Eat Well (for Comfort): Tomatillo Enchiladas

...the following is a guest post by my mother. Thanks, mom!
IMG_1308
Tomatillos on tile

Food transports us home quicker than clicking our heels together three times. I have been thinking a lot about comfort food as I prepare for a weekend of family—all of our kids, grandkids, and significant others gathering at our house, which, except at Christmas, doesn’t happen very often. I want to cook the foods that everyone loves…that remind them of home and love and hugs. Every family has these foods. Some are family recipes passed down from previous generations. For me these were roast beef and Yorkshire pudding from my mother’s side and Hungarian chicken, matzo ball soup and nutmeg tea cakes from my father’s side. (Obviously, this was BEFORE I stopped eating meat!) Then there are the new recipes we stumble upon or are given and then cook over and over because everyone loves them so much. These foods create new traditions and, at some point, like a stuffed animal with its eyes loved off, transform into symbols of home and love.

When my son David graduated from college and moved to Boston, I made him a cookbook filled with his favorite recipes from his childhood, all of his “comfort” foods. And now that he is coming home with his girlfriend, Alyssa, for five days, I want to cook some of these foods for the family. Today I baked “Mimi” cookies, my grandmother’s out-of-this-world nutmeg tea cakes (I promise to post this recipe another time). And I am planning to make a recipe that is one of my kids’ favorites, that lights up their eyes when I mention it—one of those new recipes that has become one of our family’s traditional comfort foods.

Living so close to the border, Mexican food has always reminded our family of home, so much so that we created a tradition of greeting our college kids at the airport on their trips home with a fresh and warm burrito, usually devoured by the time we collect their suitcase at the luggage counter. Burritos are delicious, but the Mother of all Mexican Comfort Food in our house is my tomatillo enchiladas. I was given the recipe for tomatillo sauce thirty years ago and I’ve been making these melt-in-your-mouth enchiladas ever since. Tomatillo enchiladas are one of those dishes worth the little extra time it takes to create because they are so amazing. I guess I think of them as “special occasion” comfort food, and there could not be a more special occasion than all of us being together.
At Rachel's senior recital last Fall

To make this recipe less time intensive, I make the sauce a day or two ahead. You can also prepare your fillings ahead of time. The traditional, non-vegetarian fillings are chicken or fresh crab but I recently came up with a spinach filling that is to die for. And, it takes no time putting these together if you get some help with the final assembly. We made these on Saturday after playing in the pool all day, and since all of the fillings and the sauce were made ahead of time, we had dinner ready in 30 minutes, especially since I had such great helpers!
IMG_1370
Try to get the best quality corn tortillas you can get…the thicker the better. We get ours from a tortillerilla where they are made fresh every day. If you can’t find them at your grocery store, you can often get good quality tortillas at farmer’s markets or from Mexican restaurants. If you can’t find fresh tomatillos, you can use canned tomatillos, mostly drained, but they’re not nearly as tasty as the fresh ones. (Find these in the Mexican section of your market). Or next summer, grow your own! They are as easy to grow as tomatoes.

Tomatillo salsa
2-dozen large tomatillos (also called husk tomatoes), more if they are small
water
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 Anaheim or 2 jalapeno chiles, chopped, (depending on how hot you want this)
1 onion, chopped
4 T chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic
1 tsp salt
2 corn tortillas

1. Peel off husks on tomatillos, cover with water, and boil until soft and tender.
IMG_1308
tomatillos with husks
IMG_1315
tomatillos sans husks
IMG_1317
tomatillos boiling until they're soft and tender

2. Drain off half of the liquid.
3. Meanwhile, heat half of the oil in saucepan.
Add chiles and onion and cook until soft but not browned.
4. Mash garlic with salt (with mortar and pestle or wooden handle of your knife).
Add cilantro and garlic to onion mixture.
IMG_1316
5. Cook 5 more minutes.
6. When tomatillos are cooked, blend with immersion blender until smooth. Add onion mixture to the pureed tomatillos and cook another 5 minutes.
IMG_1321
7. Heat the rest of the oil in the pan and fry tortillas briefly on each side, just until soft.
8. Put softened tortillas in blender or food processor with some of the tomatillo sauce and blend until smooth.
IMG_1319
Masa made from softened tortillas blended with a little of the tomatillo water.

