Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Copyright 2009 Diana Gabaldon

My father was always one to recognize both merit and shortcomings. Consequently, while he was often generous with praise, all his compliments came with a "BUT..." attached. "This is wonderful, BUT..."

In fact, I remember only three unqualified compliments from him. Twenty years ago, he told me that my swimming stroke was perfect. Fifteen years ago, he told me that my children were beautiful. And on Christmas day ten years ago, he told me that my enchiladas were as good as his.

That Christmas Day was the last time I saw him. But he'll always be with me, in the pull of water past my arms, in the faces of my children--and in the smell of garlic and chile, floating gently through the air of my kitchen.


For them as don't know, an enchilada is an item of traditional Mexican food, composed of a tortilla (mostly corn tortillas) rolled into a cylinder around some type of filling (traditionally cheese, but can be anything from chicken or beef to spinach, mushrooms, and seafood, particularly in nouveau Southwest or turista restaurants), covered with a spicy sauce, and baked. (Some restaurants don't bother rolling their enchiladas, and just sprinkle cheese and fillings between flat tortillas, but we Do Not Approve.)

The traditional (cheese) form requires:

Garlic (one head)

olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of a large saucepan)

flour (a few tablespoons)

canola oil (or other light cooking oil) – enough to fill a small frying pan halfway
white or yellow onion - one

cheddar cheese – a pound will make 10-12 enchiladas

corn tortillas – these come in packages of 12, or three dozen. If you have more than two people coming to dinner, get three dozen. You can always make home-made tortilla chips out of the extras.

tomato sauce – three small cans

red chili (in any usable form; puree, frozen, powdered, or already mixed with the tomato sauce, which is my preferred variety; I use El Pato brand tomato sauce, which has the chili already in it)

I'm not giving quantities as such, because you can make enchiladas in any quanttity--but if you're going to the trouble, you might as well make a lot of them. [g] (They freeze well, though the tortillas will degrade when frozen and give you enchilada casserole, rather than discrete enchiladas.)

As a rule of thumb, a pound of cheese and twelve tortillas will make about a dozen enchiladas; sauce for a dozen enchiladas takes about one to one-a-and-a-half cans of El Pato, and three-four Tablespoons of olive oil. I almost always use three cans of El Pato, and end up with 2 1/2 - 3 dozen enchiladas.

All right. For starters, mince four or five (or six) cloves of garlic finely. Cover the bottom of a heavy saucepan with olive oil (about 1/8" deep) and saute the garlic in the oil (the bits of garlic should just about cover the bottom of the pan, thinly). Cook until the garlic turns BROWN, but be careful not to burn it.
Turn heat down to low (or pull the pan off the burner temporarily) and add flour a little at a time to make a roux (paste about the consistency of library paste). Add the El Pato (or plain tomato sauce) and stir into the roux. Add WATER, in an amount equal to the tomato sauce (I just fill up the El Pato cans with water and dump them in). Stir over low heat to mix, squishing out any lumps that may ocur. If you used plain tomato sauce, add chili to taste (or if you use El Pato and want it hotter, add extra chili)—roughly one large tablespoon of raw chile per can of tomato sauce.

Leave on very low heat, stirring occasionally, WHILE:

1) heating oil (I use canola oil, but you can use any vegetable oil, including soy, peanut, or olive) in a small, heavy frying pan. Heat over medium heat, and watch it as it gets hot; if it starts to smoke, it's too hot--turn it down.

2) grating cheese

3) and chopping onion coarsely.

At this point, the sauce should have thickened slightly, and will cling to a spoon, dripping slowly off. Turn off the heat under the sauce, or reduce to low simmer. (If at any time, the sauce seems too thick, stir in a little more water.) Stir occasionally to prevent it sticking.

Now put out a clean dinner plate for assembling the enchiladas, and a baking dish to put the completed ones in.

With a pair of tongs, dip a fresh corn tortilla briefly (just long enough for the oil to sputter--2-3 seconds) into the hot oil. Let excess oil run off into the pan, then dip the now-flexible tortilla into the sauce, laying it back and forth with the tongs to coat both sides.

