October 29, 2012

Tex-Mex Chili Gravy Cheese Enchiladas

It takes me consuming comfort food to bring me back to writing. These are heavy, rich, and cheesy with steaming bites of diced onions nestled inside. Karl and I really love these Tex-Mex Chili Gravy Cheese Enchiladas. The Homesick Texan really helped me create the foods I simply could not find anywhere in Belgium. These enchiladas are killer. I find that I have a revolving door of recipes that are largely Asian and Tex-Mex variants. 

So here is what has been going on with me. I was reviewing some older posts on here from March until now, and I was purposely vague, because of how many life changes were happening. I want to correct that  - I'm not sure how frequently I will post, or how stuff will change, but I would love to share the experiences of transitioning back to full-time work, developing as an instructor/prof in my own field, and documenting the trials and tribulations of living in a new place with its own cultural views (cough, politically very right of the center, and in direct contrast to Belgium a "hostile" biking culture). 

I'm teaching 3 courses, have approx 160 students, and I have no time to do anything but grade and develop. I've developed syllabi for my courses, and the assignments, exams, and assessments. It is an endless race between developing course materials, and bringing my own perspective into the mix. I have learned that there is a lot of stuff you want to do, and then there is a lot of stuff you end up doing to save time, and energy. You aren't particularly proud of making sacrifices for the coolest assignment ever, but then you get to grading, and you realize where all the gaps are (e.g. you can post and assign whatever awesome review articles, media pieces, social media, etc and your students are just not going to have the time to read any of it). They rely almost exclusively on lectures - honestly - they don't read. Or, they read very very little. 

This weekend was a huge football weekend for southern university. I went to all the homecoming events as faculty, and it was really neat to learn about the traditions of the school that I'm now a faculty member of. The south is rich with traditions, and alumni coming home is an interesting mix of hosting and building up alumni donations. Graduates (alumni) really feel proud of their alma mater, and are eager to give back. This struck me as something that I hadn't really placed much thought into - I was always of the mindset that your degree granted you opportunities for diverse job prospects - but that your allegiance to it was more a process of jumping hoops and finishing, and less of a religious experience. I'm a child of immigrant parents, and I've managed to live in different regions of the US. I adapt quickly, glean info, and move on. I don't think of it negatively or positively, just that I move on to the next experience. Thinking about traditions, and giving back, I have to say that I actually feel prepared for this job experience, in a way that I was not prepared to feel. I am so happy that I went back for a graduate degree in public health nutrition. The program I attended and graduated from did not disappoint. Teaching is tough. You synthesize information and you (if you are good at it) try to package the class information in snippets and pieces that the students are going to understand. From my start date, until now, the months have flown, and we're just 1 month away from completing the semester. 

This recipe should be prepared exactly as written on the Homesick Texan Blog. But, if you are like me, you'll have some of this and less of that, and I assure you that any variation that sticks closely to Lisa Fain's recipe will not disappoint. You will be licking the chili gravy off the plate. I served this with some finely chopped fresh Romaine lettuce, cubed avocado chunks, and wedges of lime. There is simply no need to add anything else to fill up your stomach space than with these delicious succulent enchiladas. I'm always surprised at how quickly this recipe comes together. It needs only 10-15 minutes in the oven, and it's done. Corn or flour tortillas, either one will not disappoint, but I prefer white flour tortillas, they just hold up better. 

When I first got back to the US, one of the more important tasks I had listed was heading straight for a Mexican tienda to stock up on various kinds of dried chilies: guajillo, ancho, chipotle, pasilla, etc. I roast them in a non-oiled non-stick or cast iron until fragrant and then grind them in a coffee mill that is set aside to grind up spices. 

I like to have lots of pre-prepped ingredients on the counter. I put my chile powder in a bowl with the other spices and set aside. I dice about 1 and 1/2 cups of white onion and set it aside; I shred an 8 oz block of cheese and set it aside; I lay out 10 corn tortillas on a plate and set them aside. When the enchiladas are cooking, I make margaritas. 

Tex-Mex Chili Gravy Cheese Enchiladas Recipe adapted slightly but sticks to the mostly original Cheese Enchiladas from the Homesick Texan Yield: 4 servings, 2-3 enchiladas per person. 

Chili powder

1-2 tablespoons chili powder (should not have other added spices like chile powder)
1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp oregano or thyme
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1. Dry roast the dried chili peppers, and set aside once fragrant. Once cool, cut off stem ends and empty out seeds. Grind in a spice grinder, and set aside in a bowl. 

2. To the bowl, add in black pepper through cinnamon. Top off with garlic. You will add the whole batch to the gravy.


10-12 flour or corn tortillas (6" in diameter) set aside
1, 8 oz block of medium or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1-2 onions diced 
2-3 cups chili gravy sauce (directions to follow)

Chili gravy sauce

1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp chile powder (from recipe above)
2 cups vegetable broth 


Chopped romaine lettuce
1 avocado, diced
lime wedges


1. Preheat oven to 350º F or 170º C.
2. Grease a baking pan that is big enough to hold 10-12 enchiladas (such as 9x13)
3. In a large saucepan, heat up 1/4 cup oil over medium high heat. Once hot, stir in 1/4 cup of flour, and mix with a whisk until toasted and browned, about 6 minutes. 
4. Stir in the spices and garlic. When it is fragrant, and the flour and fat are a thick paste, stir in the vegetable broth slowly. Keep stirring constantly. Turn the heat to medium-low, and keep stirring, allowing the gravy to thicken.
5. When it is done, turn off the heat, and set aside.
6. Warm the tortillas in the microwave, or in the oven. Add a few splashes of water in between each tortilla so the tortilla steams and becomes pliant. There is no need to fry the tortillas in oil because the tortillas become saturated with oil from the cheese. 
7. Add about 1/2 cup of the sauce to the bottom of the baking pan. Spread it around. 
8. Place the tortilla in your hand and spoon about 1 tbsp of onions, and 2 tbsp of cheese in the center and roll up. Place it seam side down in the pan. Repeat forming neat rows of enchiladas. 
9. Pour the gravy sauce on top, top with the remaining onions and cheese, and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until bubbling. Serve immediately.


  1. So proud of you Nilam (and I can smell these enchiladas off the page)!!

  2. Sounds like you're really settling in to your new location and savouring the experience of teaching. I'm happy for you! Your thoughts on southern traditions were interesting.

    Tex-mex does have that comfort factor. I soaked some pinto and black beans just yesterday to make today cos I was craving that comfort!


    1. Jai thanks! I see your sister tonight!