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Introducing: enchiladas! How Sunset helped make this dish a mainstay.

"A church fair almost anywhere in the Southwest is apt to be accompanied by an enchilada supper, served always by pretty dark-eyed senoritas," wrote Sunset in January 1922, introducing the magazine's first recipe for enchiladas. California (where our offices were and still are located) had been part of Mexico until 1848, and Mexican food was as much a part of the landscape as the sunshine. But for the many thousands of people who'd just moved to the West and were turning to Sunset for advice on enjoying life in their new homes, Mexican food was truly foreign. It was through our pages that they first learned about guacamole, tamales, chiles, and enchiladas. Our July 1954 cover story even featured an all-out Mexican buffet, complete with "the colorful foods of old Mexico," served in glazed Mexican pottery. "Sunset acclimated new Californians to Mexican cuisine," says Kevin Starr, prolific author of California history books and state librarian emeritus. The same could be said for readers in the Northwest, where Mexico's influence was not nearly as strong.



Over the decades, Sunset has continued to publish Mexican recipes--hundreds of them, including several dozen for enchiladas alone. In honor of Cinco de Mayo and our enduring love of Mexican food, we ate our way through Sunset's many enchiladas, starting with that 1922 recipe. Beautifully simple and true to its roots, it called for dipping the tortillas in sizzling-hot lard and a sauce of sieved red chiles, then layering them with chopped raw onion and cheese.

We also tasted chorizo enchiladas, Tampico-style enchiladas, and enchiladas with cream; we tried enchiladas filled with pork and green chiles, with cheese, and with fresh corn. The one we offer here (updated with a few notes) comes from a 1960 article called "The Versatile Enchilada." Its intriguingly smoky flavor and crunchy, sweet almonds mixed with tender chicken appealed to us--and, we hope, to you.--MARGO TRUE

Acapulco Enchiladas (April 1960)

We preferred 7-inch corn tortillas in this recipe, and halved the amount of sour cream served on the side. The nutritional information, as well as the notes about prep and cooking times and recipe yields, are our additions.

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 50 minutes

MAKES: 12 enchiladas (use two 9- by 13-inch baking pans)
 2 cups diced cooked chicken or turkey
 1/2 cup chopped ripe olives
 1 cup slivered or coarsely chopped almonds
 3 cups Mexican enchilada sauce (recipe follows)
 12 tortillas
 Vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
 1 cup sour cream
 2 tablespoons minced green onions

1. Combine chicken, olives, almonds, and enough of the enchilada sauce to moisten (about 1/3 cup).

2. Use tongs to dip the tortillas into medium-hot oil. Fry tortillas just a few seconds, until they bubble and are limp--do not fry crisp.

3. Dip fried tortilla into heated enchilada sauce as soon as it comes out of the hot fat. A cake pan just larger than the tortilla is an ideal utensil.

4. Lay sauce-dipped tortilla out on a board or pan. (This part of enchilada making is admittedly slightly messy, but well worth the trouble.) Generously spoon the chicken filling in the center of the tortilla.

5. Turn tortilla over the filling, roll, and place (with the flap pointing down) in baking pan. Fry, dip, fill, and roll remaining tortillas. Ladle additional enchilada sauce over enchiladas and top with cheddar. Place enchiladas in a moderate oven (350[degrees]) for 15 to 20 minutes--or until thoroughly heated. Mix cold sour cream with onions and serve as a sauce.

Per serving: 430 Cal., 69% (297 Cal.) from fat; 16 g protein; 33 g fat (8.8 g sat.); 22 g carbo (5.2 g fiber); 407 mg sodium; 44 mg chol.

Mexican Enchilada Sauce

A traditional enchilada sauce will go with any filling or topping you choose, and either style of tortilla. Taste the sauce after you make it and add more salt if needed. (If too thick, add water; if too thin, thicken it with a flour-and-oil roux.) Pasilla chiles are available in Mexican grocery stores or well-stocked supermarkets.

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 30 minutes

MAKES: 3 cups
 10 dried Mexican chiles (pasillas)
 1 clove garlic
1/4 cup vegetable oil
 1 teaspoon each salt and dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1/4 cup tomato puree (optional)

Toast chiles in a hot oven (400[degrees]) for 3 or 4 minutes. Shake out seeds. Cover with warm water; soak until soft. Place chiles and water in a blender with garlic, oil, salt, oregano, and cumin. Whirl until smooth (or grind in a food processor). Pour into a pan; add tomato puree. Simmer 10 minutes.
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Title Annotation:FLASHBACK
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:May 1, 2006
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