♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Today on "America's Test Kitchen," Erin shows Julia how to make perfect ground beef and cheese enchiladas, Jack challenges Bridget to a taste test of six-inch tortillas, and Keith makes Bridget foolproof grilled flank steak tacos.
It's all coming up right here on "America's Test Kitchen."
♪♪ -When it comes to enchiladas, there are many different types, and we've cooked quite a few of them here on the show, save one -- ground beef enchiladas.
And that's because nobody takes those seriously.
I mean, most recipes call for convenience products like canned sauce or seasoning packets.
It's basic cafeteria food.
But today, Erin's going to take the ground beef enchilada back to its roots.
-I certainly am, Julia.
A traditional Mexican beef enchilada is made with braised shredded beef... -Mmm!
-...and a long, slow simmer chili sauce.
So I wanted to make a quick version using ground beef, but I wanted to maintain that authentic chili flavor.
And the first step is to begin with chilies.
So, we're gonna start off with 1 1/2 ounces of dried ancho chilies.
Now, the dried ancho chili is a dried poblano.
I'm gonna show you how to prep the anchos.
You want to just kind of open it up, let the seeds fall out, and remove the stem.
You must want the meat of the ancho.
And I'm just gonna tear this into one-inch pieces.
So, we're just gonna toast these over medium-high heat.
Toasting dried chilies really improves their flavor.
It's just a couple minutes, and we're gonna know that they're ready when you can start to smell them.
You don't want to go too far.
If you go too far, the chilies will get too bitter, so you really want to trust your nose.
Can you smell that?
You can smell that raisin-y, floral flavor.
That means that they're ready.
I'm gonna turn the heat down and put these into this bowl.
And 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat.
This is gonna be for our onions.
But first, I'm gonna add 2 cups of beef broth.
I'm gonna microwave this on high power for two minutes.
Then we're gonna let them stand until they're softened, for about five minutes.
Okay, so we are gonna move on to our onions.
The onions are gonna be the base of our sauce and also of our filling.
So, I'm gonna add 2 chopped onions, and we're gonna cook them for about five minutes.
And what we're doing is we're just softening the onions, and we're gonna cook them till they're translucent.
Okay, so it's been about five minutes, and as you can see, our onions are nicely translucent and they're softened.
-All right, so now we're gonna add some garlic.
So, I have minced 6 cloves of garlic.
So, we're gonna cook this for about a minute.
Now what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna divide this mixture in half.
So, I'm gonna remove half of it from the pan.
And just put it into this bowl over here.
And the other half we're gonna keep cooking.
So, this half of the onion mixture is gonna be for our sauce.
I'm gonna add 1/4 cup of tomato paste.
And we want that acidity and also sweetness in our sauce.
So, to the tomato mixture we're gonna add a teaspoon of cumin.
That's gonna give our sauce a nice earthy flavor.
We're just gonna cook this for about five more minutes until the tomato paste starts to turn brown.
-And that means that the flavors have really developed and that we're ready for the next step.
Do you notice the difference in the color?
Also a big difference in the aroma.
-Now we're just gonna take this off the heat.
-Let that sit for a minute.
So, these are our ancho chili peppers that we've microwaved for two minutes and reconstituted.
Now they're, like, soft and flexible.
So I'm gonna pour these into our blender bowl.
And now I'm gonna add a tablespoon of minced chipotle and adobo.
This is basically smoked jalapeños... -Mm-hmm.
-...that are reconstituted and rehydrated with tomato and vinegar sauce.
Now we're gonna add our tomatoes and onions and garlic mixture.
Blend it for about one minute until the sauce is smooth.
We are good.
We're gonna let that sit, and we're gonna go back to our pan.
We're heating 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over a medium heat until it's shimmering.
And we're gonna move on to our beef.
So, we're not using slow-braised shredded beef, but we are using ground beef.
-And we tried 80% ground beef, and that just yielded a very greasy sauce and very greasy dish.
So we're using 1 pound of 90% ground beef.
We're gonna season this, and we're gonna add 1/2 teaspoon of table salt, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin.
In addition to the cumin, we're gonna add 1 teaspoon of ground coriander.
The ground coriander really just kind of, like, gives it a little citrus notes and a little bit more complexity.
Now we're gonna cook this for about two minutes.
