These Blistered Jalapeño White Bean Enchiladas were almost mac and cheese. Yes, when I first envisioned a cheesy, jalapeño-flecked cream sauce, I thought it was destined for a pot of tubular pasta. But when I got to the other side of the holidays, I found myself pasta-ed out. I do find it interesting that I was still game for cheese, in spite of inhaling quite a bit of it during the month of December. Clearly, when it comes to cheese consumption, I was built to persevere. But pasta and I needed a hiatus, so enchiladas it was. I have no doubt pasta and I will be reunited shortly.
Yes, this is how my brain works. Can’t have pasta, it will just have to be tortillas. If there were some logic to this line of thinking I would tell you, but I am fairly convinced there is not. I am just a jumble of cravings and they completely and totally dictate the recipes you find on this scattered blog. However, I do often find myself craving Mexican food when coming off of a pretty extreme meat and potato stretch. Anything that doesn’t resemble stuffing is downright seductive in January. So that may have something to do with my non-sensical leap from elbow mac to corn tortillas.
But enough about my hair-brained recipe planning, let’s talk about these Blistered Jalapeño White Bean Enchiladas. They are most deserving of your attention. I would say they are my favorite thing I’ve made all year. But that’s not exactly a selling feature when the year in question is only 6 days old. But I do think they will prove to be a serious contender for that title.
These Blistered Jalapeño White Bean Enchiladas gather inspiration from a dish called Enchiladas Suizas, which roughly translates to Swiss-style Enchiladas. The dish earns its moniker through its liberal use of cream and cheese. These enchiladas are said to have been created by a Swiss-born chef that worked at the popular Sanborns in Mexico City. The dish is comprised of chicken-stuffed corn tortillas smothered in a salsa verde-spiked bechamel sauce and covered with a blanket of shredded cheese.
The cheese used in Enchiladas Suizas varies from recipe to recipe. Choices range from home-grown classics like queso Oaxaca to European heavyweights like Gruyere. I used neither. Instead, I opted for a stringy low-moisture mozzarella for an Oaxacan-esque cheese pull and a goat cheese for its tell-tale tang. Oh and a hit of yogurt, my go-to stand-in for sour cream and Mexican crema. We’re living in a pandemic – I can’t go as far afield for my ingredients as I used to. I am, alas, carless, and afraid of the subway. So clever substitutes it is.
These Blistered Jalapeño White Bean Enchiladas differ from Enchilada Suizas in a couple of ways. The most glaring being the absence of salsa verde. The jalapeños, which are blistered over an open flame before being puree, act as the salsa’s very capable stand-in. I neglected to peel away the charred skin on the jalapeño because I quite like the flavor of char. If you’re not about that charred life, you can certainly peel your jalapeños.
Another difference between this recipe and its inspiration lies in the filling. As I mentioned, Enchilada Suizas are typically filled with chicken. Instead of chicken, I went with my bean of choice – white beans. You could use any old bean here. I think pintos would be excellent as well.
I’ve been trying my best to further cut down on my meat consumption in 2021. My strategy is to only eat meat when it is central to a craving. If I want steak or a cheeseburger or something like that, I bow to it and indulge because the meat is central to the experience. But if the meat is secondary, as it is in an enchilada filling, I sub it for lentils or beans or crumbled tofu. I find I can enjoy things like a vegetarian curry as much as I do a chicken curry. I’m mostly there for the incredible sauce, and if you know your way around vegetarian sources of umami, you’re really not deprived in any way.
In some ways, I actually prefer vegetarian Mexican food. I think beans are impeccable flavor sponges and if I’m really craving smoky umami, I can always fall back on chipotle peppers. The key to making memorable vegetarian food is to flavor and cook vegetables with the same care you would a fine cut of meat. Omnivorous and vegetarian cuisines do not have to be divorced from each other. I say this as an omnivore. I’m quite happy to eat vegetarian most nights of the week.
Okay, I’m going to climb off my soap box and wrap this up. These Blistered Jalapeño White Bean Enchiladas are a simple, deeply satisfying, and entirely meatless meal. They’re creamy, cheesy, and a little spicy to boot. And when paired with pickled red onions, their equal parts comfort food and a surprisingly sophisticated treat.
Blistered Jalapeño White Bean Enchiladas
- 11×8 inch baking dish
- Large Cast Iron Skillet
Pickled Red Onion
- ½ red onion thinly sliced
- ¾ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Blistered Jalapeño White Bean Enchiladas
- 2 jalapeños
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 shallots halved and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 (540mL) cans white beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 2 tsp honey
- 1½ tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt divided
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups milk I used 2%
- 140g (5 oz) goat cheese
- ⅓ cup plain yogurt full-fat
- 12 corn tortillas
- 1½ cups mozzarella shredded
- 1 avocado diced
- ¼ cup cilantro finely chopped
For the Onions
- Place the onions in a bowl. Add the vinegar and water followed by the bay leaves, salt, sugar, and spices. Stir to combine. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Store in the fridge if you want to make them more than 8 hours in advance.
For the Enchiladas
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 11 x 8" baking dish and set aside.
- Blister the two jalapeños over the open flame of a burner until charred all over. If you don't have a gas stove, place the jalapeños on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place it under the broiler. Broil until the skin blisters and turns black. Turn the peppers over and continue to broil on the other side. Set the jalapeños aside to cool.
- Once the peppers are cool, remove the stems and place them in a large food processor, and blitz until smooth. ** Transfer the peppers to a plate and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and sauté until just translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds more.
- Add the beans, veggie stock, spices, half of the salt, and honey to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let cook until most of the liquid is absorbed about 15-20 minutes.
- While the beans are simmering make the bechamel. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until frothy. Stir in the flour to form a roux. Whisk the milk into the roux slowly until a smooth sauce forms. Stir in the remaining salt and cook until bubbles break the surface.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the goat cheese, stirring until it melts and becomes fully integrated. Add the jalapeños and cook for 5 minutes more. Take the sauce off of the heat and stir in the yogurt. Cover the sauce and set aside.
- Ladle a little of the bechamel into the prepared baking dish. Spread the sauce with the back of the ladle to create a thin, even layer.
- Stack and wrap 4 corn tortillas in a damp paper towel. Place the bundle in the microwave and heat for 30 seconds. Working quickly, spoon and spread a little of the sauce in the center of the tortilla. Add a couple of spoonfuls of the beans and cover with a sprinkling of the mozzarella cheese. Fold the tortilla closed and place it in the baking dish, seam-side-down. Repeat with the remaining hot tortillas.
- Repeat all of the steps above with another 4 tortillas and repeat again with the remaining 4 tortillas. I work in batches of 4 because this is the number of tortillas I can comfortably fill before they cool down too much. ***
- Once all the tortillas are filled and nestled into the baking dish, cover them with the remaining cream sauce and a sprinkling of mozzarella. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake until the cheese melts and bubbles. This should take about 15 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil the enchiladas until the cheese is golden, about 5 minutes more but be sure to keep an eye on it.
- Take the enchiladas out of the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. When ready to serve, cover the enchiladas with avocado and cilantro and serve alongside the pickled onions.