9. Pour into salsa and whisk in:
IMG_1323
(to prevent lumps, make sure the “masa” you made from the tortillas isn’t too thick.).

***
Spinach Filling

2 lbs fresh baby spinach leaves (or frozen spinach which has been thawed, drained, and squeezed dry)
2 smashed and chopped garlic clove
2 cups sour cream

1. Cook spinach in a pan with a few drops of water until wilted.
IMG_1324
(Do this in batches and drain in a colander, squeezing out all excess water with your hands. )
2. Chop cooked spinach and add the sour cream and garlic.
3. Stir until smooth.
IMG_1328

***

Enchiladas Verdes (tomatillo enchiladas)

Tomatillo Salsa (see above)
Spinach filling, or filling of your choice
1 ½ lb Jack cheese or queso blanco, grated (or any other semi-soft melting cheese)
2 cans chopped roasted peppers (or freshly roasted Anaheim peppers)
1 chopped onion, cooked until soft and not brown
2-3 T chopped cilantro
About 16 tortillas
Vegetable oil

(If you made the sauce the night before, you'll want to warm it quickly on the stove.)

1. ...Then, put a layer of sauce in the bottom of a large pan.
IMG_1342
IMG_1343
2. Soften tortillas one at a time, in heated vegetable oil by frying a few seconds on each side:
IMG_1336
Use tongs to turn:
IMG_1339
(If your tortillas are thin, you might want to turn with a metal spatula so they don’t tear).
3. Drain on paper towels.
4. Put filling ingredients in bowls.
IMG_1335
Fillings for enchiladas: spinach and sour cream, cheese (jack or queso blanco), onions and cilantro, and roasted peppers.
5. For each enchilada, place on softened tortilla, 1/16th of spinach, onions, cilantro, and peppers.
IMG_1355
IMG_1357
6. Sprinkle generously with cheese and roll, placing seam side down in sauce.
IMG_1363
IMG_1359
IMG_1360
7. Continue until all filling is used.
IMG_1372
IMG_1376
8. Pour more sauce on top and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.
IMG_1381
(Any leftover sauce can be used as salsa).
9. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts, about 20 minutes:
IMG_1383
...Top with sour cream mixed with chopped garlic and cilantro and a side of black beans and polenta for an incredible meal!
IMG_1391
IMG_1388

***
I hope you enjoy this recipe and I look forward to sharing with you some of my family’s other comfort foods in the future. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what foods send you home!

Love,
WWW

42 comments:

Anonymous | 11:10 PM

WWW- THANK YOU! My mouth is watering, but since it's 11pm I'll have to wait until tomorrow to start on this divine meal!

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 11:11 PM

They are seriously the best things ever. Life changing good.

SEC | 12:53 AM

Those looks amazing! How I wish at the moment that I did not live in the UK where there is no hope of getting tomatillos...

SEC | 12:53 AM

Look amazing, that is.

Adriana | 5:20 AM

Oh man, these look delish. I am so on this recipe! Thanks

M.B.Walker | 5:40 AM

sounds unbelievable.

SpillingOutBeautiful | 5:47 AM

Oh my goodness. Craving enchiladas at 7:45 a.m is not normal.

This look absolutely delicious. I can't wait to try them.

My comfort/remind me of home food is Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake). The way my Seesaw (grandfather) made it was so fantastic. The recipe sadly died with him and my family has spent years trying to recreate it with no success.

The smell of cherries will instantly bring me back to the time of my childhood where I spent hours sitting on my Seesaw's lap and listening to his tales of old Germany.

