Jacqueline Higuera McMahan, a descendant of the original Spanish settlers in California, grew up eating these unusual enchiladas at family barbecues and breakfasts alike. She recalls them in California Rancho Cooking (1988) as "a favorite of las comidas del pais (the native foods)," and a single serving will show you why.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fine dried bread crumbs or unbleached all-purpose flour
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons ground dried mild red chiles, such as ancho or New Mexican
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups diced onions
12 large thin flour tortillas
3/4 pound medium to sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
3/4 cup sliced pitted water-packed black olives
Prepare the sauce, first warming the oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in the bread crumbs and brown briefly. Add the garlic, oregano, and chiles. Slowly pour in 4 cups of water, stirring to avoid lumps, and then add the vinegar and salt. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until somewhat thickened and reduced, 20 to 25 minutes. (The sauce can be made up to several days in advance and refrigerated, covered, or frozen for up to several months. Reheat before proceeding.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a large baking dish, one that is at least as wide as your tortillas.
Warm the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions should become translucent and very soft, but not brown. Reduce the heat if needed.
Dip a tortilla into the chile sauce and place it on a plate. Sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of the cheese and 2 tablespoons of the onions down the center of the tortilla. Scatter a couple of teaspoons of olive slices over the onions. Instead of rolling up the tortilla, just fold the tortilla in half. With a spatula, transfer the enchiladas to the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling ingredients, placing each enchilada so that it overlaps the previous one. Spoon the remaining sauce over the top of the enchiladas. Sprinkle with any remaining cheese or olives.
Bake the enchiladas for 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. (Some tortillas may balloon up a bit as they cook.) Serve immediately.
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Excerpted from American Home Cooking by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison Copyright© 1999 by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.