Just a very few short days ago, I had never heard of an enfrijolada (en-free-ho-latha). And this from a person who grew up eating all kinds of amazing Mexican foods in Southern California. But an enfrijolada? A little sleuthing on my part revealed that this is indeed a thing. It's actually a very traditional Mexican dish that's often served at breakfast, but can be enjoyed any time of day owing to the simplicity of its preparation. Of course, recipes abound for differing versions, and this is my take on one from Marcela Vallalodid (The Kitchen, Mexican Made Easy). Here's a link to her recipe.
So in case you've never heard of them either, simply put, enfrijoladas are similar to an enchilada, folded, not rolled, stuffed with cheese, and sauced with the most delectable combination of refried beans (hence the frijol) and enchilada sauce. That's my version, anyway, and I have to say that I may have just rocked these right out of the park. Oh my. Enfrijoladas are now a favorite in the Circle B Kitchen and have joined our regular menu rotation. The Husband is already asking when we're having them again. Soon. That's all I have to say. Very, very soon.
As I mentioned, there a lots of ways to make enfrijoladas, most of them beginning with long-simmered pinto beans and then adding onions and garlic and peppers and tomatoes and then blending it all together to make this incredibly wondrous sauce.
But as I watched Ms. Vallalodid blend up her beans and salsa, two thoughts went scrambling through my mind, the first being, aren't we just basically talking about refried beans here? And the second thought was, wouldn't a deep, rich, delicious enchilada sauce impart more flavor than a cup of leftover salsa? And I had to answer myself in the affirmative on both accounts.
Now, you guys know that I would rather cook up a pot of long-simmered pinto beans than just about anything else in this life. But on this day I let my creative impulses guide me to the pantry and a can of organic refried beans. And by creative impulses, I mostly mean laziness. Along with the refried beans, I grabbed a jar of some of my homemade enchilada sauce and some chicken stock and set about to create the enfrijolada sauce that was simmering away in my mind.
But before I go further, I have to just say that this is something I rarely ever do. I always try and make a recipe first at least somewhat the way it was written, so that I have a good sense of what it's supposed to be before I completely dissassemble and remake it. So I'm thinking that right from the start here I'm going to give myself a few demerits for not having even tried the original. Not cool. But to be fair, I've made more than a few pots of pinto beans in my day and more salsa than you even want to know about and so, in my defense, I'm going to re-frame this narrative as a story in which I save myself a lot of time and beans. It's a story where I just cut to the chase and give you one heckuva tasty enfrijolada. I hope you're OK with that.
So after a bit of testing and tasting, this awesomely delicious sauce came together, pretty much exactly the way I had hoped. And after giving it a bit of a simmer, I got down to the business of assemblage.
Which we begin by dipping a corn tortilla into that warm sauce, giving it a couple of dunks so it's softened up a bit.
Then lay that in your baking dish
Top it with some grated jack cheese
Fold it over
Then top with a little more sauce and more grated cheese
Broil until the cheese melts and then sprinkle with a little cilantro and green onion...
Serve with chips (or not)
Or put an egg on it (so good!!!)
Alrighty then, people. Now we all know what an enfrijolada is and we know how easy they are to make and all that's left is the tasting; the best part of all. Here's the recipe...
Recipe adapted from Marcela Vallalodid
I took a few liberties with Ms. Vallalodid's recipe, but I think the results speak for themselves. The only caveat here is that the enchilada sauce you choose will make a huge difference in the flavors of the final dish. Homemade, is of course, an awesome choice, and I've given you a link to my recipe. Other than that, choose wisely. Hatch makes a decent sauce and I'm sure there are others out there. You can add some chipotle in adobo sauce or ground cayenne to give it more of a kick, if you like. You probably won't need the whole cup of chicken stock; only use as much as you need to create a smooth, pourable sauce. It should be a little thicker than a traditional enchilada sauce. The original recipe called for baking the enfrijoladas for 15 to 20 minutes, but I found that the tortillas got a bit soggy with this method but they fared much better with a semi-brief blitz under the broiler.
1 can refried beans
1 cup enchilada sauce (here's my recipe)
1 cup chicken stock (*)
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chipotle in adobo sauce (optional)
8 corn tortillas
3 or more cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Optional for serving: salsa, sliced avocado, Mexican crema (or sour cream), chopped or sliced red onions
(*) Use vegetable stock for a vegetarian version
You will need a 9x13 baking pan. If they don't all fit in your pan, you can either overlap them a little or use another pan.
Grate the jack cheese
slice the green onions
chop the cilantro
Prep your toppings for serving
Combine the enchilada sauce, refried beans and 1/2 cup of the chicken stock in a 10-inch skillet or chefs pan. Stir over medium heat until the beans have blended into the sauce. If it seems too thick, add a little more stock. Taste for salt and pepper and add a little chipotle in adobo sauce or ground cayenne if you'd like it spicier. Let the sauce simmer for 5 to 10 minutes to develop the flavors.
Working with one tortilla at a time, use a pair of tongs to dip it into the sauce just long enough to soften it a little. Place the tortilla in the baking dish, top with grated jack cheese, fold in half, and continue with the remaining tortillas.
Preheat the broiler.
Pour a little more of the sauce over the enfrijoladas and top them with more of the grated jack cheese.
Place them under the broiler (about 6 inches from the heat) and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Let cool about 5 minutes before serving with toppings of your choice.