Lay the coated tortilla on the dinner plate (and put down the tongs [g]). Take a good handful of cheese and spread a thick line of it across the center of the tortilla (you're aiming for a cylinder about two fingers thick). If you like onions in your enchiladas (I don't, but Doug does, so I make half and half), sprinkle chopped onions lightly over the cheese. Roll the tortilla into a cylinder (fold one side over the cheese, then roll up the rest of the way, and put the enchilada in the baking dish. (They won't have a lot of sauce on them at this point)).
When the baking dish is full, ladle additional sauce to cover the enchiladas thoroughly, and sprinkle additional cheese on top for decoration (I also sprinkle a few onions at one end of the baking dish, so I know which end is onion). Bake at 325 (F.) degrees for between 10-15 minutes--until cheese is thoroughly melted--you can see clear liquid from the melted cheese bubbling at the edge of the dish, and the enchiladas will look as though they've "fallen in" slightly, rather than being firmly rounded. Serve (with a spatula).

The method is the same for other kinds of enchiladas; you'd just make the filling (meat, seafood, etc.) as a separate step ahead of time, and use as you do cheese (for chicken enchiladas, brown diced chicken slowly in a little oil with minced garlic, onion, red and green bell pepper, and cilantro (coriander leaf)--bell pepper optional, and in very small quantity; for beef, you can use either ground beef or machaca).

It usually takes me a little more than an hour to do three dozen enchiladas, start to finish. Once the sauce is made, cheese grated, etc., though, the assembly is pretty fast.
Hope y'all enjoy them!


  1. Yum! Thanks for the recipe. I'm sure mine will never live up to yours (or your Dad's) but at least now I have a tasty authentic recipe!

  2. uhm...that sounds soo good. Everytime you're talking about food, wether its in your blog or in your books, I have to eat something immediately, youre describing it so perfect that I can smell, see and taste it!

    I will try out this recipe as soon as I can....yummy, this sounds really good! Thanks for sharing!

  3. MMMM, makes me hungry! I can't wait to try them. Thank you so much.

  4. Your recipe is very good, I made them during the Holidays and my family really enjoyed them. I don't think your Dad would say they were as good as his though. It's hard for an Irish woman to make a really good enchilada. :)

  5. They sound really good. I will be trying them when the weather cools down a little!
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Dear Diana:

    I am a rather accomplished cook but, as silly as this sounds, making a tasty enchilada has alway eluded me (too wet, too dry, baked too long, not long enough, yucky store-bought sauce). I will give your recipe a go -- they are a favorite of my hubby and younger son.

    I must say that your tidbit about your dad made me get a little misty. I miss my dad very much and it brought him to mind.



  7. Have you tried New Mexico enchiladas? Same basic ingredients, (fried tortillas, tomato/chili sos, grated cheese, optional diced onions and meat) but you layer them flat on individual plates and top, if desired, w/ a fried egg.


  8. as a foodie (i have a culinary arts degree, lol) i do have a couple of questions. when imake enchiladas, i use a dry cast iron skillet, and heat the tortillas til they're flexible. does frying them affect the taste or the texture?

    also, i like making green enchiladas with pork or chicken. i think (don't quote me, idon't have any on hand right now) i use la preferida (i'm sorry, i live in omaha, and it's gringo country, lol). what do you think of green enchiladas, and do you have any sauce recommendations?


  9. Oh My goodness.. My mouth is watering! These sound sooo good. I miss Mexican food! The real kind. Thanks Diana!

  10. Dear Dragon Knitter--

    No, haven't encountered green enchiladas, unless you mean the kind filled with spinach. [g] Or do you just mean made with green chile, instead of the classic red-chile sauce? I've seen those--my husband orders them in restaurants now and then, but I'm kind of old-fashioned in my tastes regarding Mexican food. (Can make good green chile, btw, but normally eat it with simple beans and flour tortillas).

