Cheese, tortillas and a piquant sauce: I defy anyone to find fault in that combination. Enchiladas, traditionally comprised of seasoned meat or seafood, shredded cheese and baked in the oven in a tomato or tomatillo-based sauce has always been my favorite Tex-Mex dish, but its calorie and fat-laden composition limits its role in my diet to an occasional treat. I’ve often wondered how I could alter the recipe to my advantage, allowing me to eat more of what I like without knocking me out of my current dress size.
Recently I’ve been editing Guiding Stars’ huge recipe database and as I was working my way through the entrees section, I came across a recipe from EatingWell that seemed to fit the bill. Rather than meat, this recipe featured roasted vegetables as the filling and a homemade enchilada sauce that looked promising. The recipe had a couple of faults in my opinion: it used several specialty ingredients that I don’t keep around the house and it looked awfully labor-intensive as well. But worst of all, it contained no cheese whatsoever, and that was a deal-breaker for me. I wasn’t looking for a recipe for roasted veggie tortilla rollups, which this essentially amounted to. No cheese? Not an enchilada.
I prioritized swapping out the specialty ingredients with ones more common because I know that if I have to make a special trip to the store for a recipe, I’m far less likely to make it. In the interest of ease, I altered the assembly of the dish as enchiladas are inherently labor intensive and messy given the process of coating tortillas with sauce, filling, rolling, and transferring them to a baking dish. I chose instead to assemble the dish much like one would a lasagna, layering the tortillas, sauce, and filling in a casserole dish and baking. This small change easily shaved twenty minutes off of the preparation time.
The question of which cheese to use wasn’t a tough one. Your basic shredded cheddar cheese has a nice tang and melts like a dream, and the low-fat (or part-skim) versions perform as well as or better than the full fat version. You’re also spared that unappetizing slick of orange grease over the top of your dish. I will give a word to the wise, though: don’t think for a minute about using the fat-free versions, as the plastic-y, glossy, unmelted shreds will all but ruin your dish…and certainly your day as well.
In terms of vegetables, the roasted bell peppers and onions are sweet but still pleasantly firm and the black beans pack the protein punch I’m always trying to achieve. But the real stand-out in this dish is the portobello mushrooms, whose firm texture satisfies everyone, even the staunchest meat lover. In fact, last week I was the guest chef at a large local high school and this dish was such a hit that a teacher emailed me a request for the recipe on behalf of her students.