Enchiladas for a Crowd

On the aforementioned summer trek, I found myself vacationing with a houseful of relatives—14 in all—and none of them vegetarian except for me. To feed that many people, it takes many hands, so this trip we all agreed ahead of time that each family would take over the food prep for one day. For us, breakfast was easy—pancakes and eggs—but the day’s main meal seemed a little more elusive from a meatless perspective.

On days when others cooked, there were plenty of vegetable and starch side dishes that I could make do with. And in a few cases, people adapted their main-course recipe for me—like setting aside a dish of farfalle in mushroom and tomato sauce before adding ground beef to the mix for everyone else.

On our day to cook, I made cheese enchiladas. The meat-eaters ate well and seemed satisfied with their inconspicuously meatless meal. In fact, my sister, who is not a vegetarian, first shared this recipe with me. We made it together once before, but agreed it could use a little work. This time we finessed the ingredients and amounts and loved the results so much that now she’s asking me for the new recipe. This one’s for you, Kitty:

Cheese Enchiladas

This recipe makes two large pans of enchiladas, serving about 12, as long as you have some sides, too. I like to pass bowls of rice, black beans, shredded lettuce, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole on the side. Fresh fruit goes well with it, too.

 

2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce

1 1/3 cups water

2 tablespoons chili powder

4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

24 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated

1 medium-size sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Maui, peeled, finely chopped

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream, plus additional for serving

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Vegetable oil

24 corn tortillas

 

Combine first five ingredients in heavy large saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In large bowl, combine grated cheese (reserving 2 cups), chopped onion, sour cream, and cilantro. Use rubber spatula to mix well.

Heat nonstick skillet over medium heat; add enough oil to coat skillet. Add as many tortillas as will fit in a single layer and cook, turning once, until tortillas soften and begin to puff, adding more oil as necessary for subsequent batches. Transfer tortillas to paper-towel-lined plate to drain and repeat until all tortillas are cooked.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a scant ¼ cup cheese filling for each, fill each tortilla, roll it up, and place seam-side-down in 13- by 9-inch baking dish, using 12 tortillas in each of two baking dishes. Pour half of sauce over each dish of enchiladas, drizzling evenly so all parts are covered with sauce. Sprinkle 1 cup reserved cheese over each casserole. Cover each casserole dish with foil and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until sauce bubbles and enchiladas are baked through, about 12 minutes longer. Serve warm.

L.S. Meyn, 2009