Happy Cinco de Mayo, my people!!! I hope all is well your way! Ya’ll do know that I am from Alexandria (as Big Daddy says I remind anyone and everyone that I am from Alex.). He and the kids pick on me quite a bit about this but it’s fine because that is where my roots are and I am a roots are important kind of gal. Yes I am all about blooming where I am planted in North Louisiana and Shreveport has been so so good to me, but at the end of the day, my roots in Alex. run deep! So the recipe I am bringing to you today is a throwback copycat to Cucos. Cucos was the first Mexican food I ever tasted. My best friend then and now, Nicole, and her parents brought me out to eat there and I fell in love!!! Their cheese enchiladas with that amazing gravy were the best thing I had ever tasted. See my parents are so cajun that at that time they would not have entertained eating at a Mexican restaurant. I do remember in high school I got to pick a restaurant and where I chose to go? Yep, Cucos.
So I have been on the hunt for a copycat Cucos cheese enchilada and gravy recipe. The cheese enchiladas I got down, but that gravy recipe remained ever elusive. Since we have been quarantined, I have naturally had more time on my hands. And the other night I was googling recipes and I googled Cucos cheese enchiladas, not expecting much as I had done this before, and up popped up this recipe. It was like an answered prayer friends!!! I was a little doubtful but super excited to try it. So to my neighborhood Walmart I went to get the minimal ingredients. As my oldest pointed out, I was a day early for taco Tuesday but oh well, when the envie for Mexican hits, it is what it is! So I made these super cheesy, extra delicious enchiladas and ya’ll…they were as close to Cucos as I am gonna get since they closed them all down years ago. I am still bitter Cucos. Still bitter. But having this little recipe in my repertoire makes life a little sweeter. I opened a can of refried black beans and made some cilantro lime rice and it was muy delicioso. Now, Cucos refried black beans are next on my list to recreate. Then their fried ice cream. Sweet Mother Mary, that was the best. My oldest loves El Chico ( I do not support him in this) and oohs and ahhhs over their fried ice cream. I am like boy please, get out of here with that noise. You don’t know good fried ice cream. Ya’ll, I should be 55 now with all the birthdays I celebrated at Cucos to get that free birthday fried ice cream. I should also be ashamed of myself for having fake birthdays. But I proudly wore that big sombrero and let the Cucos workers sing Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to our guest, Happy birthday happy birthday Cucos wishes you the best! Ole!!
I made a huge double recipe of these enchiladas, which is about 16 and ya’ll…they were gone!! No more. Nada. Big Daddy loved them, all the kids loved them and of course, I adored them. They evoked such great memories for me. The taste and the smell. So if you have some extra time during this quarantine, I would definitely suggest making some. And then make more because once is never enough. Kind of like getting that free fried ice cream…
Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Gravy
stuff you need:
For the chili gravy
6 tablespoons Canola oil
1/2 cup of flour
1 tsp. black pepper
3 tsp. garlic powder
4 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
4 T. dark chili powder (or regular if that’s what you want to do)
4 cups chicken broth
For the enchiladas:
16 corn tortillas
6 cups or so of shredded cheddar (I used a blend of cheddar and Monterey Jack)
3-4 green onions, chopped, green parts only
allll the chili gravy in that skillet, don’t kid yourself
what to do with the stuff:
To make the gravy, heat the canola oil in a large skillet. Whisk in your flour to make a roux. Not a super dark roux, not light either. So medium I guess. Cook on a low heat until it darkens a bit. Please remember to stir!!
Stir in all the spices. Add your chicken broth and cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened. It is absolutely perfect. Yes.
Now, ladle a little of that gravy to cover your 9 x 13 dish. I used one slightly bigger that was a hand me down from Big Daddy’s mama. If you are making a half recipe, 9 x 13 is fine. You might need to use 2 9 x 13 dishes if you are making all 16.
Now to prep your tortillas (and yes this is a little extra work but I have learned it is worth it)…heat about a tablespoon in a small skillet (cast iron if you have it) and then add a tortilla to it. Fry for a few seconds on each side, and put it on a plate lined with a few paper towels. Do this with each tortilla. Do not fry them long, and add more oil as needed to keep your skillet greased. Set tortillas aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Now, on another plate, set a tortilla and add some cheese. I have no idea how much, but if I had to guess maybe 1/8 cup? I just sprinkle some on. Corn tortillas are not very big so you’ll have to use your judgement. Roll up the tortilla and set it in your prepared dish. Do this with each tortilla. Once they are all lined up in that baking dish with that scrumptious chili gravy all over the bottom, ladle the rest of the chili gravy all over the top. If you are doing two pans, remember to divide it up. Now sprinkle so so much cheese all over that chili gravy. Do not add the green onions just yet.
Pop these suckers in the oven. Cook until that cheese is all bubbly and melted. About 5 minutes before they are done, sprinkle the green onions all over the cheese. Cook for a few more minutes. Yes. This is the Cucos. You might be quarantined but that’s not stopping you from eating a restaurant style meal is it? No, indeed.
Happy eating my friends!! Hope you all stay well and use this time to cook something delicious, get closer to family, learn a new hobby, find some new joy! God is so good and His mercies are fresh every morning! Much love to you and yours!! If you make these, let me know what y’all think!! XO, AMB