Monday, November 22, 2010

Cheese & Onion Enchiladas with Tex-Mex Chili Gravy

Don't let my platinum blonde hair color fool you (Spare me the quips on blonde jokes, please. I used to tell them, and now I am a blonde! )  As a young kid (see below) was born with thick black hair, that turned light golden. As I began to mature, my hair turned the shade of my father's dark brunette. In my early 20's, grey hairs began to reveal themselves startlingly early.  My mother's German DNA was beginning to take over my father's Mexican DNA.  Pardon the pun, but I do have Hispanic roots.

 Dad, Mom, Me (check out the German Dirndl), Alan (nice Lederhosen, eh?) and Fred

While my dad was stationed in Austria, he met the woman who would become his wife, and mother to his children.   My late father was born in Oxnard California. His father came from Spain, and married a woman of California-Indian descent.  I'm still searching for my ancestry, but haven't discovered a lot about my Great-Grandmother.  Dad's mom (my "Nana") passed away when I was in elementary school, and we didn't visit her often.  (I suspect that the Mother-In-law & Daughter-In-Law wasn't the most loving.) However, I can vividly remember how she made homemade tortillas and refried beans.  To this day, I cannot eat refried beans without flour tortillas. It's blasphemy!  I'm thankful that Nana taught her daughter-in-law (that would be my "Mutti") how to make Beef Enchiladas that are out-of-this world good.  I can make them, from memory, and they have become infamous among my family and lifelong friends as "DA's Enchiladas"...and, if I do say so myself, they are addicting!

So, I got to thinking-- why is it that I don't share more of the Mexican recipes that I have been making for decades?  Mexican cooking has become so much of my cooking repertoire that I've never thought to create a recipe with measurements.  As soon as the holidays slow down, I will start to do that.


Chili Gravy is an entirely new discovery for me.  I don't like canned Enchilada sauce.  I never have, and I make my own (yes, I'll post it). I bookmarked this recipe a while ago, when  I saw on a blog that I have been following for quite some time, called "Eating Etc."    I love Cheese & Onion Enchiladas, and I've been known to order this at a local Mexican take-out restaurant.  After reading her recipe, I soon realized that I could make this very easily, because I have all of these recipes on hand.   I decided to do a little research on Chili Gravy, and this is what I found:

Chili gravy” (or “chile gravy") has been called the soul of Tex-Mex. It’s popularly served with enchiladas (and is sometimes called “enchilada sauce"), but is served with tamales and other dishes as well. The brown gravy with Mexican spices has been described as neither truly American nor Mexican. Chili gravy is said to have been invented by Anglo-owned Mexican restaurants, such as those in San Antonio.
“Chili gravy” is cited in print from at least the 1890s. “Chili gravy” was sold in cans by the early 1900s. 
-Source: The Big Apple
DISCLAIMER: The few times that my California feet have touched Texas soil is making a flight connection through Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport.  Decades ago, I drove through Texas on a endless long car journey from Florida to California. We never stopped there to eat, as we were headed to Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Therefore, I have not experience true and authentic Tex-Mex.  There appear to be many different versions to making Chili Gravy. With that said, I'm sharing this particular recipe with you, because I loved so many things about the recipe. First, the chili gravy is very fast to make:

While I prefer using fresh herbs and garlic, I do keep an ample supply of dried spices and herbs. You need, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, chili powder, salt & pepper. Odds are (if you love Mexican food) you have these on hand.  Begin with heating oil in a medium skillet (or a pot) over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and continue stirring for 3-4 minutes, or until it makes a light brown roux.


Add remaining the spices  ingredients and continue to cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring and blending ingredients.

This step is important, because "blooming" the spices really brings out the flavors. Trust me.



Add chicken broth, mixing and stirring until the sauce thickens.  Turn heat to low and let sauce simmer for 15 minutes. May add water chicken broth to adjust thickness, if necessary.  NOTE: I added more chicken broth, as this gravy becomes surprisingly thick.  See what I mean?
I present to you Chili Gravy in 20 minutes. Amen.

VERDICT:  I think I've discovered one of Tex-Mex's best kept secrets. I really need to travel to the Southwest (or is it Southeast?) more often.  This chili gravy is liquid gold, I tell ya!  I'm used to a tomato-based enchiladas sauce, but this gravy has a smoky flavor of cumin that comes through. The chili powder doesn't overpower the flavor one bit. The ratios are perfect, to me, keeping in mind this is my first (and not last) venture into making this Tex-Mex sauce.  I can already imagine the possibilities... where was I? Roll up your sleeves, I'm about to take you one more level into cheesy goodness. Grab your Lipitor, because we're kicking up the flavors a few pounds notches:

Ask your husband to  Grate cheese. Lots of it.  I used a blend of medium and sharp cheddar. Mince some onion.  NOTE:  I rarely buy pre-grated cheese.  Did you know that you can often find corn starch and additives so that the cheese doesn't clump?  Just sayin'...

