Friday, October 23, 2009
Grandma Slade's Stacked Red Chile Enchiladas
Today has been a crazy day, to say the least. Eighteen holding tanks for Shell oil have exploded and are burning, threatening to ignite the rest of the 40 tanks and sending up a toxic mushroom cloud into the atmosphere. The governor has declared a state of emergency and we are all waiting to see what will happen. My kids go to school at the army post here, which is where the tanks have exploded. Luckily the explosions occurred in the middle of the night last night, but school has been cancelled indefinitely. GREAT!
Today has also been a poignant day. Last year, my Grandma Slade passed away, and today is her birthday. There have been some sad feelings in my heart today, mostly just missing her, but I must admit, I've done more smiling and chuckling as my Grandma Slade memories have flooded me. Grandma Slade had a contagious laugh. When she laughed, she didn't hold back; in fact, she was usually squinting, doubled over, and slapping her knee when she laughed(well, she'd slap her knee when she wasn't trying to slap one of her adult kids because they LOVED teasing her). Her hero was John Wayne, and I think she was the kind of woman he would have admired: full of life, quick to laugh, quick to anger but quicker to repent(if I didn't learn how to swear from Grandma, she certainly taught me how to perfect the art). Grandma Slade was the rare person who could be the life of the party, but was not an attention-seeker. She just REALLY enjoyed people. She loved long visits, when she could laugh with you, and swap news and stories, and just get caught up on all your comings and goings. And of course, she wouldn't hear of you going without having been fed--well fed, at that. The hallmark of the infamous Slade family gatherings was her Enchiladas. They were hailed as one of the things we most looked forward to(along with nightly movies and malts). In fact, they are an integral part of the Slade family identity. Revered as they were, there was a constant debate between cooks about cooking them strictly how Grandma Slade did it, or throwing in a few untraditional ingredients to stir up the pot. I'm posting the recipe as Grandma told it to me, the way I make them.
Grandma Slade's Enchiladas
2 lbs ground beef
1 small jar minced garlic(or fresh equivalent)
New Mexico red chile powder
red pepper flakes
tortillas, flour or corn
Heat a pot of water to boiling, about an 8-cup capacity size. Meanwhile, add beef, garlic, generous pinch of sugar, ground black pepper and LOTS of salt to a large pot and brown the meat. I mean REALLY brown it; make sure it's got a lot of the charred-looking piece, because really browning the beef will add a layer of flavor to the chile. Drain the fat. Add enough flour to the beef to make it stick together when you stir it, about 1/2 cup mas o menos, and then add in enough chile powder to make the meat dark red after you've stirred it all in(it might end up being 1/4-1/2 cup). If you want to kick up the heat, add in a few generous pinches of the pepper flakes. Stir for about a minute over high heat, then pour in the whole pot of boiling water all at once. Stir to get up anything that's sticking to the bottom of the pan and break up any meat clumps. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 1-2 hours, until chile has reduced by almost half and is noticeably thicker(still soupy, though). TASTE FOR SEASONING!! Chances are very good that it will need more salt, because it always takes more than you think. To build your enchilada, first ladle some chile onto your plate. Then take a tortilla and dip it into the chile before laying it on your plate. Ladle some more chile over it. Repeat for 1-2 more layers. Sprinkle cheese over the top, LOTS of cheese, and some chopped onion if you like. Put in a hot oven or the microwave(my usual MO) and heat until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges. Top with shredded lettuce, chopped fresh tomato, and season with a little salt and pepper. Here's to you Grandma Slade!