  11. Dear kismargi--

    Yes, I think dipping the tortillas in hot oil does affect both texture and taste--though I can certainly see the dry-skillet approach for folk concerned about calories or fat content. [g]

  12. Diana,

    I might attempt this on one of my cooking nights. If you remember, cooking is definitely not one of my strong points, so there's no telling how it will turn out.

    You did a wonderful job laying out the recipe for this cooking newbie, though.

    Hopefully I can at least make it edible, if not presentable. (g)

  13. Tara - I know your comment wasn't addressed to me, but I have to point out the obvious. Edible always trumps presentable when you're cooking at home. As my mom always said when trying to entice us kids to try new foods, "Looks bad, tastes good".

  14. Hi Katrina,

    Well, my husband is an ex-chef, so he tends to be a perfectionist in the kitchen.

    That's why it's important to me - I have a discerning teacher/audience. (g)

  15. Dear dragon knitter:

    "when i make enchiladas, i use a dry cast iron skillet, and heat the tortillas til they're flexible. does frying them affect the taste or the texture?"

    DK, your comment was addressed to Diana but I, too, share her opinion. Not only is the flavor enhanced (my opinion) but the texture of the corn tortilla is affected so it doesn't crumble or become mushy.

    I, too, really like green chile, especially with pork. Chile verde is about my favorite Mexican food, although it is my quest to make a heavenly chile relleno.


  16. Diana,
    I made enchiladas using your recipe and they were wonderful. I had problems with rolling the tortillas, though. They seemed to crumble on me and the final product wasn't what you'd call pretty, but they still tasted really good. Thanks!!!

  17. I had a dream about eating enchiladas the other night. That dream, coupled with this post has increased my hankering - I absolutely must have some enchiladas!

    Your enchilada recipe is incredibly similar to my family's! The main difference being we don't use tomato sauce - ours is a red chile-based sauce. I definitely want to try the sauce as you described it - it sounds absolutely delicious!

    Thank you so much for the post - it brought back good memories of my own family and the food they make.

  18. Diana: Happy New Year and thanks for the recipe--it sounds delicious--and it's even more wonderful that it brings to mind your father.
    Speaking of fathers or father-figures, I know this is a little off the subject, but I was wondering whatever became of Claire's Uncle Lam? I don't believe we've ever heard in the story line how he passed away.
    Thanks for making yourself so available to those of us who love your work.

  19. Dear Marcia--

    Oh, you've seen it, but it's only a line or two in OUTLANDER; he died in the Blitz, when a building he was in was bombed.

  20. Thanks Diana! I can't wait to try them.


  21. These look delicious and I will definitely be trying them soon! I'm looking forward to the rest of your recipes from the best of '08. Like Merrymags, the part about your dad got me misty-eyed. He must be so proud of you, I'm sure you would get some more unconditional compliments on your success!

  22. Diana:

    Thanks for letting me know about Uncle Lam's demise--can't believe I missed it, since I've not only read Outlander several times but have it on CD so I can listen to it (and other of your works) on my drive to and from work--very relaxing!
    Can't wait for Echo--counting the days (okay, months)!

  23. I love Mexican food and can't wait to try your recipe. Thanks for sharing it with us. It reminds me a little of the process for making manicotti which is time-consuming but easy. So I'll definitely try it

  24. Dear Diana
    what do you think about "The tenth gift" of Jane Johnson?

  25. Dear Mariella--

    I really enjoyed the book, but thought it was a dumb title. The original title (under which I read it) was "CROSSED BONES," which was better, though still not quite right.

  26. Thanks for the recipe for the sauce. I used to be able to get decent sauce in California but, alas, I now live in rural Alabama and there is no good sauce in Alabama.
    Also, when I make chicken enchiladas, I put bone-in chicken in a crock pot with a jar of salsa and cook until it shreds easily. Add to enchiladas when assembling. Very yummy!

  27. I made these last night at my mom's house. They were a big hit. Thanks so much! I can't wait to try the other 7 things on your list ;-)

    A funny aside I told my husband I was making Enchiladas - he said "You can't make enchiladas, you're not Mexican."

    I told him I beg to differ, if I have a recipe I can make ANYTHING!

    Everyone loved them, so apparently I CAN make enchiladas! Thanks again!