Pour 1 to 2 teaspoons oil in a small or medium skillet and heat tortillas, one at a time, on each side. Layer on plate and cover with paper towels (blot them) until all are heated.  NOTE: We're not making taco shells, so you don't need a LOT of oil, and you aren't trying to deep-fry them. We're just softening them a bit.
TIP: I've been known to quickly wet corn tortillas and to steam them in the microwave.  Pour about 1/2 cup  sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish or 7x9 dish.


Add some cheese and chopped onion.  (Yes, you can use beef, chicken, tofu, whatever sounds good to you.)

 Here we go...That's right...cover the enchiladas with this tasty chili gravy

.
We're not finished yet! We need more cheese...and more onion.

I made a smaller casserole and used some pre-shredded cheese blend that I buy at Trader Joe's. What? Didn't I just denounce the virtues of pre-shredded cheese?  Okay, I do buy these for pure convenience and I wanted to compare the results. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.  The oven should be preheated to 450F. Bake until bubbly. In my oven, that took about 20 minutes. Oh, look!

Our kitchen smelled like a local cantina.  Corn tortillas and sauce... Mmmmm.

Rather than serving beans and rice, I did make a healthy Honey-Lime vinaigrette with a fresh Spring Mix and some grated Cotija cheese.  I'll have to recreate that dressing, as it was worthy of guiltless second helpings.

 ...though I have to say that a side of beans and rice would be quite lovely. 

My husband and I each ate two three, Forgive help us.  

VERDICT: Excellent!  Easy.  Perfect make-ahead meal to put together on a busy work night.  Make double...triple the chili sauce. Freeze it. Can it. Sell it!  So, um the next morning day I had some chili gravy left over...

...and I made three more enchiladas and added some sliced black olives.  I can clearly see the difference in using pre-grated cheese, though. It baked a lot drier and browned more.  Minor details, though.  

...but it tasted just a delicious. Maybe even more.

I think the chili gravy could easily be adapted for a vegetarian, by substituting vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.  I have my sights set on slathering scrambled eggs with this gravy.  I have visions of a breakfast-style casserole with tortilla chips, and cheese and.... well, I'm listening. Any other suggestions?


I have posted a printable recipe for the enchiladas and the chili gravy.  If you try this, and I hope that you do, you will never have to order this at a restaurant. It's that good!







Pin It

48 comments:

Kate said...

Oh Debby....heaven! I am sorry you have been ill but your study of what to cook is perfect. I am so excited to try it.

Frieda said...

Debby, I'm like you, once I discovered how to make my own enchilada sauce, I never looked back. This Tex-Mex version looks SO good! Pssst...once you make your own corn tortillas, you'll be in heaven!

FOODalogue said...

Your family story was so interesting and that Mex chili gravy really entices. It looks so rich and so much more interesting the standard tomato based ones.

Kimberly Peterson said...

OMG.. *drool* this looks amazingly tasty!!! Look at all that cheesy goodness.. yummmmm!

Big Dude said...

They look outstanding and all of the mexican restaurants around here use the brown chili gravy for some dishes, but I never knew how to make it or even how to find it, so thank you, thank, thank you. I'm looking forward to you posting the family recipes and think one a week would be about right - we love tex-mex.

Stacey Snacks said...

Deb,
I always love your old family photographs!
Happy Thanksgiving my friend!
xxoo

Suzanne aka vivisue said...

This looks like heaven and I can smell it simmering in my kitchen as we speak. I have got to try this recipe. I do, however, make my own as well. My MM taught me. It's one of his specialties and special it is! This sounds a LOT like what I make. No tomato sauce! The story of your family is wonderful. I think we are sisters from another mother (and father, too - but who's counting). Mexican food is a large part of our meals. Nothing like it!

Joanne said...

I am sooo glad that you are going to share your Mexican recipes! Mexican food is so outside my realm of experience but I love the flavors. This chili gravy sounds downright dreamy. I'm in love.

LadyJayPee said...

I'm glad you enjoyed these, and I loved reading about your family history. You made me change my mind about what I was going to make for dinner tonight, and I'm switching to these. I already searched your blog to see if you'd posted your beef enchiladas here, so I am REALLY looking forward to your Mexican recipes, including your enchilada sauce (I don't like canned either).

THE OLD GEEZER said...

I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to.