And I'm gonna break these into 1/4-inch pieces.
Okay, so now I'm gonna add the reserved onion and garlic mixture that we have.
And we're gonna continue to cook this for another three to four minutes until you see no more pink.
So, we've all had that experience when you buy ground meat at the supermarket and you bring it home, and it's nice and bright pink on the outside, but when you break it open, it's a little discolored on the inside with grayish, bluish, sometimes pinkish colors.
And the question is, "Is it bad?"
Beef's color comes from a muscle protein called myoglobin, which contains iron.
Whole, fresh muscle meat is purple on the inside, as the myoglobin molecules contain no oxygen.
When the butcher grinds the meat, it's exposed to the air.
And as oxygen binds to the iron in the myoglobin, the purple myoglobin converts to bright-red oxymyoglobin.
After ground meat is packaged in patties or loaves, its surface stays red, but the interior fades to a grayish brown in the absence of oxygen.
This is the most common way we encounter supermarket ground beef, and it's good to eat.
Over time, however, the iron in the meat will oxidize and turn into a rusty-brown- colored metmyoglobin.
And when the meat has turned completely brown, it's an indication that it's no longer fresh.
But meat doesn't always turn brown.
Some beef processors expose ground beef to carbon monoxide or other treatments, which can preserve the bright-red color of the myoglobin and potentially mask meat spoilage.
So, what this all means is that color is not the best indication of spoilage.
And no matter what color it is, you should always give it the smell test before cooking.
So, we are there, Julia.
There's no more pink.
The beef is cooked all the way through.
Now we're gonna add this back to our bowl that had the onions in it.
And adding 1/4 cup of our chili sauce.
-The meat is gonna soak it up, and it's gonna rehydrate and it's gonna be perfect.
I'm gonna add 1 1/2 cups of Monterey Jack cheese, which is a really nice melting cheese.
As it melts, it's gonna coat the beef and give it that luxurious texture that the shredded beef would have had.
We're also gonna add 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro.
You have to have cilantro when you have enchiladas, right?
So, now I'm just gonna stir this up and let that meat soak up that sauce.
Cheese is gonna melt, and now we're gonna put that aside, and we're gonna move onto our tortillas.
We're just gonna use 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
Brush both sides of each tortilla.
Not only is this gonna make them more pliable and prevent them from drying out, but it's also gonna waterproof them.
Have you ever had an enchilada where the tortilla, as you eat them, they just kind of turn to mush?
So, this is gonna prevent that from happening.
So, we are using 12 6-inch tortillas.
And we're gonna put these into a 400-degree oven on a middle rack just for about five minutes until they warm up and they soften.
Okay, so our tortillas have softened.
And I'm gonna add 1/2 cup of our chili sauce to the bottom of our 9x13-inch baking dish.
And I'm just gonna spread it over the bottom.
Are you ready?
-I am ready.
-So, here are the tortillas.
-I'm gonna roll six, and you're gonna roll six.
You have a 1/4 cup.
-I have a 1/4 cup.
-And each tortilla gets 1/4 cup of filling right in the center.
If you are gonna lay them out like we're laying them out, you need to work quickly or else the tortillas will dry out.
We're gonna roll them.
-As we roll, we're just gonna place them seam-side down in the pan in two rows of six.
-There we go.
There's the last enchilada.
So, now we are gonna top our enchiladas with the remaining sauce.
-It's such a beautiful sauce, isn't it?
-Oh, it smells delicious.
-Now I'm gonna top it with just 1/2 cup of Monterey Jack cheese, just a little bit.
It's gonna melt on top of our enchiladas and make them really beautiful.
We're gonna put these in a 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes on the middle rack.
And we want them to be heated through, and we're gonna know that they're finished when the sauce starts to bubble around the edges and the cheese on the top is lightly browned.
-[ Laughing ] Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!
You can see the bubbling right along the edges.
That is hot.
-All the cheese has melted.
We are gonna let this cool for about 10 minutes.
Enchiladas are ready.
So, now we're just gonna finish them off with 2 tablespoons of minced cilantro.
This adds a nice fresh flavor to our really roasted chili sauce.
We're gonna add 2 scallions, so they're sliced thinly.
-So, I'm excited to try these.
You need the sour cream to kind of cool off the heat.