Boston Mamas | 5:56 AM

LOVE this - thank you! We received a pile of tomatillos in our CSA and I had no idea what to do with them!

Marie-Ève | 6:18 AM

Thank you, Rebecca's mom! This looks incredibly good and I always appreciate your recipes (and writing).

Chica | 7:41 AM

Thank you for posting this! I'm gonna have to try these enchiladas. YUM!

Cynthia | 9:34 AM

I grew up in a Mexican family along the Texas-Mexico border and am in agreement that tomatillos are little gifts to the earth. I make enchiladas with salsa verde a lot and am totally going to try it with the spinach.

I want to suggest to readers to try a little queso fresco (added at the end of baking - turn up the heat to crisp the top of it) and then top it with creme fraiche (which is closer to the cream used in Mexico and Central America that is loads better than the sour cream sold in the US). Creme fraiche has a very subtle sweetness and sourness to it that blends well with the queso fresco.

Cynthia | 9:36 AM

Also, nutmeg tea cakes?! Yes, please!

Wendy Woolf | 9:36 AM

Cynthia...thanks for the tips! I will definitely try that next time

Katie | 10:16 AM

Holy cow! I want these right NOW!

brialoves | 10:57 AM

Those look SOOOOO good!!! I hope I can find tomatillos in England.

Jasie VanGesen | 11:06 AM

Your mother is a rock star in the kitchen.

Elizabeth | 1:44 PM

Growing up in California means Mexican food is always a comfort when you've been out of the country. I always crave it after a trip. Yum!

Kristina O'Leary | 3:32 PM

I am really enjoying your mom's food posts! Please keep them coming.

Marcela | 3:51 PM

You have hit home for me with this one. Love that you are highlighting a Latino inspired dish.

Anonymous | 4:13 PM

oh my goodness, they look delicious

Amy | 5:16 PM

YUM. Will be making this recipe.

LindaB | 6:12 PM

Yum! But what really keeps haunting my mind and tastebuds are these nutmeg cakes you speak of. Nutmeg is such an uderappreciated and underutilized spice--I'm always looking for new ways to use it. Please post your recipe soon!!!! heehee, thanks.
My "home" foods are all the makings of a Thanksgiving turkey dinner. When I was away at college and subsisting on cereal for most of my 3 meals/day, all I could think about was my mom's turkey dinners. Whenever I visited home, she always went all out and made it. I would bring my roommates home and was so proud of my mom and her meal. The food and love filled me up until the next time I came home.

The Mommy | 7:19 PM

I will be trying these soon.

Growing up in a Russian/Jewish family, my favorites are a bit different:
Borsht, homemade chicken bullion served over super thin noodles, stuffed cabbage, cottage cheese pancakes. I think I need to call my mommy now. Or get my ass in the kitchen.

Francesca | 12:28 AM

Hi Wendy,

Your recipes and way of cooking is so fun and AMAZING.

I made your Chiles Rellenos tonight for a friend.Best ones by far that I have ever made.

My guest enjoyed helping me stuff them with cheese and roll in flour.

" So great when women cook together" my guest remarked.

xo Sis PS I printed all the recipes you have done so far and ran out of ink.(:Beautiful photos!

Jen | 9:23 AM

I grew up with a non-cooking, totally awesome, Ukranian grandma. While she didn't cook (was too busy looking fab in skinny jeans, red leather boots, and adorable tops), she did make sure I got my fill of homemade Ukrainian goodness. We went each weekend to the Ukranian church in her neighborhood where the Altar Guild sold homemade perohi, cabbage & noodles, kelbasa, and at Easter-paska bread. We'd haul our loot back to her house, fry up some butter and onions, grab two diet cokes and some sour cream, settle on the floor around the coffee table and go to town on the food. Now that she's gone, I have inherited her mother's cookbook and recreate these weekend feasts on my own. The only thing missing is her sass, but I do have my own red leather boots...