  28. Sounds absolutely delectable. I'll have to try this on my boyfriend!

    I've only just discovered your blog, though I've been a fan of your Outlander Series for YEARS, and my mother before me (She owns three copies of each book from the series, ha!). It never occurred to me to search you on the internet before (why? I don't know), but I'm glad I did! Now that I've had time to peruse your website and this blog, I thought I would put my two-cents in re. Claire's portrait (though I know I'm belated here!).

    I LOVE IT. She looks exactly - and I mean exactly - how I pictured her in my mind's eye. I opened the link, saw the picture, and *GASP* said to myself "That's her!" The portrait is very true to her descriptions from the books, and she's a perfect mix of beauty and strength. Don't change a thing!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your work. Your books are such a pleasurable escape from reality, I just can't put them down! I'm re-reading the whole series for the third time, yet I love it more each time.

  29. Nathalie - where did you see a portrait of Clair? I'd love to see that.

  30. April,

    So far as I know, the portrait is only posted on Diana's website - www.dianagabaldon.com. Click the "excerpt" tab, then click the "graphic novel" link, then scroll down to "untitled first excerpt sketch of Claire."

    I think it's breathtaking!

  31. Diana,

    I made these for dinner last night. While the end result was wonderful, I had a hitch with the process. My tortillas kept falling to pieces by the time I got them out of the sauce, until I started skipping the oil dipping step. Then they became perfectly flexible without falling apart. Whether or not it changed that taste, at that point I didn't care. I was fast running out of tortillas!

    I added chicken to mine. And I used El Pato sauce with chile in it. Man oh man, that was HOT. Next time I'd use half that sauce and half a plain tomato sauce. I'm a medium-hot girl. *s*

    Thanks for the recipe. Despite the hitch, we loved it.

  32. Hi Diana,
    I just came across your blog and have to say hello and how much I love your books. When my son brought his girlfriend home for the first time I gave her Outlander. She stuck her nose in it and it didn't come out until she finished the sixth book. I told him, "She likes green olives and Diana Gabaldon. She's the girl for me."
    We can't wait for Echo. And please post a picture of your new puppy.

  33. Absolutely delicious enchilada recipe. I used the el pato tomatoe sauce that made the perfect amount of heat for me. Thanks for the awesome recipe and detailed instructions. I have never been successful in making enchiladas until now!

  34. Made these last night and I have to say they were amazing but man the kitchen looked like a warzone (red sauce everywhere). We compromised on the frying part and tried brushing them with a bit of oil instead of dipping them in the oil and we added a bit more chilli (we like our food spicy!) other wise we copied the recipe word for word. Yum!

  35. Diana,
    I made your enchiladas tonight for dinner tonight and they were The best I have ever had! It was a big hit with my whole family (even my pickiest eater)

    Thanks for the recipe.
    Is it ok if I link to you recipe on my blog?

    My day to day life while kicking cancer's butt

  36. Dear Spruce--

    Oh, of course you can link to it! (Same for anybody else who wants to do that.)

    I had a quick look at your blog just now, btw--what beautiful photos of your ice storm!

  37. Dear Nadine--

    Well, yes, it's a pretty messy undertaking [g], but worth it.

  38. Thank you! I am going to link to it today. I am having the leftovers today for lunch. Again the BEST I have ever had!

  39. The enchilada recipe was fabulous. My husband loved them. I have made enchiladas in the past and followed the same basic instructions except for the great sauce recipe and I think that is what makes them so good! I also used "super-sized" corn tortillas about 8 inches in diameter which made them easier to roll. Dunking them in the hot oil is the only way to go! Thanks for your great writing and recipes!

  40. Thank you so much for the recipe. I made them tonight for dinner and they were a huge hit. Very delicious. I too had the problem of the tortillas falling apart after the hot oil step but I literally dipped them only 2 seconds and that helped.
    I also tried your curry recipe in OUTLANDISH COMPANION - another a fabulous dish! The best part was eating leftover curry (and you are right, it gets better "aged") the next day for lunch while re-reading OUTLANDER. :)

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