Birthday Enchiladas

When Craig and I first started dating back in 2006, my friend Patty asked what sign he was and when he said Aquarius she weighed that against the fact that I was an Aquarius and concluded: “It’ll never work. Two Aquariuses? I don’t see it.”

Seventeen years later, we’re still two Aquariuses battling it out. And February is of course our favorite month because we both get to celebrate our birthdays. For my birthday this year, we went to Antico Nuovo and ate pasta and ice cream and had a grand old time. For Craig’s birthday this year, we went out to Kato and ate an extravagant tasting menu of exquisitely plated seafood dishes. But before that, I threw another birthday bone Craig’s way (I’m such an Aquarius) and made him a dinner he’s always wanted me to make: his mother’s enchiladas. Only I dialed them up a little and turned them into birthday enchiladas.

Just Like Mom’s, Only Different

Craig’s mom Julee’s enchiladas are a classic: they’re flour tortillas stuffed with cheese (Monterey Jack), covered in a chili powder-infused tomato sauce, then topped with more cheese before being baked in a 350 oven. I’ve had them before and they’re like a marriage of grilled cheese and lasagna by way of Mexico.

Because we invited some friends over, I wanted to bulk up the enchiladas a little more and that’s when I found Ali Slagle’s recipe. The technique is the same, except the filling is a mixture of onions, Poblano chilies, garlic, and black beans that then gets a mix of Cheddar and Monterey Jack folded into it.

Cool Little Enchilada Tricks

As for the tomato sauce, Ali smartly has you blend half of the sautéed aromatics (pre-black beans) with fire-roasted tomatoes, chili powder, and hot sauce (I used Chipotle Rancho Gordo).

The one thing that I brought to the table enchilada-wise (lol) was the concept of charring the flour tortillas before rolling them. I love doing this. It’s the main reason I’d miss a gas stove. You just lay the flour (or corn) tortilla directly on the gas flame, flip it with tongs, until it gets some charry spots.

Bring on the Birthday Enchiladas

Then it’s just a fun assembly. Pour half the sauce into a casserole. Put some bean stuff into a charred tortilla, roll it up, lay it it on top of the sauce, and continue until the casserole’s filled. If you have extra bean stuff, put that around the sides like I did.

The rest of the sauce goes on, more cheese goes on top, and into the oven it goes for ten minutes or so until the cheese is melted (I broiled it for extra pizazz). Then, for even more pizazz, I topped the enchiladas like nachos: with sour cream, pickled red chilies, radishes, scallions, and cilantro.

Look at these dazzled faces!

And now you know the secret of how these two Aquariuses have made it work all these years. When the moon is in the second house, we make enchiladas.


Birthday Enchiladas

A riff on Ali Slagle's enchilada recipe with flour tortillas, black beans, and two cheeses.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword beans, cheese, enchiladas, Mexican, tortillas
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 15 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 1 Poblano chile, stemmed, seeded, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 15-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder (make sure it's fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (or more to taste)
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack or both
  • 10 – 12 soft corn or flour tortillas
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Pickled red chilies or jalapeños (optional)
  • Thinly sliced radishes (optional)
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)
  • Scallions, chopped (optional)


  • Heat your oven to 425 degrees.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions, Poblano chile, and garlic and season with salt. Cook just until softened and slightly charred in spots. Stir in the cumin and cook another minute, just until fragrant. Remove from the heat.
  • Transfer half of the vegetables to a blender and blend with the tomatoes, chili powder, and hot sauce. Taste and adjust with salt. (If the mixture is too thick, add a splash of water or, according to Ali Slagle, 1/4 cup sour cream to make it looser.)
  • Add the black beans to the vegetables in the skillet and sauté a little bit with a little more salt and pepper, tasting to adjust. (My secret? I sometimes add a tiny splash of Balsamic to round them out, but that's just between us.) Turn off the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese.
  • Heat the tortillas either in the oven on a cookie sheet or over a gas flame, as mentioned above, stacking them as you go. Cover with a kitchen towel to keep them warm. Pour 1/2 of the tomato sauce on to the bottom of a 9X13 baking dish and spread it around.
  • Line up the filling, tortillas and baking dish in a row. Place a little more than ¼ cup of the bean mixture in the center of one tortilla, roll it up, and place it seam-side down in the casserole. Repeat until you've used up all the tortillas. If you have any extra filling, spoon it around the edges of the pan.
  • Pour the remaining sauce on top and top with the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted, about ten minutes. If you want it a bit more charred on top, turn on the broiler and watch it carefully. Garnish with big dollops of sour cream, pickled chilies, radishes, cilantro, and scallions.

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2 thoughts on “Birthday Enchiladas”

  1. Happy birthday to you both! My 95 year old mother and 5 week old grandson are Aquariuses as well.
    These enchiladas look and sound spectacular, and I’m going to have to make some soon.

  2. Happy birthdays to the two of you! My father and his partner are both February Aquariuses, and I’ve never seen two people make each other happier—it works! Enchiladas look great, and thanks for the tip on charring the tortillas!

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