Repeat process with the next six tortillas.
There should be enough room in the casserole dish for a row of 10 and two tortillas in the space on the side. When pan is filled, cover pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until hot and warmed through. Uncover for five minutes and allow to crisp up a bit if desired.
While enchiladas are baking, warm remaining sauce until hot. Heat the shredded pork and ready your garnishes and sides, if using.
Remove casserole from the oven, place two tortillas and several small piles of shredded pork on each plate. Add a spoonful of Ranchero sauce, garnish with cheese and green onions.
If desired, the Enchiladas may be served Family Style. After the enchiladas are in the casserole dish, pour remaining sauce over the top. Cover as before, baking 15 to 20 minutes, uncover and allow to crisp if desired.
If you wish to use a “melting” cheese, like a Colby, cheddar, Colby Jack or Jack cheese on the top, add it after the enchiladas have cooked for the 15 to 20 minutes, remove the cover and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until cheese is melted.
Note: This recipe would be an event if making everything from scratch – I primarily make it with pork, left over. The Ranchero sauce is easy and quite simple and may be made the same day in about 25 minutes. If you’re planning on making the cheese, do so the day before.
from the kitchen of www.frugalhausfrau.com
Why Cook at Home?
Just for kicks, I visited the restaurant mentioned above; I wanted to make sure my recipe was “spot on” and compare the two. I have to say the restaurant has gone downhill – and the prices have risen! The meal below, with a few chips and salsa included, was barely edible – cost $10.99, 75 cent to go surcharge, and tax equaled $12.56. Plus, I always put a little something in the tip jar, even for to go orders.
I wouldn’t have minded paying good money, but it was awful. The enchilada was filled with a dense, flat disc of cheese, the tortilla soggy, the dish very salty, the guacamole, about a teaspoon was slimy (frozen?) and the lettuce, which I didn’t expect to be at a premium, was the best part. The chips tasted rancid; I expect the oil had not been changed for some time! Note that I was five minutes from home!
So, more reason to cook at home! 🙂 Now I know why this once packed restaurant was empty. Just think, if I were out with 5 friends, this dish would come to $70.63 plus drinks, plus tip. I’m guessing we wouldn’t get out of there for less than a hundred and twenty bucks. Well, the nasty chips would be free.