When I was growing up in West Texas, we went out for one of two types of food: steak or Mexican. For me, the latter always included enchiladas, those rolled and stuffed tortillas coated in a chili sauce. I made them myself from time to time once I got to college in Austin, and have ever since.
It wasn’t until those college years that I first tasted their more easygoing cousin: enfrijoladas. Once you know that enchilada means something that’s coated in chilies and that frijoles are beans, it’s pretty easy to guess what these are. Unlike enchiladas, though, they’re typically topped, not filled.
The key is to make the beans from scratch. Trust me on this. Yes, canned beans are better than many other vegetables, and I use them myself. But when the beans are showcased like this, the difference between warmed-from-a-can and cooked-from-dried is the difference between good and scrape-the-plate. That’s because the precious cooking liquid that results from simmering dried beans to tenderness is the stock on which you base this sauce. After that, it comes together as easily as sauteing aromatic vegetables, sprinkling in spices and mashing those beans and their liquid. You dip the tortillas in the sauce to coat and soften them, and sprinkle on your favorite stuff: These days I’m liking avocados, chopped egg and onion.
Sure, it can take a little foresight to make the beans from scratch. But start with a pound some Friday when you get home from work, soak them overnight, then let them bubble away on Saturday while you putter around the house. Soon enough, you’ll have enough for two batches of enfrijoladas: one that night and the second a few days later (or months, if you employ your freezer).
My love for the dish has done nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for a pan of enchiladas. But enchiladas are to enfrijoladas what lasagna is to a bowl of pasta. Which one do you make more often?