God Bless You :-)

~Ron

Faith said...

you are my own personal HERO today. Serious. Not even kidding. I was raised in Texas and grew up on chili gravy and today I was feeling sorry for myself and homesick because I dont get to be with my family on Thanksgiving...but now, (and I mean right now!) I get to have a little bit of home by making chili gravy! Thanks!

Bridgett said...

I am happy that you are sharing this amazing recipe with us. This is better than any mexican take out. I will definitely be trying this one. Incredible and right up my alley.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Ok, I'll take your word for it that the chili gravy is second to none. I'll try it for the day before Thanksgiving when I am doing a traditional California-Mex-feast.

My Nonie used to make her own tortillas and it was like watching her hands dance. Then, the ultimate, the hot tortilla off the griddle. Ahhh, good memories.

Thanks for this and for your funny comment about your endless trip across Texas. Dang it is BIG. I drive back and forth to Maine twice a year and Texas is our major day of travel. Sooo big, but I love it when we can dip down to Austin, which is a fabulous town, and I love it when we go to the Hill Country.

All Thanksgiving joys to you,

Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

Amber said...

You made me so hungry and I should be getting ready for bed! These look awesome and I love your pictures!

Faith said...

oh I just had to come back and say...
its so good! :) We just finished cheese and onion for me and chicken for my husband. This recipe is perfection!

A Feast for the Eyes said...

Faith, thanks for letting me know. These are easy to make, aren't they? Oh, they are addicting, too! So glad you enjoyed them.

Monica H said...

OOh weee! That looks good! How did you know that cheese enchiladas with chili gravy and onions are Mr. H's favorite meal (desides steak!)? I like mine without onions, btw.

As a Texan I must make this for scientific purposes, of course. I need to compare to see if it's really authentic with what I know :-)

Two things: You are SUPER cute as a kiddo and that picture of the spices is beautiful!

Thanks for unofficially dedicating this to me. I appreciate it, hon!

Did you remember to take your antacids? ha ha!

Holly said...

Ahhh! I'm excited for your Mexican recipes!! This looks excellent I've never tried making my own enchilada sauce!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

How nice to learn more about your family history - and thanks for sharing a beautiful dish that represents your culinary roots.

From the Kitchen said...

When I hear those "dumb blonde" jokes, I know that I'm neither--although my dark auburn locks are now champagne blond!

My ancestry is English and Scotch but I do love Mexican and I'd like to take a fork to your enchiladas right now!

Read about your car woes on FB. I have been the victim of the same mishap more times than I care to admit!! Hope you are back up and running!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Best,
Bonnie

Pam said...

Bookmarked! I can't wait to make this sauce and these enchiladas... they look amazing.

Allie said...

Is it crazy that I have never thought to make my own enchilada sauce?! Props to Lady JP for this amazing creation and to you for letting us enjoy the experience of making it. I am a huge fan of Mexican food!

roz said...

Boy is this Mexican food heaven! We eat it once a week to satisfy hubby. I love the entire recipe! Your family photo is darling Deb! Have a happy Thanksgiving too!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I am so glad other people like to make enchilada sauce. The first time I made enchiladas I found recipe after recipe made with bottled sauce. I wondered if the sauce was that difficult to make that no one made their own. Looking at ingredient lists, I'd say no, so I devised a recipe of my own.

I want to try that chili gravy though. Looks so rich and delicious and I could see it over a number of things.

Holly said...

I tried these last night. Delicious!! I did add leftover refried beans to a couple and they were fabulous - but the cheese and onions were a perfect combo!

michelangelo in the kitchen said...

Enchiladas are popular for parties. But your recipe is for sure going to be famous! Got to try this, Pronto! Delicious!!!

Donna-FFW said...

Happy Thanksgiving !!

bellini valli said...

I am glad you are sharing these tried and true recipes with us Debby. To get authentic Mexican food, or anything close, we have to travel from BC across the Canadian border and into the States.It is funny how we feel the comfort foods or everyday fare we grew up with are not what our readers want but that is far from the reality. I am hungry for more:D

Tina G said...

Wow..this looks and sounds so good! I love your recipes! Thank you for sharing! You have a new follower!

Eileen said...

I made these enchiladas a few days after I saw them on your blog. They looked mouth watering delicious and I knew I had to try them. I usually order enchiladas when I go to a Mexican restaraunt. These turned out to be delicious! I added a little chicken as well and used a mix of cheddar and velveeta cheese. They were so yummy and cheesy and the gravy was perfect. Thanks for the great recipes and pictures!

Anonymous said...

Please oh please may we have your beef enchilada recipe?! And honey-lime vinaigrette? And more Mexican recipes?! =)

A Feast for the Eyes said...

