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Arts and Culture

Bread And Butter: Egg Enchiladas

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Over the past several pieces I’ve written for this program, I’ve mentioned egg enchiladas several times. Every time I do, I inevitably get questions. And along with the questions, I get requests to do a Bread and Butter deep dive on the topic. I’ve put it off, not knowing if I could write 800 words about something so simple, but here we are.

Egg enchiladas are possibly the most quintessential New Mexican food. New Mexican food is different than Mexican food and definitely different than Tex-Mex. It’s a food culture all its own. I am a multi-generational native New Mexican. The culture and the food are deep in my blood.

Egg enchiladas, or stacked enchiladas, or traditional New Mexican stacked egg enchiladas are very simple. Someone in college (in the dinosaur age pre-or just emerging internet) asked me to write down the recipe and I know I stared at them for far longer than is comfortable because a recipe? There usually isn’t one. It’s a dish that people are seemingly born knowing how to make. Now, when asked for a recipe, I rattle on for far longer than necessary. I tell them what we call them, why, how my family personally makes them and then search for a recipe that is sort of close to what I’ve rambled and hope they can decipher and marry the craziness together. Usually, there are questions. Often there are questions. Ok, nearly every time? There are questions. So I’ll try to generally answer a few, here. 

First of all, the enchiladas usually have an appearance only a mother could love. Or, at least a person who knows what deliciousness they are about to get, could love. It’s all a bit messy. Second, it involves plopping a fried egg (over easy at most!) right on top. Third, it’s a red enchilada. Don’t let anyone on the internet try to fool you and tell you that green sauce is ok. It is not. I’ve heard of some rogue entities making them green, but that’s usually in Texas and, again, this is not a Tex-Mex dish. Same with places putting meat in these. Meat does not go in egg enchiladas, even with as much of a carnivore I am!

The ingredients list is short and straightforward. Corn tortillas plus oil to fry them in (we use bacon grease in our house, olive oil will do in a pinch, however). Red chile enchilada sauce, which we’ll get back to, chopped onions, shredded cheese (Colby longhorn is a personal favorite) and eggs. That’s it. The entire list. Not too difficult and, in my house at least, we always have all of the ingredients on hand which allows for egg enchiladas as a quick dinner any time.

Now here’s where my instructions start to fall apart. Assembling is easy. Describing how to assemble, however, is another story completely. The first thing you do is fry your tortillas, one at a time. After each is fried, you dip them into the red chile enchilada sauce. My family uses a mixture of canned hot red enchilada sauce and regular tomato sauce. Most homes made their sauces from scratch (and oh, I envy those with a good scratch sauce down pat!). Or you can buy a variety of red enchilada sauces from a can. There is one brand born of southwest New Mexico that I swear by, but, well, you do what you need to do, here. After you dip the fried tortilla in the sauce (make sure you coat it completely!), place it flat on a dinner plate. Add chopped onion and shredded cheese. Repeat the layers as you like. We tend to stop at two or three tortillas stacked, here. Now you should have a plate with tortilla, fried and drenched in sauce and covered in onions and cheese repeated as many times as you would like. Place that plate (as long as it’s oven safe, of course) in the oven at the lowest temperature while you assemble another enchilada. After each enchilada is assembled and tucked into the oven for the cheese to melt, fry your eggs. The key to the best eggs for egg enchiladas is to not overcook them. The runnier the better, here. The yolk, when broken, comingles with the chile sauce, tempering the heat. It’s a delicious combination. And, again, how many eggs you add is your call.

Once the eggs are done, top your enchiladas with them. Use whatever sauce is left to spoon over the eggs and again top with cheese and onions. While not traditional at all, I do add some sliced and diced avocado from time to time. If you want to go traditional, serve with a little shredded lettuce and diced tomato and refried beans on the side. As you sit down, plates on pot holders to not burn the table, pour yourself a tall glass of milk, never water, and feast.

As a way of ending, I’ll tell you what I tell nearly everyone who asks for my recipe. This is what I do. Combine this with a quick internet search for a stacked egg enchilada recipe and find your own groove. And surprise your next dinner guests with this traditional meal.