For me, a warm corn tortilla is one of the most comforting foods there is. My childhood babysitter was from Guatemala, and she got me hooked early on. I still remember her spreading corn tortillas with butter, sprinkling them with sugar, rolling them into loose cigars on a plate, and microwaving them for just a few seconds, until the outside was steamy-warm and the inside was gooey. For a small child, there was no better afternoon treat.
I still take a lot of solace in corn tortillas, whether they’re simply steamed naked or doused in sauce. For the most part, I prefer to get my fix outside my house, at a local Mexican/Salvadoran dive that makes the best enchiladas in town. But recently I stumbled across a recipe for a tortilla dish I’d never seen before, where the sharp-and-spicy chile sauce was replaced with a thick robe of rough-pureed beans. Enfrijoladas. The bones of the dish are the same–tortillas soaked in sauce, sometimes filled with protein, rolled or folded–but the impact is totally different. Each bite is hefty, creamy, almost peanut-butter-thick. This is stick-to-your ribs Mexican food, but without the accompanying lardiness we Americans are so used to.
There’s something almost meditative about making a dish like this. It’s the kind of thing that forces you to get your hands and dishes and stovetop messy, dipping tortillas in warm sauce and folding them over themselves, laying them on a plate and scattering over a coarse-crumbled handful of queso fresco. In this case, there’s no baking to worry about, just assembly, so that you can hand off the bean-soaked tortillas to be eaten as soon as they’re folded. I used a pair of tongs to manipulate the tortillas in and out of the sauce, but folded them by hand, licking the starchy-chunky sauce from my fingers as I went.
Honestly, a tortilla this heartily dressed doesn’t really need a filling. Just drenching the tortillas in bean sauce and folding them over themselves would be enough. But I was feeding Sam, too, and he had a craving for sausage. So I cooked up a mass of Mexican chorizo–the squishy pork kind–to spoon into the bellies of the tortillas. I had the leftover greens from a bunch of radishes hanging around, so I whacked at them a little with a knife and wilted them into the chorizo. It would have been far too aggressive a filling for an enchilada, but for the creamy-mild bean sauce, it turned out nicely: gooey and pungent and just a touch spicy, with the milky saltiness of the queso fresco to round everything out. With a vinegary chopped salad and a cold fizzy beverage, these tortillas made for one soul-soothing dinner.