Tortillas form the structure for enchiladas, a flavorful casserole of vegetables and beef, chicken or fish, slathered with sauce and cheese. Choose a tortilla that can stand up to soaking in a sauce without breaking down. If you use frozen tortillas, allow them to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. You can also buy raw flour tortillas in the refrigerated section of your grocer. Cook these on a skillet before you use them in enchiladas.
Corn tortillas have a pronounced corn taste and a chewy texture. Most measure 4 to 6 inches across. Corn tortillas are more versatile than flour tortillas -- you can fry them crisp as chips or tacos or just warm them a bit for enchiladas. Corn tortillas pair well with almost any filling, including vegetables, beef, chicken and shrimp, while flour tortillas pair well with chicken and fish. Flour tortillas have a soft texture and a mild flavor, and typically measure 6 to 12 inches or more wide. In enchiladas, stick with tortillas that are 8 inches wide or less. Some artisanal tortillas contain whole-wheat, specialty grains or additional ingredients, such as black beans or chiles.
You can use any type of tortilla you like for enchiladas, although corn tortillas are the traditional choice. Corn tortillas roll easily when warm and have a dense, chewy texture that holds up to fillings and sauces. Flour tortillas have a milder flavor, which works well when you want the flavor of the filling to take a starring role. Keep in mind, though, that flour tortillas are usually filled immediately before serving, as in the case of burritos or soft tacos, or they're filled and fried, as in the case of chimichangas. This is because flour tortillas can become gummy when they're cooked in a sauce, as they would be in enchiladas. This problem becomes more pronounced with thin sauces, such as a red sauce with ground beef, as opposed to a thick sauce, such as the type used for sour cream enchiladas, which uses a filling made from sour cream, green chilis and condensed soup. Grill flour tortillas on a griddle to lightly toast them, which can help prevent gumminess. Whole wheat or multi-grain flour tortillas also hold up better. Artisanal tortillas have the same basic properties, depending on whether they're made with corn or flour, but the exotic ingredients add extra flavor. (ref. 1)
Roll It Up
The type of tortilla you use dictates slight variations in the preparation method. Corn tortillas are rather stiff and may crack if you don't warm them first. Warm them in the oven or microwave, or fry them lightly in oil just to soften them. Don't allow them to cook until they become crisp. Drain and blot them well on paper towels so they're not greasy. Flour tortillas don't necessarily need to be warmed ahead of time, unless they're very stiff. Use the thinnest flour tortillas you can find. Once you've prepared the tortillas, fill them, cover them with sauce and bake them until they're bubbly and slightly brown.
You should use corn tortillas to avoid gluten. Corn tortillas are usually gluten-free, although it's best to check with individual manufacturers to confirm this. When it comes to your figure, corn tortillas are the clear winner. One 5-inch diameter corn tortilla has 58 calories and 1 gram of fat, while one 7-inch flour tortilla has 144 calories and 4 grams of fat. Even when compared ounce to ounce, corn tortillas come out ahead. Corn tortillas have 62 calories per ounce, while flour tortillas have 87 calories per ounce. Flour tortillas contain slightly more iron, protein and calcium than corn tortillas, but overall, corn tortillas are the better choice.
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Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."