By contributing writer Mary Cressler
Some friends of mine recently welcomed their first child into the world, and I couldn’t be happier for them. I remember those days so well! There is the excitement of a precious new baby, trying to get used to new routines, the lack of sleep, and trying to keep up with cooking and cleaning while feeding, changing, calming, and loving the baby dearly.
After we had our first children (yes, twins), I clearly remember friends and neighbors coming to visit and always bringing a meal or some snacks. I never wanted to ask for help (I’m too stubborn), but those friends who brought fully cooked or ready-to-cook dinners were a godsend. After trying to get used to a new baby’s routine, we had no energy (or motivation) to prepare a home cooked meal on our own. Up until then, I never realized how helpful it was to have someone make the simple gesture of bringing over a meal, knowing that we had so many other things on our minds.
So when we went to meet our friend’s beautiful baby for the first time, I couldn’t wait to return the favor that so many others offered us when we were in their shoes. The only thing I wanted to make sure of was that the meal was something they could freeze to cook later or something they could easily refrigerate for a few days. I didn’t want to assume they’d eat it that day. And the most important thing was that it was ready to cook, meaning that all they needed to do was preheat the oven and eat.
Some good ideas for this type of meal include mac and cheese, lasagna, chicken potpie, penne pasta, or really anything that fits into a casserole dish and can be easily warmed in the oven. I chose enchiladas because, well, they are one of my favorite comfort dishes, and I was craving them. I decided to make a double batch – one for them and one for us to enjoy at home. If you’re going to go through the effort, you might as well make two batches so you have dinner for yourself too.
Enchiladas are great because once you prepare them in your baking dish, all they need to do is be warmed up in the oven. Plus, who doesn’t love the taste of a rich enchilada sauce surrounded by warm melted cheddar cheese and tender tortillas that have soaked up all the flavor? Throw in some wine, and you’ve got the perfect meal!
For these enchiladas, I used pulled pork that I had made the day before, but you can use whatever protein or filling you enjoy. Some options include chuck steak, ground beef, chicken breasts, or even mixed vegetables. Just make sure your filling is cooked through before you roll up your enchiladas.
Also, a trick I learned from my mother to ensure your corn tortillas don’t crack or break while rolling them is to dip them in warm enchilada sauce to soften prior to filling them. A lot of people will do this with oil, but I don’t like the extra grease the oil adds to the enchiladas. Just heat up your sauce in a wide skillet and dip a tortilla into it, then let the excess sauce drip back into the pan. This softens the tortilla, making it easy to roll once the fillings are in place.
After the meal is prepared, place the dish in a cute gift basket along with cooking instructions, a nice bottle of wine, and something extra for the baby.
- 2 16-ounce cans of red chile enchilada sauce (or one large 28 ounce can)
- 16 corn tortillas
- 2 cups protein of choice, fully cooked and cut into small bite-sized pieces (pulled pork, chuck steak, chicken breasts, tofu)
- 2 cups smoked cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 cups regular shredded cheese (mixed Mexican cheese blend works well)
- Cilantro for garnish
- Prepare two 8 x 8 inch baking dishes.
- Warm up the enchilada sauce in a large skillet. One at a time, dip a corn tortilla in the sauce to coat, then set on a plate. Place about two tablespoons of the meat mixture, onion, and cheese in the center of the tortilla, then roll up the tortilla. Place in the baking dish, seam side down.
- Repeat with remaining tortillas. You should be able to fit 6 - 8 enchiladas per 8x8 baking dish.
- Top with remaining sauce and a generous handful of cheese to coat the dish.
- Let the dish cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for 1 - 3 days.
- When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bring the dish back to room temperature and bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and melted.
- Garnish with cilantro.
These enchiladas aren’t spicy at all, so you need not worry about finding a wine to pair with spicy food. But if you want something refreshing and crisp, rosé works great with enchiladas. For reds, several options work like Tempranillo, as do other Spanish red wines. But I also really enjoy Italian reds for this, especially Chianti or Barbera. They are medium bodied with nice berry fruit flavors and have great acidity that works well with the rich enchilada sauce. Since you’re also giving this wine as a gift, put some thought into what your friends might like.
Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti 2011
I chose Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti, which you can find between $12 – $15. It has rich black cherry and raspberry fruit flavors that play well with the rich enchiladas. It also has fresh acidity that cuts through the melted cheese, and soft tannins. It’s a very balanced wine for the price and a great choice for these comforting enchiladas. Plus it’s a nice wine to sip on its own after dinner is over and the baby is (hopefully) fast asleep!
The best part about making two batches of these enchiladas is that after we visited our friends and met the new baby, we came home to our own ready to bake dinner. And yes, wine was included!
We hope you enjoy our wine pairing choices. If you want to know which wines YOU will like best, download the FREE iPhone app Wine4.Me. Tell it what wines you know you like and get your own personalized rankings of best-selling, widely available wines in the US.
Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners. She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.