Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chorizo Enchiladas with Achiote Sauce

Lots of supermarkets have international sections but nothing beats perusing the aisles of authentic international markets specializing in the foods of only one country or one region of the world. I recently discovered a wonderful Mexican market tucked away in the northwestern part of my city, and it’s now on my frequent-visit list of local international stores.

So this recipe was inspired simply by a trip to the market, where I picked up fresh, house-made chorizo; the ground spice “achiote”; mild, creamy Mexican queso quesadilla cheese (great for melting); dried Mexican oregano; and an assortment of beans, chiles, fresh herbs, and soft tortillas. Enchiladas underway.

Achiote is an inedible fruit from the tropical areas of Latin America, including the Caribbean and Mexico. It’s harvested for its seeds, which are ground and used as a spice (in powder or paste form) and as a food colorant for its vibrant reddish-orange hue.

Ground Achiote
The achiote paste common in Mexican cooking is typically made with a blend of ground achiote, oregano, cumin, clove, cinnamon, allspice, garlic, black pepper, and salt. Here, I used some of those same ingredients to create a tomato-based sauce for the enchiladas.

Note: Achiote derives from a fruit, not a chile, so there’s no heat in this spice. It’s flavor is deep and earthy with overtones of bitter lemon. (You also may find it labeled “annatto.”)

Makes 8 enchiladas


For the Achiote Sauce
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 tsp ground achiote
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp Mexican oregano
  • sea salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups tomato puree
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Spice Ingredients for the Sauce
For the Enchiladas
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for oiling dish
  • 1 lb pure-pork chorizo sausage links
  • 3 serrano chiles, finely chopped
  • sea salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 8 8-inch-diameter soft, white-corn or flour tortillas (warmed, for easier rolling)
  • 1/2 lb thinly sliced queso quesadilla (or queso Chihuahua or other Mexican “melting” cheese)
  • refried black beans and lime wedges, for serving (optional)
Chorizo, Cilantro, and Serranos
Queso Quesadilla

For the Achiote Sauce
  1. Place the cloves, peppercorns, and coriander seeds in a sturdy plastic bag and pound lightly with a meat mallet or small, heavy skillet until crushed. Place the crushed spices in a bowl and add the achiote, cumin, and oregano and season with salt. Stir well to combine.
Crushed Spices 
Spice Mixture
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes.
  2. Add the tomato puree and vinegar and season with salt. Stir in the spice mixture and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook slowly 30 minutes.
  3. Transfer the sauce to a bowl. Do not wipe out the skillet.
Sauce Beginning to Cook 
Cooked Achiote Sauce
For the Encliladas
  1. Reheat the skillet in which the sauce was cooked and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Remove the chorizo from its casing and add it to the skillet along with the serranos. Season with salt and cook, crumbling the meat, until the chiles are tender and the sausage is just cooked through, 9-10 minutes.
  2. Add 1/3 cup of the achiote sauce and the cilantro to the chorizo mixture and stir well to combine. Remove from the heat.
Chorizo Beginning to Cook 
Cooked Chorizo
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and lightly oil a large baking dish.
  2. Lay the warm tortillas on a work surface and place cheese slices, torn to equal the diameter of the tortilla, in the center of each. Spoon 1/8th of the chorizo mixture each on top of the cheese.
Cheese Layer 
Chorizo Layer
  1. Roll up each enchilada and place seam-side down in the oiled dish. Spoon the remaining achiote sauce over the top, not smothering the tortillas. 
  2. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Allow the enchiladas to cool 3-4 minutes before removing from the dish.
Rolled Enchiladas 
Enchiladas Ready to Bake 
Baked Enchiladas
Serve the enchiladas with refried black beans and lime wedges, if desired.    

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