Beef enchilada pizza puts all your greasy Americanized immigrant food in one spot.
Last week, I was craving enchiladas mightily. Not any kind of authentic Mexican enchiladas, either. No, I wanted the Mexican-American greasy spoon ground beef variety, with red cumin-scented chile gravy, smothered in artificially bright orange cheddar cheese. I wanted the enchiladas from Pancho’s.
I firmly believe that every single town in the USA has a cheap Mexican restaurant called Pancho’s, where childhood dreams are built and stoners’ fantasies realized. In Amarillo, Texas where I grew up, Pancho’s was a buffet-line Mexican restaurant with complimentary fresh sopapillas at the end of the meal. My school rewarded students who received all A’s on their report card with a certificate good for one free buffet.
Here in Kansas City, Pancho’s is a chain of 24-hour Mexican diners. I’ve never seen the interior of one, but I’ve made a 2:00AM burrito stop more times than I can remember.
If your town doesn’t have a Pancho’s, it actually does; you just haven’t found it yet.
Anyway, those are the enchiladas I desired. The enchiladas of my youth. So I made them last week, and I didn’t take any pictures because I ate them too fast.
But my craving would not be sated! The encfhilada-hunger gnawed and scratched, threatened and cajoled. It cued up mental home videos of beaming children, faces shiny with cheddar grease, unburdened of the Herculean task of choosing between sour cream chicken enchiladas and red ground beef enchiladas and soft tacos by the miracle of the combo platter.
I attempted to communicate the emotional content of this grade-school tableau to my wife, but was thwarted by unimpeachable logic: ‘But honey, we just had enchiladas.’
So I made something we had never eaten before in our lives. I made beef enchilada pizza.
HOW THE HELL IS BEEF ENCHILADA PIZZA SUSTAINABLE FOOD?
I struggled to justify beef enchilada pizza in the sense of its ecological or healthful qualities. I considered stuffing the crust with greens to create a more balanced meal. I thought about waiting until my flour sifter arrived in the mail, so that I could attempt this with a (more) whole wheat crust and present it as a serving of healthy carbohydrates.
I eventually gave up. Beef enchilada pizza is not particularly healthy. It is not particularly environmentally friendly. But it is delicious.
Sometimes that’s enough.
MAKING BEEF ENCHILADA PIZZA FROM SCRATCH
For all my pizzas (here’s one, and another, and another) I use Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe(link). On a scale, it’s just 4 grams of yeast, 12 grams of salt, 430 grams of flour, and 345 grams of water. That gets mixed, covered, and set on the kitchen counter overnight.
The next afternoon, I flour the top, gather it into a ball, and set it onto a well-oiled half sheet pan. Then I work the dough out with my (oiled) fingers until it covers the pan. The crust gets covered while I work on the rest of the elements.
The other intensive ingredient is the sauce. I had a bunch of Serious Eats’ chili paste already made, so I mixed about a quarter cup with some cumin, salt, and a little bit of chocolate.
I’m not going to bother defending the chocolate in this context. Deliciousness is the only argument I need.
Ground beef, browned. Red onions, sliced. Cheddar cheese, grated. 550° oven for fifteen or twenty minutes, boom.
Give your inner child some time to go crazy here. Sometimes making your heart young again is reason enough to do something.
- One batch of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread dough (see notes), risen overnight
- For sauce: 1/4 cup Serious Eats chili paste (see notes)
- 1/2 oz. 80% chocolate
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- For toppings: 1 Tbsp oil
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
- 2 cups freshly shredded cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 550°.
- With oiled hands, press the risen bread dough into an oiled half-sheet pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
- Stir the chili paste, chocolate, and cumin in a small sauce pan over low head until the chocolate is melted. Add salt to taste.
- Add the 1 Tbsp oil to a skillet and put over medium high heat. Add half of the ground beef and brown well. Add the rest of the ground beef and cook till all the pink is gone. Remove from heat and add salt to taste.
- Uncover the pizza crust and spread the sauce over it. Then spread the beef over the sauce. Cover the beef with the cheese, then add the onions on top.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Check the bottom crust; if it is still pale, you may need to remove the pizza from the pan and cook directly on the oven rack until slightly browned.
- Let cool before slicing and serving.
- Jim Lahey's no-knead bread dough: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/11376-no-knead-bread
- Serious Eats chili paste: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/01/chili-puree-replace-chili-powder-recipe.html