The Whole Enchilada

Alamo City icons dish on the whole enchilada in acclaimed new cookbook

Alamo City icons dish on the whole enchilada in acclaimed new cookbook

Enchiladas Aztec to Tex-Mex book Cappy Lawton Chris Waters Dunn enchiladas de langosta
Seafood is a huge part of Mexican cuisine, as is evident in dishes like enchiladas de langosta. Photo by Mark Menjivar
Enchiladas Aztec to Tex-Mex book Cappy Lawton Chris Waters Dunn enchiladas del suelo
The recipe for enchiladas del suelo is below. Photo by Chris Waters Dunn
Enchiladas Aztec to Tex-Mex book Cappy Lawton Chris Waters Dunn enchiladas nortenas
Enchiladas norteñas can be found at La Fonda on Main. Photo by Mark Menjivar
Enchiladas Aztec to Tex-Mex book Cappy Lawton Chris Waters Dunn enchiladas de langosta
Enchiladas Aztec to Tex-Mex book Cappy Lawton Chris Waters Dunn enchiladas del suelo
Enchiladas Aztec to Tex-Mex book Cappy Lawton Chris Waters Dunn enchiladas nortenas

There's more to enchiladas than cheese and ranchero sauce. In their new book, Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex, two San Antonians explore Mexico's rich culture through this flavorful pillar of Mexican cuisine.

For authors Cappy Lawton, owner of Cappy's, La Fonda on Main, and Cappycinno's, and Chris Waters Dunn, writing Enchiladas was about more than just testing recipes. The two explored the deep roots of Mexican cuisine and tuned into what Lawton calls "the complexity and depth of culture in the Mexican kitchen."

"[The book] explains the history of Mexico, and in a lot of ways, the history of food," says Lawton. "The people of Mexico just absorbed all of those cultural influences and added it to their cuisine. You can look at enchilada and see the history of Mexico on a plate," echoes Dunn.

To illustrate that rich history, Enchiladas is filled with detailed descriptions, authentic recipes, and stunning photography. The book also highlights techniques and ingredients, covering everything from tortilla-making basics to the evolution of corn agriculture. 

More than 200 recipes from across Mexico were personally tested, which the duo whittled down to 63.

Inside the book, you'll find one of Lawton's favorite recipes, the enfrijolada, a comfort food staple that is both simple and elegant. For Dunn, enchiladas del suelo is a standout representation of Mexican cuisine. "I think it's a really illustrated recipe of the wonderful balance of interior Mexican food of a tiny bit of meat, or no meat at all, with a ton of beautiful vegetables."

In just four short months since its release, Enchiladas is on the shortlist for the 2016 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. The book can be found at local stores, or you can purchase a signed copy online.

Lawton and Dunn will be at the San Antonio Book Festival Saturday, April 2 to talk recipes, Mexican history, and (of course) enchiladas. Ahead of their appearance, get a taste of what's inside Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex with this recipe. 

Enchiladas del Suelo 
Yields 12 enchiladas

Ingredients

For the sauce:
3 ancho chilies, cleaned, destemmed, deseeded, and dry roasted
1⁄4 cup white onion, chopped
1 medium clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
Sea salt to taste

For the filling:
10 ounces chorizo
6 green onions, some green part included, thinly sliced
1 cup tomatoes, peeled, deseeded, and diced
3⁄4 cup queso fresco, crumbled

For the assembly:
12 corn tortillas
Vegetable oil as needed for softening tortillas

For the garnish:
Avocado slices
Lime juice, to sprinkle on avocados
3⁄4 cup crema Mexicana
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
6 radishes, sliced into rounds
Shredded romaine lettuce
1⁄2 cup queso fresco, crumbled
Cebolla encurtida (recipe in book)

Preparation

Start with the sauce:

  • Place the ancho chilies in a small pan over medium heat, cover with water, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until softened.
  • Place the chilies, onion, and garlic in a blender and process to a puree, adding water as needed to achieve a medium sauce consistency. Pass through a medium mesh strainer and set aside.
  • Place 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • When hot, add the chili puree and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly. Add vinegar and salt to taste. Add water as needed to attain a medium sauce consistency.
  • Cover, set aside, and keep warm.

Prepare the filling:

  • Place a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
  • When the skillet is hot, remove the casing from the chorizo, and add it to the pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
  • Cook until crisply browned. Cover, set aside, and keep warm.
  • Mix the green onion, tomatoes, and queso fresco together and set aside.

Assemble the enchiladas:

  • Sprinkle avocado slices with lime juice to prevent browning.
  • Have remaining garnishes ready and at hand.
  • Pour oil to a depth of 1⁄2 inch in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Heat to low frying temperature, about 300 degrees.
  • Place each tortilla in the oil and fry for a few seconds, just long enough to soften. Drain on paper towels.
  • Dip a softened tortilla in the warm sauce.
  • Fill the lower half with 2 tablespoons chorizo and a generous amount of green onion, tomato, and cheese mixture. Fold in half and place on warm individual plate, 3 enchiladas per serving.
  • When the enchiladas have been plated, garnish with crema Mexicana, cucumber, avocado slices, radish, cebolla encurtida, and queso fresco.

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