-A little fresh lime juice.
All right, Erin.
-You diving in?
-I'm diving in.
-Isn't that good?
You know, I actually just went right for the filling.
-It has a ton of flavor.
-And it's not cafeteria food.
Not even close.
It has so much of that ancho, a little kick of that chipotle.
And the ground beef is juicy and tender.
-And the tortillas are holding up.
-We waterproofed them, so they've really stayed together.
They're holding their shape.
-This is delicious.
-I mean, the chili flavor is roasted, it's complex.
It has, like, multiple levels.
-So, there you have it.
For the ultimate ground beef enchiladas, make a delicious sauce using ancho chilies.
After toasting and rehydrating the chilies, blend them into a smooth sauce.
For the filling, use 90% lean beef and cook it before combining with the cheese and some of the sauce.
Brush the corn tortillas with oil and warm them in a hot oven before filling, rolling, and assembling the enchiladas in the dish.
And cook them in a hot oven for 15 minutes and let them cool slightly before serving.
So, from "America's Test Kitchen" to your kitchen, a killer new recipe for ground beef and cheese enchiladas.
I'm glad we made 12 of them.
[ Laughs ] ♪♪ -On a rare occasion, I will make my own flour tortillas.
But usually I just buy them from the supermarket.
They're so convenient.
And Jack's here.
He's gonna tell us which ones we should pick up whilst shopping at the market.
-Yeah, so these are flour tortillas.
-You can jump in if you like.
We warmed them slightly.
I mean, we made quesadillas.
We served them with a saucy, juicy pulled-pork filling.
And then we did this.
[ Laughs ] Well, this is actually a hard tasting.
The flavor here is pretty much the same across the board.
-[ Laughs ] Flour.
A little bit of salt, a little bit of fat, water being the fourth main ingredient.
Texture is a bigger difference.
So, I'm gonna make this easier for you... -All right.
-...since I think this is a difficult tasting.
In general, thinner and fattier is a good thing.
Our favorite brand had just over 3 grams of fat per serving.
Lower-rated brands tended to have 2 or even fewer grams of fat.
And our favorite tortilla was just under 1.5 millimeters thick.
The lower-rated brands tended to be over 2 millimeters.
And believe it or not, that made a difference.
The big thing here is also the additional ingredients.
So, when you make them at home, it's just flour and fat -- traditionally lard, or you could use shortening -- water, and salt.
But these all had dough conditioners because, of course, these were made weeks ago, maybe months ago.
-This just gets better.
-[ Laughs ] -First of all, I'm trying to wrap my head around fattier and thinner.
If I could do that, I would be a very rich woman.
-Well, I'm not sure I can help you with that, but I'm gonna help you with this.
-So, dough conditioners are designed to make these things more stable so that they can sort of take that transit from the manufacturing plant to your dining-room table.
The one that we liked the best was something called glycerin, which was only in our winner, which is designed to help reheat as well as to freeze and thaw better.
And so, that was one dough conditioner that we felt like was a really good addition to the mix.
Anything that you're noticing?
-This one seems the most seasoned.
-This one's actually not bad, too.
This one feels like it would make for a really good taco.
-This one, not too sure of.
Not crazy about the texture.
It just feels very lean.
But I would say that this is my winner.
-This is your winner?
Did I -- did I get it wrong?
-Yeah, you got it wrong.
-[ Laughs ] -Actually, this brand is recommended.
Flip it over.
-So, this is Mission.
These are thick and sturdy, but they were also delicate.
It was the one brand that was really thick that we felt like actually cooked up nicely.
So it's a fine choice.
It just wasn't the winner, which is there in the middle.
So that's Old El Paso.
These are 6-inch.
We also tasted their 10-inch.
They're identical except for the fact that they are larger.
-I'm not a fan.
-You're not a fan.
-We thought they were super flaky, and they were very crisp and delicate and lovely in the quesadilla.
-And yet here, they're not flaky, delicate, and crisp because you didn't make me a quesadilla.
-[ Laughs ] Okay.
-This is called sabotage, America.
And then here?
-This is Ortega.
That was at the bottom of the rankings.
We felt like this one was just kind of dense and wasn't as delicate and light and flaky as we wanted it to be.
-So, the winner is the Old El Paso flour tortillas for soft tacos and fajitas.