Dear "Anonymous",
I need to post it very soon. I've been ill, so haven't been able to do much in the kitchen. I was craving Mexican food and went to a restaurant. The food was so bad, that I MUST get busy and show how it's done. I promise, I will do that. For the vinaigrette, I used equal parts honey & fresh squeezed lime, salt & pepper and drizzled olive oil (3 parts oil to one part honey and lime). It's very simple and adjust seasonings to your liking.

cajunlicious said...

My mouth is watering! Yum! Just came across your wonderful blog and am a new follower!!!
- Jessica
http://cajunlicious.blogspot.com

Jessica said...

I made these on Friday - a little too much chili powder, I think - but otherwise, DELISH!

I used to live in Switzerland and Germany, so I'm really glad to have found your blog (searched for a meatloaf recipe!). Can't wait to try some of your German dishes.

Thanks for a great site! ;)

Trey Moran said...

This is the gold standard recipe for the basic chili gravy. I just made 3 doz cheese & onion and 3 doz shredded brisket both with this recipe. Mine comes from the Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh. Great book to have if you don't already. You can adapt this to a very very good hot dog/nacho sauce. Add some ground beef, onions & jalapenos and your are good to go.

http://texasfoodmyway.blogspot.com/

Illoura said...

I have yet to try this delish looking sauce, but wanted to add one tiny suggestion (as you prompted)... lots of chopped cilantro over the top! Or at least in the salad? With a honey-chili-lime vinaigrette? With slivers of calorie-free jicama perhaps?
Still, I'm adding this to the weeks menu and will be anxious to get to the store *unlike usual....
Thanks so much for sharing!

Super Bloomers said...

I've been reading your blog for quite some time and finally decided to dive in with this recipe. The gravy was thick and had a gorgeous color. The enchiladas looked exactly like the picture. Very easy to make too. Both my mom and I were really excited to try it. However, it was EXTREMELY bitter! We were very disappointed. Could we have done something wrong?

A Feast for the Eyes said...

I'm not sure about it tasting bitter. It's possible that the chili powder ratio might have been too much for your personal taste. Also, cumin can leave a bitter flavor to some palates. If you make this again, try cutting back on the chili powder and the cumin-- especially the cumin. You can always add more. Taste the sauce, first, and see if it agrees with you more. I'm so sorry it turned out tasting bitter to you. I've made this a few times, without that reaction. I'm leaning towards the cumin...that can be an acquired taste. Thanks for letting me know.

LauraTX said...

First time on your blog...nice recipes and wowser photos!

Tex-Mex Enchilada Gravy...this is the real deal! I've been making and eating these my whole life. My ingredient list is the same, but the ratios I use are slightly different. Tweak the ratios to find a good balance for your taste. As a child growing up in San Antonio, all of the students and teachers (and parents too!) looked forward to cheese enchiladas with chili gravy for lunch in the school cafeteria on Wednesdays! To this day, it's my go-to comfort food...quick, easy and muy delicioso!

As for Super Bloomer's experience with the gravy being bitter. I've experienced that too, occasionally. The garlic powder in the spice mixture burns very quickly and easily when added. Burned garlic is extremely bitter! I find it takes only a few seconds to toast the spices in the pan before adding the liquid. Hope this helps!

Laura :)

A Feast for the Eyes said...

Laura, thank you for your tips and compliment!

Erin said...

Love this blog - I'll be making the enchilada gravy this weekend and have bookmarked your APricot Rahm Kuchen. Looking forward to exploring more - thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

So happy I found this blog posting. I just recently transitioned to eating meat-free and I have found myself eating a lot of Mexican and Tex Mex. Cheese n Onion enchiladas are a favorite that I wanted to recreate at home. I am soo soo glad I made your chili sauce instead of going with the prepackaged tomato-based sauce. It was a HIT in my home. Perfect. The only change I made was to use a block of colby jack and a package of preshredded "mexican" blend. I paired them with a corn salad with honey lime vinaigrette. Five stars!! Thanks for sharing!

kpsays said...

Holy Cow! Made these tonight, and they were the BEST ever! We don't have good Mexican let alone Tex-Mex in my town. These are a godsend! Gonna make that yummy sauce in batches and freeze. THANK YOU so much for sharing!

The Budget Diet said...

This Texan Can't wait to try these! Enchilada sauce is ridiculously priced!

Anonymous said...

Loved This Gravy!!!!! Tasted cooked instead of tinny like out of the can. Gonna cut back a tad on the salt next time but....Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Do you think this would be a good sauce to make Mexican Pork Chili?

Debby Foodiewife said...

I love this simple sauce, but I don't think I would use this for Mexican pork chili-- my personal opinion. :0

Speechlesstx said...

Thank you, thank you. Finally, my favorite enchilada sauce in my home and so easy to make. Delicious.