19 June 2013 ~ 0 Comments

Mexican Lasagna – A Recipe from Scratch

Mexican Lasagna 1

It has been raining off and on for almost the past week here in Pune. The rains and July-August are the only times when it is somewhat cool and pleasant in Pune nowadays. Gone are the days when this city was cool almost through the year. The dropped temperatures were begging for hot comfort food and its been a while since I tried out a Mexican recipe.

Inspite of loving Mexican food, I don’t make much of it. There is the lack of typical ingredients like ancho or chipotle chillies, sour cream, avocados, readymade tortillas etc. Granted, some of these are now available in the imported goods store, but it’s still a hit or miss getting them when you want them. So I decided to make do with whatever was available and improvise.

I have been hankering to create a good enchilada sauce from scratch since a long time. This recipe is quick and easy and yields a thick sauce that sticks to the tortillas and chips. I made the tortillas from scratch – had to – but you are welcome to use the readymade ones (corn) if you get them. Need I say that fresh will be better? This dish is assembled like a lasagna because I wanted to eat both a lasagna and Mexican food at the same time J.

This might look like a lot of work, but it is worth the effort. You can make the sauce ahead of time if you wish. Make more so that you can store or freeze it. You will be adding it to sandwiches and burritos for sure!

The detailed recipe is as follows –

Mexican Lasagna 2

Ingredients –

For the Tortillas

1 cup yellow corn meal (makai atta)

1 cup AP flour or maida

1 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

Salt to taste

 

For the Sauce

12-15 roma or plum tomatoes or

2 16 oz cans chopped/ crushed tomatoes

2 Large Kashmiri chillies

4  Dry Red Chillies

2 cloves garlic minced

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp cumin powder

3 Tbsp AP flour

3 Tbsp oil

1 tsp sugar

1-2 cups vegetable stock

Salt to taste

 

For the filling

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow/ orange bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

2 corns on the cob or

1 cup sweet corn

1 onion

4-5 cloves garlic

1 cup mushrooms

1 packet firm tofu

2-3 Tbsp oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp chili powder or cumin/oregano mixture

 

3-4 cups Mexican blend cheese

Cilantro

Optional garnish

Sliced black olives

Jalapenos

Chopped scallions

Sour cream

Mexican Lasagna 4

Method -

  1. Making the tortillas – Mix all the flours, salt, oil together and add 1-2 cups water gradually until a tight dough is formed. You can use the food processor for this. Let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes. Roll out rotis around 6 inches wide and make regular phulkas with them. You should have around 12-14 phulkas or tortillas with this dough. Set them aside.
  2. For the sauce – Fry the chili peppers in a little oil and place them in a bowl. Add a cup of hot water and let them puff up for half an hour. They will be softened by this time. Put chilies, tomatoes, garlic in a blender and blend away. If you do not like a chunky sauce, you can drain/ sieve this sauce to get rid of any seeds etc. I prefer the rustic version here.
  3. For the sauce – Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a large sauce pan. Add 3 Tbsp flour and stir quickly to avoid lumps. Use a whisk if you have one. Make a roux – toast the flour in the oil until it bubbles, turns light brown and gives a toasty flavor. Be sure not to burn it. Add the tomato chili puree to the roux in the pan. Stir gently. Season with salt and spices. Add a little stock at a time because the salt will make the sauce thin too. Bring to a boil and then let it simmer.
  4. For the sauce – Keep stirring the sauce until it thickly coats the back of a spatula. This should take 15-20 minutes at least. Taste, adjust seasoning and turn off heat. This sauce will be very hot and pungent. Don’t worry, this will be mixed with a lot of things before you eat it.
  5. For the filling – Chop all peppers, onions and mushrooms in roughly the same dice. Chop tofu in a small dice too. Add oil a little bit at a time in a wok, and sauté all the veggies one by one. Season as you go. This will ensure a well rounded taste later, and will also draw any moisture out of the veggies.
  6. For the filling – Add garlic and mushrooms first. Mushrooms will give out a lot of liquid. Add salt and pepper and transfer them to a plate. Add the peppers next. Saute and transfer immediately. Add onions next. Add a little oil to the wok in between vegetables if needed. Make sure that you do not overcook any vegetable. The corn will probably take the longest. Add the tofu last and add the cumin/oregano mixture or a readymade chili powder. Brown the tofu as much as you can.
  7. For the filling – Mix all the sautéed veggies and tofu in a bowl. Add some fresh chopped cilantro and set aside.
  8. Cheese – Use any readymade Mexican blend such as Kraft or Sargento. Go Cheese has a great one in India. You can also create your own mixture by having a cup each of Monterey Jack, Colby, Cheddar and Mozzarella. You will need at least 4 tightly packed cups of grated cheese here.
  9. Assembling the Lasagna – Take a 9×9 Pyrex dish or a pie dish. Place some sauce in the bottom of the dish. Now take a tortilla and dip it in the sauce. The sauce will thickly coat the tortilla. Place this tortilla at the bottom from one corner. Repeat with another tortilla from opposite corner. Now break a tortilla in two, soak it in sauce and cover the remaining space. You should have one complete layer with sauce covered tortillas.
  10. Assembling the Lasagna – Divide the veggie and tofu mixture in 3 equal portions. Spoon one portion over the tortilla layer and spread evenly to cover the whole surface. Cover this with about one cup of cheese spread evenly over the veggie mixture.
  11. Assembling the Lasagna – Repeat by soaking the tortillas and creating a tortilla layer. Add the veggies in one layer, and cheese in next layer. Again add the soaked tortillas, more veggies and cheese.
  12. Assembling the Lasagna – Continue until you have the layers you want or the pan is full. You should get three good layers easily. Spread the remaining cheese on top in an even layer.
  13. Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees F or 180C. Place the assembled dish slowly in the center rack. Bake for 20-30 minutes until all the cheese on top is melted. If cheese does not melt in 30 minutes, switch the broiler on for 5 minutes only – just enough to melt the cheese.
  14. Remove from oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. This is essential for the layers to set.
  15. Before serving – Loosen the edges with a knife like you would do for a cake. Cut vertical lines with a knife and then cut horizontally to make squares of a good size. They should not be too small. Lift with a flat serving spoon and gently place on a plate.
  16. Serving the Lasagna – Garnish with fresh chopped scallions and cilantro and sour cream. Add olives if you like. Your Mexican lasagna is served.

I loved making this dish and of course devouring it. Unless you’re used to hot food, this will be on the hot/ spicy side for you – it was for me. The heat factor intensifies the next day. So I would actually recommend using only 1-2 chilis. If you use dried Ancho or Chipotle chilis, the heat factor will be different again and I advise caution. The only way to be sure is by trying this multiple times with the same ingredients. Or you can use a readymade chili powder that you are comfortable with. The sweet corn is a must here since it mellows the chili a bit.

Mexican lasagna 3

Other Serving Suggestions – You can assemble a traditional enchilada pan with this. Stuff the veggie and cheese mixture in the tortillas, roll and place seam side down in pan. Pour sauce over it and add cheese on top. Bake until golden. Serve with Rice and Beans. Or you can also serve these as tacos, adding some fresh lettuce, salsa and guacamole.

I hope you make this and enjoy it as much as I did. Do let me know how it was and if you have any questions.

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