Editor's note: Part of this blog entry ran Friday, but it made the editor a bit hungry and the second half was eaten before it made it online. Here is the complete tale with the editor's apologies.
Consider again the corn tortilla. It can be loaded with some other sort of food and become a taco. For a long time, most tacos in Tucson contained seasoned hamburger meat and garnishes, served in fried, U-shaped taco shells.
But in recent years, soft tacos filled with small bits of meat have become popular. Fill your soft taco with carne asada and cheese and it’s a caramelo; with melted cheese alone, it’s a quesadilla. But if you go to Yuma, the standard taco is rolled in a tortilla and then fried. A similar confection is called a flauta (“flute”) in Tucson. However, if you leave that tortilla flat and fry it, it becomes a tostada, to be piled with with beans or anything else handy.
Let those same tortillas get a bit stale, and you can dip them in a red chile sauce, wrap them around a filling of some kind, and call them enchiladas - “things that have been soaked in chile.” Enchilada fillings can include cheese and various preparations of meat. If you put sour cream on your cheese enchiladas, they become enchiladas suizas (“swiss enchiladas” - because of the dairy connection, I suppose).
Or you can stack your chile-soaked tortillas with some cheese and have yet a different kind of flat enchilada, as they do in New Mexico. Substitute beans or tomato sauce for the red chile and you get an enfrijolada or an entomatada (and I won't insult you by translating those)!
When your tortillas get even staler, you can cut them into strips or triangles, fry them lightly so they just begin to get crisp, and make chilaquiles. The local chilaquiles consist of the fried tortilla triangles, slathered with enchilada sauce and perhaps a bit of cheese added. Elsewhere they can be more elaborate, with sauteed chopped onions, chopped olives, scrambled eggs, cheese and other things mixed in. At home, we like to make our chilaquiles with mole.
The final incarnation of the lowly tortilla before it gets crumbled up and fed to the chickens is deep fried tortilla chips. You know what to do with those, I suspect.
But there - I've done it again, and am off to a mild mid-afternoon pig-out. As Admiral Farragut never said in the Battle of Mobile Bay, “Damn the tortillas – full speed ahead!”