And it's about $2.50 for 10.
I'm sticking with this one, though.
♪♪ -The town of Sonora, Mexico, is famous for cattle ranches as well as its signature dish, tacos al carbon.
Now, "al carbon" means to cook or grill over coals.
And that's what it is.
It's meat, usually steak, cooked over coals, tucked into soft tortillas, and served with garnishes like charred scallions, lime juice, and so much more.
But the real question is, why isn't Keith making this already as I'm talking?
-I'm a huge fan of these steak tacos.
They're very simple to put together, very flavorful.
Traditionally, it's made with a thin cut of steak.
So, we have a pound and a half flank steak here.
You want to use about a pound and a half to a pound and three quarters.
But one thing we're gonna do is that we're gonna leave 1/8 of an inch of fat all around the surface here.
What you want is that you want the fat to render, those juices to come out, and hit those hot live coals and vaporize.
Now, there's not a ton of fat on flank steak, so we don't have to do much trimming.
But I'll take this off.
That's fine right there.
-So, just any really deep pockets?
-Yeah, and you can feel them.
They're really kind of firm.
And you'll feel them as you run your hand over it.
So, that fat on there is gonna give us flavor, but we also are gonna do a little trimming.
So, I'm just gonna cut this into three strips about two or three inches wide with the grain.
The grain is running like this.
I'm just gonna cut it like this... and again like this.
So, these small strips are gonna be perfect in our tacos.
Now, when it comes to spices, we're gonna make a really, really quick spice paste.
So, I have 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in there.
And I'm gonna add 2 teaspoons of minced chipotle chilies.
Now, these chipotle chilies are smoked jalapeños.
They're packed in the adobo sauce.
They're gonna add a lot of flavor.
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 3/4 teaspoon of ground cumin.
Now, cumin plays really nicely with those chipotle chilies.
-So, I'm just gonna stir everything together here.
And you see that we don't have a lot here.
We don't want to overwhelm that steak flavor, so just a small amount.
And I'm just gonna take this and rub this all over the steak, try to get it down on the edges a little bit.
So, I'm just gonna transfer this over to our tray here.
And I'm just gonna hit the other side of this.
You could do this with your hands if you wanted to.
Okay, so our steak is ready.
But we're not gonna just grill the steak today.
We're actually gonna make a salsa when we're outside.
So, I have 20 scallions here, and I have two jalapeños.
We're gonna go outside, and we're gonna grill them.
We're also gonna grill our 12 corn tortillas.
And they're gonna pick up a nice little char on the grill, a little bit of smokiness.
-So, it's all gonna tie together really great.
-So, you grab the steak.
-I got it.
-I'll grab these.
And we'll go outside.
Are you ready to grill some tacos?
-So ready to grill tacos.
I've preheated this grill for 15 minutes until it's nice and hot.
I'm just gonna shut off one of these burners right here to create a kind of cooler zone that we're gonna use later on.
Shut that off.
And now we want to clean our grill before we put our steak on there to get rid of any stuff that we've grilled before.
And I'm just gonna take some oil and a paper towel.
It's gonna make sure the steak doesn't stick or any of the vegetables don't stick.
So, we're gonna grill our steak and our jalapeños at the same time.
I'm gonna put those in the back.
And then I'll take our steaks... -Mmm.
-...and put these on the front like this.
We want to grill on the hotter side here.
Now, with flank steak, those muscle fibers are really long.
-So, what we've found is if we just put them on there and just flip them once during cooking, that the steak would have a tendency to curl up and buckle, and we wouldn't get nice, even browning.
So instead what we're gonna do is we're gonna flip these every two minutes.
And that's just gonna even out the cooking, prevent some of that buckling, and we're gonna get much better browning.
-Okay, so it's been two minutes.
We'll just check on our steaks.
It's gonna be perfect.
And we'll just give these jalapeños a quarter turn and let those char.
So, I'm gonna continue to cook these, flipping every two minutes, giving those jalapeños a quarter turn every two minutes as well.
And it's gonna take 7 to 10 minutes for those jalapeños to cook, 7 to 12 minutes for those steaks.
And we're gonna look for about 125 degrees for those steaks.
It's time to check the steaks, see if they're done.
Medium is the doneness that we like for flank steak.
