Flat Spinach Enchiladas with Ancho Sauce


I’m happy to report that the spinach at the Belleville market  this week was gorgeous – so pretty that I bought 1 kilo. Do you have any idea what 2.20 pounds of spinach looks like? I pulled it out of the sack and it filled up my whole sink – then of course, shrinkage — I was left with about  3 cups’ worth.

So all we’ve got here is spinach, corn tortillas, ancho sauce and a fried egg. Super-simple, but it does require that you make the ancho sauce, which takes a teensy bit of time, and I do mean teensy. I make up a batch and keep it in the fridge for times just like these – when I have something fresh and wonderful that I want to be the star, like this spinach, and I want to put something together in a flash.

I made flat, Santa Fe-style enchiladas because I wanted to heap on the spinach, and then I thought that it needed something gooey and runny, too. Enter the fried egg. Plus, I’ve been thinking a lot about eggs lately, as y’all are well aware.

Did you know that the USDA said last month that eggs have 14% less cholesterol and 64% more vitamin D than the last time that they were analyzed (in 2002)?

Of course, I fried the eggs in duck fat, but that’s because there was a little bit leftover from the tortilla-frying (see below), and I didn’t want to let it go to waste.

A word about spinach. I enlisted X to help me pull the woodsy stems off of the big pieces, but the man at the market told me that he never does this. Of course, we were in the middle of a Mexican standoff over  the price of a potimarron at the time (he wanted 4.50 for one and I told him that the same size was just 3 euros the week before, which it was), and I was picking out leaves of spinach one at a time, peeling off the stems as I was doing so, and sort of taking my time about it, lalalalala. When he gave me the spinach stem news, I looked at him with amazement, and I said that I’d have to try that. Then he said he’d give me the potimarron for 3 euros. So I bought two. And I stopped picking off the stems and grabbed a couple of big handfuls of spinach and stuffed them into the plastic sack.

Now I go to his stand every week and he has stopped trying to rip me off.

This is how you have to play it, people. It’s never just a relaxing morning of  picking out the prettiest fruits and vegetables and putting them in your cute little straw basket. It’s a fierce, highly competitive game —  over price, over who gets waited on first, and over what quality of fruits and vegetables end up in your sack. The only way to win is to stand your ground, argue when necessary (frequently), and you’ll earn the respect of the person on the other side.*

The next thing you know, you’ll start to get a few free onions tossed in as a gift-with-purchase.

Which never happens at the Kroger.

*This same idea applies to all transactions, whether at the market, the butcher, or the boulangerie, where they’ll always try to sneak in an undercooked baguette even though you requested “bien cuit.”

Spinach Enchiladas with Ancho Chile Sauce

Makes two servings

The ancho chile sauce is adapted from a recipe in Diana Kennedy’s “The Art of Mexican Cooking” (Clarkson Potter)

4 ancho chiles (these are dried and available at Mexican markets – I brought mine from Texas)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cloves garlic, chopped (divided use)
1 pound fresh spinach, washed and stems removed (or not)
2 tablespoons olive oil (or more if needed)
big pinch sea salt
crank or two of freshly cracked black pepper
6 corn tortillas
1 tablespoon lard or duck fat (you may need a bit more to fry the all of the tortillas and the eggs)

1. Remove stalks, seeds and veins from the dried chiles and toast on comal or another heavy skillet on medium-low heat until the chiles turn an opaque tobacco brown — they’ll curl up as they heat through and you’ll need to press the chiles down with a wooden spoon to toast them. Be sure and toast both sides and be careful not to burn the chiles.

2. After the chiles are toasted, remove and soak in 1 cup of hot water for about 15 minutes — until they’re reconstituted.

3. Pour the chiles and water into a blender and add one clove of chopped garlic and the 1 teaspoon sea salt. Blend until smooth. Note: this can be done ahead of time and kept in the fridge.

4. Cook the spinach. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet, add the other clove of chopped garlic and turn the heat on medium. When the garlic begins to cook and you can smell it, add the spinach, turning it with tongs so it cooks evenly and quickly. Add the sea salt and pepper. Remove the spinach and put it into a colander to drain. You may need to do this in batches, but it won’t take more than 5 minutes or so to cook all of it.

5. Make the enchiladas. In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of duck fat or lard over medium-low heat; in another small skillet, on low heat, heat 3-4 tablespoons of the ancho chile sauce. When both mixtures are warm, stack your tortillas on one side of the stove and your plates on the other. One by one, dip the corn tortillas into the lard or duck fat, and fry until soft, turning over a time or two. Then, dip each soft tortilla into the ancho sauce, flip it over so it’s well-covered, and put it on the plate. Do this two more times for one serving; then do three more tortillas for the second plate.

6. Using your tongs, heap a large pinch of spinach on each tortilla.

7. In the same skillet with the duck fat or lard, fry up a couple of eggs, putting one on each plate. Now, stab that yolk with your fork and let the yellow ooze.