Wandering through Trader Joe’s, wondering what I was going to make for dinner—this is actually not an uncommon occurrence. I saw a package of pre-cooked pork carnitas. I could do a quick pork taco with that, but I make tacos almost every week. Walking down another aisle, I saw Trader Joe’s enchilada sauce, and it clicked—pork enchiladas!
Note: I actually made this dish weeks ago and I am only getting around to posting it now. This recipe is basically the way my mother, Claudia, made enchiladas. A problem I have had is that even though the enchiladas look good in the pan, they tend to fall to pieces as you try to transfer them to a plate. Although I tend to object to casseroles I have found another way to make this dish that may be non-authentic, but comes to the plate more attractively. (I will be posting it soon.)
One problem with making enchiladas has always been that it is a long two-part cooking process. Cooking the filling and then assembling and cooking the enchiladas. Starting with precooked pork cuts down the first step in the process enough to make this a weekday meal.
Searching through the rest of Trader Joe’s aisles, I found chilies, cilantro, onions, refried beans, and tortillas. With my ingredients in hand, I was good to go. While Trader Joe’s, had canned chilies, I decided to use fresh ones that I picked up at nearby store—fresh is almost always better.
Note: Trader Joe’s has its own recipe for a enchilada casserole, but I do not think olives, green onions, or gobs of greasy cheese belong in an enchilada.
Karl’s Carnitas Enchiladas with Avocado
½ lb. Trader Joe’s pork carnitas (half a package)
1 medium yellow onion
1 bunch cilantro
1 Tbs. corn oil
2 4 oz. cans fire roasted diced green chilies OR
1 Poblano chili, cut into matchsticks
2 Anaheim chilies, cut into matchsticks
1 bottle enchilada sauce
1 can refried beans
1 pkg. corn tortillas
(Optional) 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1. Heat the pork for one minute in a microwave-safe covered bowl.
Tip: Warming the pork makes it easier to break apart.
2. Shred the pork into small pieces and set them aside.
Tip: You may use two forks, but fingers are still the best tools for this.
3. Slice the onions, pole to pole, into thin half moons.
4. Coarsely chop the leafy parts of the cilantro and set them aside.
5. Mince the cilantro stems.
6. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat.
7. Sauté the onions and cilantro stems until soft, about 5 minutes.
Note: If using fresh chilies, add and cook them with the onions.
8. Add the canned chilies and pork shreds to the onions.
9. Heat the mixture through, about another 3-4 minutes.
10. Remove pan from the heat and add half a cup of the enchilada sauce.
11. Toss to coat the ingredients with the sauce and let it cool a bit.
12. Put the refried beans in a microwave safe bowl and warm them for 1-1½ minutes.
Tip: Heating the beans a bit makes them easier to spread onto the tortillas.
13. Pour half a cup of the enchilada sauce in a casserole dish.
14. Taking the tortillas one at a time, spread some beans down the center of the round tortilla.
Tip: If the tortillas are even a little bit stale, they will be very brittle and crack as you roll. If this is the case, wrap the tortillas in a paper towel and microwave them for one minute to soften them.
Note: This recipe makes about 10-11 enchiladas. Divide the beans equally between the tortillas.
15. Put 2-3 tablespoons of the pork filling over the beans.
Tip: If you are using cheese, place some cheese over the filling.
Note: If using cheese, save some to sprinkle over the enchiladas during the last ten minutes of baking. Wife Jan does not like cheese with her meat, so I make my enchiladas half and half—some with cheese and some without, the cheese on top tells you which is which.
16. Carefully roll the filling ingredients up in the tortilla and transfer it to the casserole.
Tip: Roll the tortillas very carefully, do that they do not crack.
17. Put some of the enchilada sauce in a cup and brush it all over the outside of the just rolled enchilada.
Note: Refill the sauce cup as necessary. Plan to use the whole bottle of sauce for this dish.
18. Continue filling, rolling and brushing on the sauce, until you run out of ingredients or space in the casserole.
19. Brush any remaining sauce over the enchiladas.
20. Pre-heat the oven to 350º F.
21. Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake the enchiladas for 15 minutes.
22. Remove the foil and rotate the pan so that they cook evenly.
Note: If using cheese, spread the remaining cheese over the top of the enchiladas.
23. Peel and slice the avocado, laying one slice over each enchilada.
24. Continue baking the enchiladas for another 15-20 minutes.
25. Let the enchiladas cool slightly before serving and garnish with the fresh cilantro.