The Perfect Tortilla

I recently wrote a column for the Herald food page about enchiladas, which sparked a question from Randy Lieberg, who works at JLG Architects in Grand Forks.

Randy said whenever he makes enchiladas, he tends to use flour tortillas because they don’t break into pieces when rolling, but he has been trying to figure out the best way to roll enchiladas and keep the corn tortillas in one piece long enough to get into the pan.

I didn’t have an immediate answer for him, since whenever Therese makes enchiladas, she also uses flour tortillas. (She says he can’t find good corn tortillas in town, so if you know of any, let me know.)

After a bit of research, I discovered some video on the monkeysee.com Web site that asnwered Randy’s question. If you don’t want to check out the demonstration yourself, here’s how to do it.

The exact procedure is to dampen the tortillas and place them between paper towels, stacked about four high, and microwave them for a few seconds. (If you do more than four, the bottom ones tend to cool off and get stiff again.) According to the demo, you can reuse the towels a couple of times and subsequently don’t have to moisten the tortillas as much.

A nice thing about this method is that it’s healthier than frying the tortillas in oil.

Speaking of Mexican food, according to Institute of Food Technologists’ 2006 report, "What, When and Where America Eats," the cuisine’s popularity is up 12 percent since 2003. And much of that is being done at home.

For those who rank Mexican as Numero Uno when eating at home, here are a couple of recipes to try.

Enchilada Casserole
1 pound ground round
½ cup chopped onion
4 teaspoons chili powder
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup water
1 11.5-ounce jar mild taco sauce, divided
6 corn tortillas, divided
1¼ cups shredded 2 percent sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
2 green onions, finely chopped
Shredded lettuce, chopped fresh tomatoes and fat-free sour cream for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook ground round and onion in skillet over medium heat until meat is browned and cooked through; drain. Add chili powder, cumin, pepper, garlic and water. Simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until water has evaporated and meat mixture is thick.
Lightly cover bottom of 9-by-13-inch pan with half of taco sauce. Place 3 tortillas in bottom of pan, cutting tortillas to fit, if necessary. Spread meat mixture on top of tortillas. Sprinkle with ½ cup cheese. Drizzle remaining taco sauce over cheese and top with remaining 3 tortillas. Sprinkle with remaining ¾ cup cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 additional minutes. Garnish with green onions and serve with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and fat-free sour cream if desired.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 253 calories (46 percent from fat), 13 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 43 milligrams cholesterol, 17 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 516 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Chicken Salad Wrap
3½ cups cooked, shredded chicken
4 green onions, chopped
2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed, drained
1 large carrot, grated
½ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup each: chopped basil, chopped dry-roasted peanuts
¾ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons bottled sweet and sour sauce
Juice of 1 lime
Salt
6 each: 12-inch flour tortillas, Boston lettuce leaves
Combine chicken, onions, sprouts, carrot, cilantro, basil and peanuts in medium bowl; set aside. Mix together mayonnaise, sweet and sour sauce and lime juice in small bowl. Pour dressing over chicken mixture; toss to combine.
Heat tortillas, turning every few seconds, in skillet over medium heat until hot. Or, microwave between sheets of paper toweling until hot, about 20 seconds. Place lettuce leaf in center of tortilla; top with chicken salad. Fold over 2 sides; roll up.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 575 calories, 38 percent calories from fat, 24 grams fat (4.9 grams saturated), 75 milligrams cholesterol, 650 milligrams sodium, 55 grams carbohydrates, 34 grams protein, 4 grams fiber.