- Active time between 2 and 2.5 hours
- Makes 12 Enchiladas
When it comes to claiming the crown for Houston’s enchilada kingdom, the Enchilada Queen is without question Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen Owner/Chef Sylvia Casares. Her restaurants serve a whopping 19 varieties of enchiladas, each named for a town in Texas or Mexico, along with a variety of other border and Tex-Mex dishes. Sylvia was born on the Texas-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas, and grew up with an acute interest in food, flavors, and taste. She started with a degree in Home Economics from the University of Texas which eventually led to her working with restaurateurs all over the state until 1998 when she opened her own. She now has two, one of which is where this Enchilada Queen regularly holds court in the form of ongoing cooking classes. Another of her long-time dreams came true in 2016 when her debut cookbook, The Enchilada Queen Cookbook, went on sale nationwide.
One of Sylvia’s personal favorite enchiladas – and a diner favorite as well! – are her Crystal City Enchiladas. The Lower Rio Grande Valley is the truck garden of Texas. South of San Antonio, Crystal City proudly calls itself the Spinach Capital, hence Sylvia’s name for her amazing spinach enchiladas! Filled with sautéed spinach, these enchiladas are favorites for anyone going meatless for the meal, the day, or forever.
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- Two, 11-oz. bags fresh spinach
- 1 1/2 lb tomatillos, rinsed after peeling papery outer skin, cut in half
- 1/2 large white onion, chopped
- 1/2 jalapeño, cut into 4 pieces (do not remove seeds)
- 1 large tomato, cut into 4 pieces
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 bunch cilantro (just the leaves)
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
Enchilada Queen Secret Chile Sauce for Flavoring Tortillas
- 7 guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 2 chiles de árbol, stems removed (no need to remove seeds)
Enchilada Queen Texas Two-Step
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- chile sauce for flavoring (recipe above)
Crystal City Enchiladas Assembly
- 3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 12 spiced and softened corn tortillas (recipe above)
- 4 cups salsa verde, warm (recipe above)
- spinach, warm (recpe above)
Spinach (makes 2 cups)
- In a large skillet with a lid over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent but not browned, about 3 minutes.
- Add ¼ cup water, salt, and spinach. Cover and lower the heat. After 2 to 3 minutes, check to see if the spinach has wilted. When it is wilted, remove the lid and simmer over very low heat for 4 to 6 minutes. Drain excess liquid.
Salsa Verde (makes ~4 cups, enough for 8–10 enchiladas)
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the tomatillos, onion, jalapeño, tomato, and 2½ cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all the ingredients are very soft. Set aside off the heat to cool for about 10 minutes.
- In a blender jar or work bowl of a food processor, process the garlic, cilantro, and salt until smooth.
- Add the tomatillo mixture. Process on high speed until very smooth, about 1 minute.
- Set aside for at least 10 minutes to let the flavors mellow before serving. Reheat gently, if needed, on the stovetop or in a microwave oven on low power until heated through.
- The sauce may be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.
Enchilada Queen Secret Chile Sauce for Flavoring Tortillas (makes ~1¾ cups, enough to flavor up to 2-dozen tortillas)
- Rinse the chiles with cool water.
- In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine the chiles and 1¾ cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside off the heat for 10 minutes.
- In a blender jar or work bowl of a food processor, process the cooked chiles and their liquid until smooth, about 1 minute.
- Pour the pureed chile mixture through a fine strainer into a small bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible; discard the solids.
- Cover the sauce and put in the refrigerator to chill, then use to flavor tortillas.
- To store and reuse the chile sauce, strain out any pieces of tortilla before pouring into a clean, covered container. The flavoring sauce may be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months. Thaw completely and stir before using.
Flavor & Soften Corn Tortillas
- Dip each tortilla in the chile sauce. Drain off excess liquid. Stack the spiced tortillas on a plate. Cover with plastic wrap or foil. Refrigerate overnight or for as little time as it takes to make the salsa verde.
- When the salsa verde and filling are ready and the tortillas are flavored, soften the tortillas for stuffing and rolling: In a medium skillet over medium heat, warm the oil until it shimmers or about 375°F.
- Using a nonstick spatula, slide one flavored tortilla at a time into the hot oil, cook for 2 or 3 seconds, then turn it over. When the tortilla is pliable (after another 1 or 2 seconds), remove from the oil immediately so the tortilla doesn’t crisp. Tortillas should remain pliable for rolling. The total time in the oil should be no more than 5 seconds.
- Stack the softened tortillas on a plate and continue dipping in hot oil until all the flavored tortillas are softened. Cover the softened flavored tortillas with plastic or foil to keep soft.
- Allow the tortillas to cool for 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Covered tightly with plastic wrap to prevent drying out, tortillas may sit for as long as an hour. The tortillas are now ready to be fill, rolled, and baked.
Fill & Bake Enchiladas
- To make the Fill & Bake process easy, set up an assembly line:
1) Spiced and Softened Tortillas
2) Warmed Filling
3) Baking Dish
4) Warmed Sauce
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a 9 × 11-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
- Place about 1 tablespoon of the cheese and 2 tablespoons of the spinach filling in the center of a tortilla. Roll and place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat until all the tortillas are filled, arranging them in the baking dish with ⅛ inch in between.
- Pour ¼ cup salsa verde over each enchilada and sprinkle evenly with the remaining cheese.
- Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the salsa is bubbly. Serve immediately.
Notes from the Chef:
– Select a baking dish large enough to hold the enchiladas in a single layer with some space in between. This makes it easier to remove baked enchiladas for serving. Usually a 9 × 11-inch baking dish works well. To make clean-up easier, lightly coat the enchilada baking dish with cooking spray.
– Enchiladas may sit for up to 30 minutes, tightly covered, before baking. Do not refrigerate.
– Enchiladas taste best if baked right after filling and saucing.
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