My fiancé, Rick, grew up eating great Mexican food. His mother, Alicia, was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and when she married Rick’s dad, a Nebraskan, she did not forget to incorporate weekly family meals with good, homemade Mexican cooking. Alice and Joe Wheatley earned a quaint, yet honest living. And as a Great Depression survivor, she ran her household of seven with great economy – this was reflected in her cooking.
Enchiladas are an easy, inexpensive meal. It is so versatile – depending on the week, Alice filled her enchiladas with whatever meat the family could afford. It was one of Rick’s favorite meals when he was a kid, and as an adult, he continues to use his mother’s recipe. While a simple dish, I think Rick makes the best chicken enchiladas in the world, and better yet, his turkey enchiladas made with the legs and thighs of wild turkeys are just as amazing. This is any easy way to utilize these underrated turkey parts, although they do take longer to cook than breast meat.
Alice is no longer with us, but she did leave her son with many memories from a childhood blessed with delicious food. As fun as it is to create new recipes, it’s always a little more special when we can carry on parts of our loved ones in the traditions we keep and the food we cook.
Prep time: Variable
Cook time: 20 to 30 minutes
- 4 wild turkey legs and thighs, cooked and shredded
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Half a brown onion, chopped
- ½ teaspoon of cumin
- ½ teaspoon of dried oregano
- 16 ounces of enchilada sauce
- 12 Mission corn tortillas
- 12 to 16 ounces of Mexican-style shredded cheese
- 2.5-ounce can of sliced black olives, drained
- Manteca/pork lard/oil for cooking
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Cilantro, chopped
1. Cook turkey legs and thighs according to your favorite method so they can be shredded: parboiling, slow cooker, braising or confit. Depending on the turkey’s age, this could take several hours. The easiest way is to cook them in water/stock on high in a slow cooker or parboiling in simmering liquid for 3 to 4 hours. Or set a slow cooker on low before you go to work, and they should be tender by the time you get home. Once cooled, remove meat from bones and shred with forks.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of Manteca/lard/oil over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion to the fat and cook until softened and translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add shredded turkey meat, cumin and oregano. Cook meat until slightly browned and crusty, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. To assemble the enchiladas, form an assembly line – it’s easier to have an extra set of hands to help. Pour some enchilada sauce into a plate. Keep shredded cheese, olives and chopped onion close by. Take out another empty plate.
4. First, heat 1 teaspoon of lard over medium heat in a small skillet. Place one corn tortilla in the lard and warm through on both sides so it becomes pliable. Then coat the warmed tortilla on both sides with enchilada sauce and place onto the empty plate.
Fill with shredded turkey, more onion, shredded cheese and olives. Roll up tortilla and place in the baking dish. Repeat, using more lard as necessary to heat tortillas.
Once enchiladas are snugly laid in the baking dish in one layer, pour more enchilada sauce over the top.
5. Sprinkle shredded cheese and more olives over the enchiladas. Bake in a 350-degree oven until cheese is melted and slightly toasted, about 20 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle chopped cilantro over enchiladas before serving.