Saturday, November 7, 2009

Enchiladas Mineras: A How to Guide

You can’t find Enchiladas Mineras in Denver as far as I know.  If you've had them before, you will realize what a shame this is. If you've never had them, you'll want to try them. Not to worry, I just got back from Mexico and now I know how to make them. Welcome to another recipe post.

Enchiladas Mineras are synonmous with Guanajuato, Mexico. The dish itself is made up of simple ingredients-- tortillas, cheese, carrots, potatoes-- yet has an intricate blend of flavors and spices brought together by the smooth guajillo chile sauce. Enchiladas Mineras literally means miner's enchiladadas, and Guanajuato was once the silver-mining capital of Mexico. It has since become a cultural mecca and is an important historical city. From the top of the hill is an impressive view overlooking the town, which occupies the lowest points of the valley floor. It is surrounded on every side by house on top of colorful house, and the entire span of the city is visible. This afternoon, even from these heights, we could see the ruckus of a festival known as the Cervantino, which draws people form all over the world to celebrate music, theater and the arts.

The Cervantino festival is not exactly what brought us here, but is a destination in itslef for people slightly more cultured than myslef. There are established events set up in every corner of the city, but it also pretty much turns into a street party at night (which about matches my level of culture), complete with roving musicians toting wine skins parading through the twisted mass of cobblestoned streets, alleyways and hidden squares;  sometimes with hundreds of inebriated followers singing along behind them.

Our evening started with a search for food. My wife and her family guided me down the hill into town, through the madness of the street fair, and into the madness of the local market. Here was the night's singular moment of quiet. The market was still and almost empty --until they saw us coming--then from every angle, simultaneously, each food stall owner began hollering out her respective offerings, banging on her respective counters, pots and pans. Some cries came from a balcony on the second level, some were just several feet away, all were equally loud and all were making their best pitch for us to enter. We sat down at a stall, the yelling stopped and the women went back to work cutting, frying and cooking away. Then my mother-in-law decided another stall looked better. We stood up, and sensing our doubt, the cries started again. We pondered the other stall, then settled in to the original one we picked anyway. The screaming stopped as suddenly as it started.On and off like a switch. Good stuff.

I ordered, of course, Enchiladas Mineras. I watched intently every step of the process as our stall owner expertly doused a pan with copious amounts of oil and fried away a guajillo salsa-soaked tortilla, some potatoes and carrots. She plated it with a roast chicken thigh and sprinkled on a cotija-like cheese, onions and lettuce. It was incredible, and eating in a market like this always gives food a homemade quality that can’t be found in a restaurant. Being a miner would suck a lot less if you got to open up your lunch pail every day and eat this.

And that, in a long-winded and roundabout way, brings me to the point of this entry: after some market research (ha ha) and a consultation with my wife’s Aunt, I put together a recipe that I tried the other night, and if I do say so myself, was quite authentic and delicious.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
4-5 medium potatoes (I used a bunch of fingerlings because that is what I had)
4-5 carrots
8 dried chiles guajillos, stemmed and seeded
2 dried chiles anchos, stemmed and seeded
1 white onion
2 cloves of garlic
8-10 Corn tortillas
1 package of Cotija cheese
1 tsp oregano
Cayeanne to taste
Salt to taste
Copious amounts of Canola (or some such) oil

First I put some water on to boil in a large pot, chopped the carrots and potatoes into small chunks, and added them to the boiling water. I also put on a kettle of water to boil and stemmed and seeded the chiles. I roasted the chiles on a cast-iron skillet till they bubbled but didn’t burn, on each side, pressing down with a spatula to get good coverage. I put them in a bowl and covered them with boiling water from the kettle, about 2 cups, then the bowl and let sit 20 minutes. In the meantime, I cut about a ½ inch-thick slice of onion, peeled 2 garlic cloves and added them both to a blender with the oregano, a dash of cayenne and a pinch of salt. For the garnish, I crumbled about half of the Cotija cheese and finely diced another slice of onion.

By now the potatoes and carrots were soft, but not fall-apart soft, and the chiles had soaked long enough. I drained the vegetables, put them aside and added the chiles and the water to the blender. I blended the chiles, onion slice, garlic and spices in the blender until it was completely pureed. Then I strained it through a fine-meshed strainer, pushing every last bit of liquid through with a spatula. I put a little more salt in for taste.

I heated up the skillet with (as I witnessed) copious amounts of oil—it about covered the entire skillet. Then I added a couple large spoonfuls of carrots and potatoes and smiled to myself at the sound of food frying in oil. I spooned some sauce over it and also added shredded chicken into it because I had some leftover in the fridge. Then I pushed them off to one side, dipped a tortilla into the salsa until it was soaked and tossed it in the pan. I added some cotija cheese in and folded it over. I put in 2 more tortillas like it then added more salsa over everything. When the tortillas were browed a little and very soft, and the vegetables were starting to crisp, it was done. I plated the tortillas first, covered them with the vegtables and chicken, and sprinkled diced onions and cotija cheese over everything.

It was delicious. Maybe not as good as the market lady’s, but very close. If I planned it out better I would have roasted chicken as well, which I think the market-lady basted with the same guajillo sauce. Actually, the shredded chicken wasn’t even necessary. The real flavor comes from the sweetness of the carrots and the guajillos; the saltiness of the cotija with the fresh bite of the onion; and the startchy potatoes to soak everything else up. Give it a try. It’s pretty easy and damn good.


  1. The fabulous Enchilads Mineras I had in Guanajuato had the same (or at least a similar) filling but were not smothered but they were rolled. See

  2. Growing up in Topeka, Kansas, I didn't realize that not everyone had potatoes, carrots and peas in their tacos, enchiladas, etc. I mean, I know Taco Tico didn't have veggies in their food, but they didn't have "real" Mexican food anyway... If you find good Enchiladas Mineras in Denver, let me know!

  3. Deborah - Thanks for the comment and if you find any please let me know as well.

  4. My mom makes it with chorizo mixed into the potato & carrots. Try it that way. It's delicious!

  5. Consider it done. That sounds amazing.



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