Love is the least secret of all secret ingredients. Your grandma, all those Food Network chefs, the guys in the poofy hats in the Olive Garden commercials sprinkling some indistinct herb into a pot of even more indistinct sauce—everything they make is just bursting at the seams with love.
You know what ingredient is grossly neglected? Spite. I cook with spite all the time, and it’s led to some of my best recipes. No dish inspires sweet, sweet repressed hatred for me as much as enchiladas thanks to one person: Tyler Florence.
I never thought about making enchiladas from scratch until one of my old roommates—who thought he could cook but was an absolute scrub in the kitchen—invited the girls from apartment 402 over for dinner and made the most embarrassingly piss-poor enchiladas of all time. There were multicolored toothpicks involved, and Pace salsa, and chicken so dry it absorbed sauce like a black hole absorbs light.
I promised them a redemption dinner, and since there was pride on the line here, I had to be on point. So I went to my childhood hero Tyler Florence’s recipe archive and tried to swoop on his enchilada technique. Here’s where that whole spite thing comes into play: His “recipe” calls for canned enchilada sauce.
What the hell, man? I thought you got paid to tell me how to not make shit from a can. That’d be like Mario Batali writing a spaghetti pomodoro recipe and just saying, “Boil spaghetti, mix with can of Prego, put in your face hole.”
So for your homemade enchilada sauce, you’re going to need some dried chile de arbol, dried California chiles, tomato paste, vinegar, garlic, onion, dark chocolate and a whole lot of spite—just to round out all those big flavors.
First, go ahead and preheat your oven to 450 degrees so you can blast those ‘chiladas and melt the cheese thoroughly when the time comes. Then, bring two cups of water to a boil, add four seeded chiles de arbol and five large seeded California chiles. Take the pan off the heat and let the chiles steep and rehydrate for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté half of a minced onion and three cloves of minced garlic in olive oil on medium heat for about six or seven minutes, just to sweat it down. When the chiles are done steeping, throw them in a blender with the residual water, add the onions and garlic, then throw in two tablespoons of tomato paste, two tablespoons white vinegar, two ounces of quality dark chocolate, and a salt and black pepper to taste. Blend it up and taste the magic.
Enchilada building is no joke, and like most sauce-dependent dishes, you’re going to want more sauce than you think you’ll need. Lay down a thin layer of sauce in a baking sheet, then, take a corn tortilla, slather it in the sauce, stuff it with chicken and jack cheese, then roll it so the folds are safely on the bottom of the pan. Repeat the process until you’ve used up all your natural resources, cover it in cheese, then throw it in your 450 degree oven until the cheese is all melty, and the sauce has just started to caramelize.
I topped mine with radishes, scallions, and some raw fresno chilies dressed in lime juice. Because spite garnishes are the best garnishes.
Still hungry? Check out the other installments of Bite Club here.
Photos by All photos by Josh Scherer