126 -- You settle for that?
-I will definitely settle for that.
So, we're just gonna let these steaks rest for 10 minutes before we slice into them.
I just gonna tent it with some foil to keep some warmth in there.
Now we'll take our jalapeños off.
Now, can I ask you to put the plastic wrap on those jalapeños?
-Oh, sure thing.
-While those are steaming, we're gonna grill our scallions for the salsa.
Now, I'm just gonna put these on the hotter part of the grill.
We're gonna let those go about a minute and a half.
They're gonna get nice and charred on this side.
So, it's been a minute and a half.
You can see they're nicely charred on this side.
Greens are already nicely cooked, but the whites we want to soften a little bit more.
So, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna flip them over.
I'm gonna have the green parts over the cool side but keep the whites over the hotter side.
-Now we just want to get a little color and cook on the whites.
One and a half to two minutes, and we'll come back and take those off.
-I think our scallions are ready.
-Oh, beautifully charred.
They smell great.
-They smell beautiful.
-If I can ask you for that bowl, and take the wrap off.
-You got it.
-Thank you, ma'am.
-Plastic goes back on?
-Plastic goes back on.
It will help those steam and stay nice and soft.
-Now, there's one last piece of these tacos, which are the corn tortillas.
I have 12 tortillas here.
I'm gonna do them six at a time.
Now, these are pretty quick.
They only take 30 to 40 seconds.
You can start to see they're puffed and they're nicely charred.
-Gonna flip those over.
So, it's been another 30 seconds on the second side.
So, these look perfect.
So, I'm just gonna wrap these in foil so they stay nice and moist and pliable.
So everything is grilled.
We're just gonna let our steak finish resting, and I'm gonna start building our salsa.
So, we have our grilled jalapeños.
And I'm just gonna take the top off that, cut these in half.
-No need to skin them?
-No need to skin them.
If the skin does come off, you can just set it aside.
I am gonna set the seeds aside.
And then you can suit your taste as far as how spicy you want that salsa.
So, I'm just gonna finely mince these.
So, just run across it with your knife like this, spin it 90 degrees.
Okay, so I'm gonna coarsely chop our grilled scallions here.
They still have some moisture to it.
It's gonna be a nice accompaniment to that steak.
Transfer these over to our mixing bowl here.
I have 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons of lime juice... -Mmm.
-...and I have a teaspoon of the adobo sauce.
So, this is the adobo sauce that the chipotles are packed in.
So, a little bit of tomato, a little bit of vinegar.
Still has some of that heat from the chilies.
And 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.
And this is gonna kind of bring everything together here.
-Now, I just want to stir this together, and if you don't mind, I'm gonna add the jalapeño seeds to this.
Now our steak.
It's been resting under this foil.
-I'm gonna cut this into thin slices across the grain.
So, we first cut it with the grain, but now we're gonna cut it across the grain, and the idea is that we want to shorten those muscle fibers up... -Okay.
-...so it's not chewy when we get into our tacos.
I'm gonna give you the fully loaded taco.
We're gonna start with our steak here, and we have our salsa.
-And we also have some cilantro leaves and some sour cream and a final squeeze of lime juice for you.
I almost don't want to fold it up.
It smells so good.
[ Chuckles ] -First thing is the beef.
-First thing and the last thing is the beef.
It is beautiful.
It's got this charred flavor from being on the grill, but it's not overbearing.
I'm getting a little bit of spice in there, too, starting to creep in there.
The charred scallions, a little bit of jalapeño, just a touch of flame on those, too.
Oh, these are spectacular.
-But very simple.
-Very simple, and that is key.
So, to make great tacos al carbon, start by cutting the steak lengthwise into strips, and then rub with the chipotle and cumin mixture.
Grill the steak, flipping every two minutes, along with jalapeños.
Grill scallions and then tortillas.
And bring it all inside.
Chop the jalapeños and scallions and mix with lime juice to make a very easy salsa.
Slice the steak, and then assemble the tacos with salsa, lime, cilantro, and sour cream.
So, from "America's Test Kitchen" to your kitchen, the absolute best -- grilled flank steak tacos.
And you can get this recipe and all the recipes from this season, along with tastings, testings, and select episodes, on our website, americastestkitchen.com.
-Let us help you with dinner tonight.
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