There is so much anticipation and planning at our house for Thanksgiving that I can honestly say by the time we get to Friday, I’m over it. After that glorious day of gluttony, and the satisfying knowledge that we managed to pull off another successful Thanksgiving, I find that I’m craving anything but turkey and trimmings. Yes, we always make more than we need for the big meal, because we do enjoy having the leftovers. Of course, I love a perfect turkey sandwich on Saturday complete with cranberry mayo (who doesn’t?) and I look forward to plopping leftover stuffing into the waffle iron for Sunday breakfast, because yum.
But for many reasons that only my taste buds truly understand, all I want on Friday is something with spice and heat, and that usually means Mexican flavors.
No doubt, I was influenced during the formative years spent with my mother in southern Colorado, where I first learned to love Mexican food in all its forms (especially homemade). My craving could also be caused by palate exhaustion; after the richness of the heavy Thanksgiving Day meal, it needs a reboot and a cleansing with bold, zesty ingredients. Regardless of the reason, a bite of these turkey and black bean enchiladas feels like a homecoming right about now.
Unsurprisingly, most of the flavors associated with the Mexican foods I love can be traced to Native American culture, so this recipe seems especially appropriate on this day after Thanksgiving. Today is Native American Heritage Day, an opportunity to reflect on the true roots of our land and all its beautiful bounty. To commemorate the occasion, I thought it would be fun to test our knowledge about the history of truly American foods, and to see how well everyone’s brain is working after that heavy dose of tryptophan yesterday.
Ready? Tap on an ingredient below to reveal the answer.
There are plenty of resources for information about the native origin of foods, but I found this recent article very interesting, for its discussion how modern Native American chefs and home cooks are taking indigenous foods in new directions.
The article confirms that most of the typical Thanksgiving dishes served up each November really do have their roots in America—not in the same preparation, of course, loaded up with sugar and dumbed down with butter as many of us are accustomed to seeing. I can promise you that the first Thanksgiving did not include marshmallow topping, but the sweet potatoes? Of course.
That point brings me back to my post-Thanksgiving desire for something more natural with less embellishment. These homemade turkey and black bean enchiladas are a particularly good and easy way to knock out two dilemmas at once—my craving for spicy Mexican flavors, and dealing with the mountain of leftover turkey that has taken over the fridge. This recipe uses up all the random loose bits of turkey that won’t work in sandwiches or anything else where presentation matters. Dark meat, white meat, any of it is good here. Just be careful not to include any bones!
To make this deliciousness happen, I bring out a can of black beans, a fresh jalapeno, some onions and cheese, a small can of spicy Rotel tomatoes and my trusty cast-iron press to make a batch of handmade corn tortillas. I shared a few tips and tricks for success making tortillas last year, so check that out if you want to give it a go (I even offer a tip for making them without a press).
If you don’t have the desire to make one more thing from scratch, then of course store-bought corn tortillas will do just fine. Choose a brand with wholesome ingredients and look for larger ones; the tortillas designed for “street tacos” will be too small. I begin by sautéing the onions and jalapeno until they’re soft, then adding the turkey, Rotel and black beans, seasoning it up with a little salt and black pepper. Lay a spoonful of this mixture into a fresh, soft tortilla and top it with some shredded cheese. Roll it up into a cylinder and place it, seam side-down, into a casserole dish. Repeat until the dish is filled. You should have 10 to 12 enchiladas, depending on amount of filling in each.
Next, make a sauce to smother your enchiladas before the bake. You can use a canned enchilada sauce if you wish, but it’s easy to make at home. For this batch, I went with a green chile sauce, which begins with sautéed onions (I used leeks) and some canned green chiles, seasoned with salt and pepper, a bit of cumin and garlic powder. Transfer the mixture to a smoothie blender and whirr it up with some veggie or chicken broth until smooth. Make a simple roux in the sauce pan and pour the pureed green sauce back into the pot, stirring until thickened.
Pour it over the enchiladas, top with more cheese and bake for half an hour, until bubbly. I like to garnish the enchiladas with cilantro for serving, for a little burst of freshness in each comforting bite. Sour cream is optional, but a nice touch for cooling down any spicy bits in your enchiladas.
Leftover Turkey & Black Bean Enchiladas
These homemade turkey and black bean enchiladas are a particularly good and easy way to knock out two dilemmas at once—my craving for spicy Mexican flavors, and dealing with the mountain of leftover turkey that has taken over the fridge after Thanksgiving.
- 12 good-sized corn tortillas (homemade or store-bought)
- 8 oz. medium cheddar cheese (Monterey jack or pepper jack work great, too)
- 1 large sweet or Spanish onion, chopped (half will be used in the filling and half in the sauce)
- 1 red or green jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can Rotel spicy tomatoes, drained
- 2 cups leftover roasted turkey, chopped (any combo of white or dark meat)
- 2 cans chopped or diced green chiles
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 Tbsp. salted butter
- 1 Tbsp. flour
- Fresh cilantro and sour cream, for serving
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Shred the cheese and make the tortillas, keeping them covered in a clean kitchen towel so they don’t become dry.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté half of the chopped onions and jalapeno just until softened. Add turkey, beans and Rotel tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Hold a tortilla in the palm of your hand and add a generous spoonful of the filling. Add a pinch of the shredded cheese. Gently roll the tortilla into a cylinder and place it, seam side-down, into a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas until the filling is gone and the dish is full.
- In a saucepan, sauté remaining onions in a tablespoon of oil. Add the cans of green chiles and season to taste with salt, pepper and ground cumin. Transfer the mixture to a blender container, add vegetable or chicken stock, and then blend until smooth.
- In the same saucepan, melt butter and cook the flour until fragrant and foamy. Whisk in the green chile puree and cook until thickened.
- Pour the green chile sauce all over the enchiladas. Top with remaining cheese, sprinkle it with salt and pepper and bake about 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Serve at once.