Cynthia | 10:14 AM

Wendy, I love your posts!!

avb | 12:40 PM

Next time I come and visit you, I'm making sure you're at your parent's house.

alyssa koomas | 1:01 PM

Yum! Best enchiladas ever! We're making the sauce as we speak since someone helped us sneak some fresh tortillas back to Boston ;) What a great post and what a great lady! xox

Techno Angel | 1:05 PM

I made these last night for my family and although my stepfather and brother don't eat ANYTHING ethnic really, I got them to eat it and they actually loved them! Thanks and keep up the good work! I will definitely make them again but I think I will add some shredded chicken in some of them for the non-vegetarians!

Anonymous | 1:13 PM

People who are preparing/assembling food really should (at the very least) tie their hair back. Wearing a kerchief is better. The thought of long hairs in that tomatillo mess made me queasy. Not that I'd ever eat anything that looks like something that the geese left behind.

Mia | 2:08 PM

This may be repeating other comments, but it's worth it...CAN WE PLEASE REQUEST A GIRL GONE CHILD AND MOM COOKBOOK??? Love all the Eat Well Stuff. My daughter loves the Quinoa now!!!

Alex | 2:16 PM

These look delicious! I'm going to make this for my family.

Kate O'Grady Jewelry | 2:28 PM

YUM!!!!

Chrissy | 3:06 PM

I LOVE WWW posts! She's really inspiring to try different foods.
I just got home from the store will all the ingredients to make this recipe. It will be my first time cooking with tomatillo's! I'm just entering my second trimester, my appetite is finally coming back and I'm frequently craving Mexican food. My husband is going to be so happy I'm finally cooking again!

Nostalgic foods for me are my Mom's pasta sauce, banana nut bread and Thanksgiving dinner food. Being the youngest of 7 children, Thanksgiving was a big production and an exciting time to see siblings that had moved out. I'm actually hosting Thanksgiving at my house this year!

Can't wait for the next WWW installment!

Anonymous | 2:24 PM

I made these last Friday for my friends and they were totally blown away! (Myself included) It gave me a ton of street cred' in the kitchen. =) They ate every last bit, which bummed me out slightly because I was looking forward to leftovers. Thankfully there was a good amount of the tomatillo sauce leftover so I stored it in the freezer to whip up a batch whenever the craving strikes. I was so surprised that it only cost me $20.00 to buy all of the ingredients. (It helped that I was able to get the majority of the stuff at a local Mexican grocery store) Thanks for the killer recipe; I can't wait to try out another one!

Wendy Woolf | 7:50 PM

Thank you, all, for your kind words!! I am having so much fun with this!

Connie S. | 6:39 AM

I made them last night, and oh my goodness. They worked so well! The skillet holding the jalapenos, onion, garlic and cilantro was SO fragrant before we mixed it all together. We made ours with crab (we had never tried seafood in enchiladas before!) and it was a combination that was totally genius. And 20 minutes at 350 was the perfect time and temp to have heavenly melty cheese.

Oh man. This was promptly written down in our book of recipes. I am bummed out that we are entering the midwestern fall, because I have a feeling that tomatillos are going to be more expensive and not as choice as during warmer months. Sigh.

saradickens | 3:04 PM

Thank you! I have been wanting to make enchiladas verdes for a long time, but never found a recipe that sounded worth the time. This definitely was. Mmmm! And I don't even like spinach.

Allison | 5:05 AM

I made 20 batches of the enchilada sauce and froze it. A new favorite recipe. Btw- very easy to grow tomatillos. We grew them in nh!

Anonymous | 4:07 PM

What is the greenish item in the last few pictures of the plated final product?

I see beans(maybe?), enchiladas, and...??

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 4:17 PM

Roasted green beans :)

Amy | 9:35 PM

I made these last night and they were outstanding. Thanks!